I have always used Microsoft Word to write and have been using it for quite a while to plan and craft my novels. It’s the default software that I am sure most of us have become accustomed to using and it’s something that I have grown up with. At home, I’d been using Open Office Writer for many years, the free alternative to Microsoft Word, then Pages once I hopped on the Mac train. Still, these are both similar software to Microsoft Word and work in pretty much the same way with minor differences. I have many documents of various novels, hundreds of pages and word counts that reach the six digits. That’s a lot of finger tapping on my keyboard.
The ideas stage of writing is great and perhaps my favourite part of the writing process. Ideas fly into my head as I am writing, my fingers on fire as I write multiple pages of half baked ideas. Before I know it, I have this large document of ideas written down in a scrambled heap.
As great as Microsoft Word can be, it can become more difficult to manage when trying to organise those ideas into some sort of structure. I attempted to tackle this issue by creating a new document for the ideas that I wanted to use, skimming out the excess material. I headlined sections dedicated to the plot, characters, world and so forth, but once again, the document would grow larger, new ideas formulating day by day and it would become unmanageable. Everyday, I’d dread opening up my document because I’d have to scroll down pages of writing, just to get to the section I wanted to work on. With pages adding up to multiple figures, it can get quite intimidating just looking at the document that sits in front of you. It just wasn’t working for me as an efficient way to organise my ideas.
Searching for New Writing Software
When searching for new writing software to use, Scrivener had popped up quite a few times, software designed to help plan and structure long form stories. I was swayed by the fairly positive reviews it had received from Scrivener users, although Scrivener was not free. However, it offered a free trial that you could use up to 30 days, so I downloaded it onto my laptop to test it out.
When I initially tried Scrivener I did not take to it that well. I think I was intimidated by the complexity of it all, which can be hard to take upon first appearances.
After giving it a couple of more goes, I have warmed to Scrivener and actually prefer the software to Microsoft Word. It has become an easier and much more enjoyable way to work on my works in progress, breaking down sections of my word documents into manageable parts that are easy to find on the system. Character, Chapters and Locations for instance have their own folders, which you can add your own files to. It makes it very easy to click to the section that you need and want to work on, rather than scrolling down multitudes of pages. On top of that, you are also able to add your own folders to adjust the project to your liking, which all appear in the binder on the left side of your project.
I think one of the best things about Scrivener is that you can write a little synopsis of each scene using index cards. You can write scenes with the synopsis at the right hand corner of the screen to keep track of what is happening, which I think is really useful. I love the option to split screens horizontally or vertically and as I’ve said, it’s so easy to go to the desired section to work on.
Another thing to mention is that you can import files into Scrivener, something I did not discover until I messed around with the software. By importing my WIP’s word document into Scrivener, it made it easy for me to copy ideas from my document and onto my Scrivener project.
Though Scrivener seemed complicated to use initially, using this software has made it easier to manage and work on my novels. I would definitely recommend Scrivener to those that are thinking of using writing software to aid them in the novel writing process.