High Tech Notecards, or Scrivener

I blogged yesterday about my WIP, and the fact that I am rewriting my mystery. This rewriting was the result of two different writing seminars this past winter/spring, and the sense that what I needed to fix would be better remedied by a rewrite than an edit, since the “fixes” were piling up. And I felt that a rewrite would make it a stronger book. Since rewriting is where I was going anyway, I decided to take two more steps.

First, I rethought the plot. I condensed the timeline. I took out a character completely. I threaded two other characters through the narrative. I added a couple of more clues. And I clarified some of my settings. I printed out the original, and put stickies throughout with notes about what I wanted to do.

Now, the idea of taking my 72,000 word manuscript and making all of those changes made my head hurt. While writing it, I used notecards to keep track of scenes. To rewrite it, I decided to take Scrivener for a test drive. Scrivener is a writer’s tool. It has been available on Mac for a while, and the PC version came out last year. Once I decided to pull my manuscript apart, it made sense to try it out. I am still figuring the software out, but I think I may be in love.

Why? Let me count the ways.

First, there are templates for setting and character work. And the names stay in the left hand column. You can even group them. SO, no more forgetting someone’s name. And, when you add something you want to remember (a limp, hair color, broken nose) you can add it to the profile. You can even add reference material.

Second, my note card system works here as well. You create cards for each scene. On the card you can take notes on the goals of the scene, things that need to be added, characters involved, whatever. And those notes stay visible on the right hand side of the screen. You can have references for scenes as well.

Third, since every scene is a card, you can look at them one at a time, or as a whole board. I am still figuring out scenes and chapters and how they work in Scrivener. But here’s what I love–when you need to move a scene, you click and drag it. And everything associated with it moves as well.

Fourth, and this may seem minor, there is a typewriter function. So when you type, what you are typing stays in the middle of the screen. I love it.

Fifth, it takes your work and formats it correctly.

My top five, so far. I am still learning. And I need to figure out better ways of doing some things. I signed up for a Scrivener class in September, so I will learn more. But so far, I really like it.

Do any of you use Scrivener? Any tips? Suggestions?


18 thoughts on “High Tech Notecards, or Scrivener

  1. Nope, haven’t tried Scrivener yet. Been using Word in one version or another since back in the dinosaur days, HA! Seeing positive posts about it here and there, so I will have to save my pennies to purchase it. I’m wondering how long it will take to master it?
    Can you create a storyboard with it? I usually do my storyboards/outlines on index cards, then spread them all out on the floor to play.

  2. I haven’t tried Scrivener yet, but I’ve been considering it. If you want a free application to try for writers, I use Yarny. It’s a cloud-based program that sounds similar to Scrivener. You can also upgrade to the Premium format for only $4/month. It’s pretty cool! I’ve also used Microsoft Word but that is too cumbersome when trying to create scenes, characters, etc. You end up with multiple documents. Ugh.

    • Thanks Kat…will have to check that out!
      Yeah, multiple docs are an issue. So hard to track revisions and organize that way!

  3. I also downloaded the trial for PC during NaNoWriMo and totally fell in love! I love how easy it is to organize everything in Scrivener and I ESPECIALLY love how it properly formats your manuscript for you! Too awesome!

  4. I love Scrivener! Yes, being able to move scenes around by dragging is the best. And the ability to move between them just by clicking on the binder is so much easier than scrolling through a large Word file! I’d hate to go back to Word.

  5. I think I have just come across your post at the right time. I’m about to start revisions and scrivener sounds like it might be the right thing to use. I will look it up. Thank you! Good luck with the rest of your rewrite.

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  7. I just started Scrivener and while I am struggling with the learning curve, I’m enjoying what I’m picking up so far. I love being able to drag scenes and to find at a glance my chapters/scenes. I haven’t done much with the Inspector, but I am doing okay with a minimalist perspective for now.

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  9. I love this software. You can use the metadata to add e.g. character names, or location names, then you can do a smart search (or grouping, I forget what it is called) and it will show you all the scenes where this occurs. You can use this to just read scenes featuring a certain character to see how they flow. You can even save these filtered searches to click on.

    David Hewson has a decent guide which is fairly cheap on Amazon if you have an ebook reader.

  10. Scrivener continues to prove itself as the best software I’ve ever used. I’ve been using it for the past two years and every once in awhile, I discover a new feature that makes writing even better. It’s more than worth it to reach 50k in NaNoWriMo and then purchase the program at a 50% discount. $23 is not a bad price at all and neither is the full $45, honestly. There are still a lot of features I don’t use, but I doubt I’d be as far in certain writing projects as I am if I was just using Word. I tend to have a lot of documents full of notes and ideas, so instead of having multiple separate documents all over the place in tons of subfolders, I can keep all of that stuff under one file.

    As far as editing goes, I’ve only found one way of being able to see changes. You can take snapshots of scenes or chapters that basically store a copy of that document as it. Then, you can make all your changes, take another snapshot, and compare the two. That way you can see what’s crossed out and what’s added. There might be a better way, but I haven’t found it yet.

    If you want to create new chapters, all you have to do is just make a new folder and place all of your scenes under that folder. Also, my absolute favorite feature is the QuickReference panel, which allows you to look at another document while you’re working on your manuscript in the main screen. For instance, if you have an outline, you can just have it open in a QuickRef window while you work so you stay on track.

    Another feature I love is the Project Targets tracker. You can set a word count goal for your entire manuscript as well as daily goals. Nothing’s more motivating than watching those bars go from red to green.

    I also like how you can import images and mp3s into a project. Certain pictures and songs give me rich ideas for particular characters or sections of a story, so it’s useful to have them there.

    Basically, I have yet to find a flaw with Scrivener. I guess the only “bad” thing would be how easy it is to not take advantage of all the features.

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