Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Writing Software

When two writers start talking, one of the first questions they ask each other (after "What do you write?") is "What software do you use?" We all know that most people, when it comes to computers, are either strongly pro-PC or pro-Mac. I'm not about to open that debate. Suffice it to say that now that my Toshiba laptop has died after five valiant years of rough drafts, Curious George games and photo downloads, I am finally able to make the switch to Apple. My husband is ecstatic that our house will finally be PC-free. What I am ecstatic about is I get to write my next novel using Scrivener software.

Scrivener, as its designers describe it, is "a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts." It is available for download here. After the thirty day free trial period, it costs forty dollars to buy the license for continued use. I've been using it for a few days now and am thrilled. The best feature is a virtual corkboard that allows you to create and rearrange index cards, displayed all at once--the perfect tool for developing and plotting story events. You can open research files alongside your text draft, view synopses of each chapter, and keep track of the status of each chapter or scene. Although I haven't actually done it yet (I'm still in the plotting stage), you can supposedly view different threads in a document, for example calling up all the scenes in which a certain character appears, or that take place in a specific setting--an amazing tool for following the execution of story arcs and checking a draft for consistency. I'm not particularly computer savvy and I'm finding Scrivener easy to use. The documentation is pretty straightforward and there is a good tutorial to learn with. (Okay, I do have an incredibly helpful scientist husband to help me when I get stuck, but I'm sure you'll be fine without him.)

Those of you who write on Mac computers might want to check it out (you can import already existing work into the program). If my experience so far is any indication, Scrivener is worth every penny of the licensing fee. (Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with or compensated by the software designer, just a happy customer.)

I'll keep you updated on how it goes as I use more of Scrivener's features. And if anyone has other writing software to tout (even if it's for the PC), please feel free to tell us about it.

10 comments:

Sheramy said...

Welcome to MacWorld! :-) I've had two Mac laptops in the past decade and have been happy with both. (Tip: don't ever put your laptop on your knees or on the bed with a blanket there instead of a hard surface: it will eventually overheat and die. That's what happened to my first one.) I have a PC at work and definitely prefer the Mac.

I don't know Scrivener, so please do keep your faithful readers updated on how you like it. I'm a plain old MS Word for Mac user, and for all my research use plain old notebooks, binders, index cards, etc.

Julianne Douglas said...

Will do, Sheramy. It's been great fun playing with the index card thingy so far. You just click and drop to rearrange the order of the cards. I've been jotting down ideas for scenes and dropping them in where I think they might occur in the ms.

Supposedly the program works just as well for writers who don't outline ahead of writing. Once all your random scenes are written, the corkboard can help you organize and find the best arrangement for them.

Michelle Moran said...

Oh.. I just bought a new computer and never even considered a Mac. Now it makes me wish I had! I'll be interested in the updates as well, since Scrivener sounds absolutely fantastic. I wonder though... all of the editors use Word (that I've worked with) and edit in Word. Would they be able to read a Scrivener document?

Julianne Douglas said...

From what I understand, when you're ready to compile your document, you can export it in several different formats (Word being one of them, along with plain text and html). I'll let you know how it works when I actually try it.

Catherine Delors said...

Some of my friends are switching to Mac. They rave about it and say it's night and day compared to Windows. Imagine: no more worries about viruses!

My two-year old POS Dell is giving ominous signs of computer fatigue, and my next laptop is definitely going to be a Mac. Keep us posted on this Scrivener thing, it sounds wonderful.

Michelle Moran said...

Wow. I can't believe I've never heard of it before. Thanks, Julianne!

Julianne Douglas said...

Check out the website, Michelle. It explains things much better than I can! :)

Catherine, my husband has always preferred Mac; we have a Mac mini and an iMac for desktops and he has a Mac laptop for work. The only reason I had a Toshiba laptop was the cost factor. Now that it's died, I'm trying to decide between an iMac or a laptop. I do most of my writing at home anyway, and I'm really getting used to this large screen, so I have a feeling I'm going to go for the iMac. Macs are just so straightforward and uncomplicated compared to Windows machines!

Sheramy said...

Amen to that. Go Mac and you won't go back. ;-)

lucy pick said...

I made the jump to Mac this spring, and am loving it. I've got it programmed so I can still use Windows though, because my favourite word processor, Nota Bene, only works on Windows. I'm looking forward to checking out Scrivener though.

Julianne Douglas said...

Lucy,

The first thirty days are free, so have some fun with the notecard utility and see what you think!