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The writer’s first drafting tool Scrivener has been around for some time now, but most of that time it’s been found only on the Mac. Lucky for me, earlier this year Literature & Latte released a series of betas of their new Scrivener for Windows, and I’ve been hooked since I found it.

The heart of Scrivener is the rapid creation and organization of documents. It works on the theory that a large project, like a book or a screen play or even a long blog post is easier to work on if you tackle it in smaller chunks.

Scrivener Interface

Divide & Conquer

With that in mind, Scrivener lets you very quickly and easily chop up or create documents as many small files, which you can display as a single continuous scroll of text. This makes finding things quick and painless.

These different sections are easy to drag and drop in the Binder—what you could think of as Scrivener’s file organizer. You can reorder sections, create folders and drop pieces of text into them, even texts into other texts—”files” and “folders” are interchangeable in Scrivener, and transforming a folder into a file or vice versa is a click of the mouse away. It’s a very elegant and powerful organizational structure.

Depending on what it is you’re working on, you can leave your text split up between different files or merge them back together into fewer pieces. As just one example, if you’re writing a blog post you’ll probably find it useful to merge everything back into a single piece once everything’s written and then copy it into your post.

On the other hand, if you’re writing a book, you’ll probably want to collapse it down to the level of chapters. Scrivener contains some excellent tools for data export, including the ability to create eBooks in several popular formats including epub and (with Amazon’s tools) Kindle. Having the chapters divided into multiple files makes automatic generation of tables of contents and insertion of appropriate page breaks really easy.

Organize & Search

Scrivener Corkboard

Searching in Scrivener is just as powerful. Searches can be saved to the Binder and will always remain up to date with all instances of the term you’re looking for.

You can do project-wide find/replace operations, which is invaluable when you need to make changes across a large project. Imagine changing the name of a character in a 150,000 word book and having to do it manually!

A particularly powerful organization tool is the corkboard, which shows you all the individual files of your project at a given level represented with an index card. Cards can be pinned in different colors for organizational purposes, as well as enter text descriptions or notes on them, and give them stamped status indicators. Once they’re marked up to your satisfaction, you can drag them around any which way you want, and since they represent the files and folders in your work, they provide a very easy and intuitive way to reorganize your document.

I own a copy of the recently released 1.0.3, and have been living in it for several months now; I did all of my recent National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) writing in it, and have been blogging daily at my own Fiction Improbable website (/shameless plug) with it since then. It’s the first program I’ve felt truly comfortable writing with going WAY back to the days of the Amiga.

The Windows version lacks a few of the refinements found in the Mac version, which is at version 2, but Scrivener has been very popular on the Mac for a long time, so I encourage any writing geeks out there to give the free trial a whirl and see how it works out for you. At $40 for the Windows version, $45 for the Mac version and educational licenses available, it’s a far cry from having to shell out for MS Word if you decide I’m not completely off my rocker in recommending it.

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About The Author

Avatar of Gord McLeod
Blogger & Editor at Large
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I'm a writer and game designer with a background covering everything from IT work to programming to the graphic arts. I'm intensely interested in everything game, gadget and science related. Find me at Fiction Improbable, my fiction writing website, at @gordmcleod on Twitter, and at my too.

2 Responses

  1. Bruce R. (BPR639geek)

    Looks interesting, I’ll try most anything once. Gonna download the trial & I’ll let you all know, may have to test it for a week or so. NC Narrator, I didn’t read all about it yet, is the trial version a complete version with all features? “B”

  2. NC Narrator

    I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener for NaNoWriMo, in the hopes that it would give me a simple way to keep track of details like characters (and all their attending details), locations, and the general plot I’d decided on prior to November 1. Since short stories are more my area of strength, I wanted to avoid getting frustrated because I’d lost track of or changed an important detail…like the main character’s name.

    Scrivener proved more than up to the task. In fact, the template offered for NaNoWriMo participants suggested some organizational details that wouldn’t have occurred to me, but which were incredibly helpful as my story progressed.

    I am notoriously cheap, and would probably be using pencil and paper if I didn’t already have a laptop, but at the end of NaNoWriMo I cheerfully paid for the program–the first time I have ever bought a program just to support my writing