Logo that reads, 'Scrivener for Microsoft Windows.'

Hotlinked from Scrivener.com. Also linked there.

Since I just startged a new story, I thought I’d peek at a trial copy of Scrivener.

And… I haven’t really used it. I loaded it up, went through the tour, and haven’t used it seriously since. I think it’s just too hard for me to change my habits. Dropping Word files on SkyDrive works for me. For whatever reason, this incredibly primitive system is hard for me to break.

But tools are exciting! And Scrivener does seem to have a few cool features. Here’s what I noticed in my brief, brief trial.

Breaking Up Your Story

If I ever spring the $40 for Scrivener, it’d be for this. It appeals to my obsessive need to categorize and organize everything.

Basically, if you use Scrivener, you write in Scrivener. It becomes your word processor for your first draft.

You can now create a new “page” for every chapter, and you can break chapters into sub-chapters. When you’re done, you tell Scrivener to assemble your story, and it strings everything together and gives it to you. Then you can take that file and drop it in another Word processor for formatting.

That means you can break down every chapter into tiny little pieces and label them. You can have Chapter 5 broken into the “Tearful Reunion” which takes up 3/4 of a page, the “Thoughts on the Balcony” section that follows, and leave the “Dramatic Train Escape” separate. When you assemble it you’d still have “Chapter 5.” But while you’re working, you can break each chapter into little-bitty scenes and edit them individually, helping you see how your entire story flows.

Blacking Out Your Screen

If you are the type of person who can’t keep from checking your email or playing around on your computer while you write, you can black out the rest of the screen so you can’t see anything except your writing.

I can’t say I’ve had that problem–closing all my programs and full-screening Word does the trick for me–but if you need to be distraction-free? I guess it could help.

Notes

You can write unique notes for each section of your story and leave them in the right column of your screen.

That’s reasonably useful. I could use that. Right now I just keep my Wiki pages open in the background. I can see how having your notes right next to your writing could be useful.

Stuff That Seems Useful for People Who Write Scripts

Finally, Scrivener has some neat auto-formatting tools for script writers. I don’t do scripts, but it does seem very useful. Formatting is a big deal in scripts, and Scrivener will do a lot of it automatically.

Mind you, I know nothing of script writing, so I have no idea if it would be useful for someone who did.

Other than that, it also has a bunch of other tools, but I spent so little time with them I can’t even describe them. Corkboards, for example. There are corkboards. I didn’t pay much attention to them. Apparently you can drag in external resources like images and store them in a little special place, just in case you want easy access to them.

But ultimately, I could barely even explore the tool because, once I realized that it was a helpful, writer-focused Word processor, I realized I wouldn’t be able to yank myself away from Microsoft Word, so it really didn’t matter.

Overall? It seems like a nice enough system for writing. It could certainly be helpful. But change is hard! And until I have a reason to do so, I probably won’t.

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