Friday, October 4, 2019

Organizing Your Book: How I Learned to Love Scrivener

Books become unwieldy fast.  Unlike a poem, essay, or short story, a book may generate thousands of pages by the time it's revised down to three hundred and fifty.  Most writers don't realize or remember this when starting a new book.  But after a few revisions, there's just too much to keep track of.

I get this question in most of my classes:  how do you organize your book-in-process? 

I learned the hard way. My early manuscript were created in Word. I printed each version, read and marked up this hard copy, and input the corrections input.  Rinse and repeat.  Some books seemed endless, and I might end up with an entire file drawer of paper by the pub date.  Not ideal on many levels, but it was the only way I knew.

About three books ago, I was introduced to Scrivener.  It changed my writing life.  

Understand, I'm not a software geek.  I don't like learning new programs.  I was reluctant to try this one, but so many of my students raved about it, I kicked myself out of my Luddite attitude and downloaded a trial version. It's only $45, you can try it free for a month, and it is compatible with either Mac or PC platforms. 

A student at one of my writing retreats introduced me to it, got me set up, and answered my beginner's questions.  Since then, I've written three books using the program and thank it every day for its ingenious way of keeping me on track.
One of my writing friends was mulling over why Scrivener works so well for so many different types of writers.  She believes it appeals to both the right and left brain.  Its three components--an outliner (called the Binder), the writing section, and the notes section (called the Inspector) give you everything you need to not just produce but dream your book.  You can keep your multiple revisions in one place with the "snapshot" feature and you can download research or photos or character profiles in the Inspector to refer to as you write.  

I use Scrivener so basically, I decided to take some online classes to learn more.  But I didn't really.  So on vacation this month, I browsed sites to learn that way.  I did pick up a few cool tools and tricks to make life with Scrivener even more amazing.
One was a guest post at Writer Unboxed.  Written by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies, it taught me a great new tool about annotations.  

But most of it, it listed ten reasons that reminded me why Scrivener is so valuable to so many writers.  If you're new to the idea of using Scrivener for your book, check out Gwen's post here.  (Go to and search for Gwen's name or "Scrivener" if the link doesn't work).

I have zero stake, financially or otherwise, in whether you end up loving Scrivener as much as I do.  I just know how well it answers the question:  how do I organize all this stuff?!  It makes the book-writing journey almost pleasurable.

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