Tools of the Trade

I was asked the other day how I write. The manuscript was back from the editor, and within a few weeks I had the paperback proof in my hands, so trying to explain how I got there from the first tentative scratchings on a page made me think a bit.

I’ve always preferred writing in longhand rather than sparking up the laptop straight away so, for me, the moleskine A5 notebooks are perfect – especially the pocket at the back where you can shove index cards with ideas scribbled on them to return to when you’re stuck for inspiration. Once I had a good few pages under my belt, I’d start typing everything up and until recently, I’d always used MS Word to pull my work together ready for publication.

That is, until someone mentioned Scrivener to me at a writing workshop three months ago and kindly showed me the programme during a break in
proceedings. I was instantly hooked.

With Word, my biggest problem was that I had to constantly (a) scroll through the entire manuscript to find parts I was working on; and (b) print out the whole thing to see how the story fitted together and for first-time edits.

I’ve just started working on my third novel, a standalone thriller and before I even began to plan out the story, I downloaded two copies of Scrivener – one for the main computer in the home office, and another for my laptop. That’s one of the first things which amazed me about the software – it’s very, very affordable.

Getting started is pretty intuitive if you’ve had any experience of using MS Outlook – the layout of folders and sub-folders is similar enough that you won’t freak out when you first get started.

The programme also works for many styles of writing – there is even a screenwriting template. I’m still a novice, so I’ve stuck to the standard layout format at the moment. I’m using the ‘Research’ section for a bit of a brain dump – I’ve got my chapter-by-chapter plan saved there, along with a working ‘to do’ list.

There’s a section where you can create an ‘index card’ for each of the characters, which really helps for cross-referencing them as well.

There are a number of tips and tricks available online to help anyone unfamiliar with the package – my favourite is Paul Dorset’s blog, ‘Utterances of an Overcrowded Mind’. Paul has been responsible for a series of blog posts which take a first-time user through Scrivener in a non-technical way and I highly recommend them to anyone thinking about, or already using Scrivener. You can read his blog here: http://blog.pauldorset.com

As far as first impressions go, I’m really impressed with the software and I can’t see myself ever using MS Word for the creation part of writing again. I’ll certainly continue to use my notebook and pen to get started, and will export and prepare my manuscript in Word before converting for eBook publication, but as a work tool, Scrivener ticks all the boxes for me.

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