Scrivener – A review.

I am terrible at organising plots. It’s fine for 7+ stories- I can hold it together for 15,0000 words, but top 50,000 and forget it.

I’ve tried:

Post it notes – they unstick, float away and get covered in dog hair.

Spreadsheets – Kind of works but really, no, spreadsheets are for numbers, working on them puts my brain  in the wrong place.

Scrawly diagrams– how does this help? It’s like putting the scrawly contents of my head on a page. It’s still a mess.

Note cards – Hmmm – kind of – but it’s not linear enough and besides,  I hate writing long hand, my writing is illegible.

Note books – good for gathering, not good for organising.

Word – is great but too linear – how do you shuffle things around, slide in new text at just the right place? You still need to hold your story line, and all its complexities,  in your head.

What you need, thought I, is a Word/Notecard/Post it/Spreadsheet combination.  I thought I had invented it. I had not.  Scrivener got there first.

I was having problems with my latest MS – I mean serious structural problems. I needed to completely rewrite, tightening up the frame and weaving new dimensions into the fabric.  I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task.

So I avoided it. I procrastinated all over the internet and accidentally came across this:

So I downloaded the free trial of Scrivener and played with  it for a few days.  I got excited, transferred my MS into it. Then I got a bit cross.

The 30 day trial period is about right. It took me a while  to love this piece of software. I resented it in the way I used to resent tidying my room. Slowly, however, I learned to appreciate it.

It’s like having post-its on a pinboard without the dog hair. And with a click,  you can drill down through to the chapter behind the post-it. You can summarise each chapter, making reference easy. You can slide chapters around, and even scenes in chapters. You can have easy  access to character profiles, mood boards, crazy idea files. You can set targets, check your progress and export to Word when you’re done.

I love it.

I’ve nearly finished re-writing my MS in it and I think I’ve made a cleaner job because of it.

I’m a Scrivener Convert.

What about you? How do you organise your plots? Or am I alone in having such an untidy brain?

18 Comments Add yours

  1. I suspect the creative mind is necessarily messy. It makes connections – often too many of them when we need clarity for structural analysis. I use yWriter5 (free shareware for pcs) which does similar things – though not so prettily.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Very true but so difficult to manage!

  2. This is a very timely post for me. I shall download Scrivener at once and see if it helps me make sense of my chaotic overdue manuscript! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Oooo – I hope it works for you!

  3. I downloaded it but it didn’t work for me. Perhaps because I needed more than 30 days to fall in love withit. Perhaps because I have no dog. However this is a brilliant post because it just goes to show that frittering all that time on the internet does come up trumps eventually!

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      It was second time lucky for me – I think you need to REALLY need it because it takes a while to get to grips with it. And hey – yeah! Frittering IS work.

  4. If I could download the software straight into my brain it might help. In the meantime, I scribble on the backs of envelopes or whatever happens to be top of the pile on my desk. I scribble with whatever pen/pencil I can find as I rummage around. I keep most of my plot in my head and my head is mostly in the clouds.

    To be honest, I’m not really sure how I do it. I just muddle along I suppose. Hard work though.

  5. Nick Cross says:

    I’ve been circling Scrivener for a while, although I’m not quite at the stage with my latest project where I have that much stuff to organise. I think I have a fairly structured mind anyway, so perhaps I’m managing OK without it, but it does sound good…

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      I think you’d like it Nick – it’s quite elegant in a way….

  6. JP says:

    It took me several hours to go through the tutorial and watch some instructional videos. Once I did that, I was hooked. What I love the most about Scrivener is that it gives me a birds-eye view of my entire manuscript. I use the index cards to find plot holes and pieces of the story that are in the wrong order. I can see everything – plot, character descriptions, settings, notes about stuff I want to add. Everything is literally just one click away.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      I agree – it’s really surprised me how good it is – though it took a while to get to grips with and I’m still not fully utilising it – the thought of not having it makes me shiver!

  7. rogerellman says:

    Scrivener – love it. Even though I’ve hardly learnt how to “use” it fully. It’s that magic place to go and write.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Same here !

  8. Didn’t work for me. I actually had the opposite experience – I was enjoying it at the start, really thought it was going to crack my problems (and believe me, they were HUGE problems and i really did need it). But then I was without my mac for a week, couldn’t face signing up for the free trial on PC, transferred my doc into Word and never even considered going back to Scrivener when I got the Mac back. I think I need some tutorials (NOT the written one, which I very didn’t like). I want to know how to use it better but I ended up solving all the problems with a) my brain and b) Word.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      I think my brain is half my problem…

  9. I suppose it depends on how you plan your novels as well – I plan by hand, filling a notebook with scribbles and mindmaps. I can’t seem to do it with a keyboard. On the other hand, I can’t write even in draft without a keyboard. I do admire the elegance of it though. Maybe if I wasn’t such a fan of Word 2007 which seems to do everything I ever needed from a word processor, I could be enticed.

    Interesting that you’re getting a spike in traffic, Kathy!

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