In principle, I subscribe to the ‘Just Do It’ philosophy for getting things done, or at least that’s the mindset I am trying to cultivate. For many years, the pursuit of the perfect tool has been whats stopped me from achieving my goal of being able to write.
There are a lot of books and websites that will tell you about the art of writing. Maybe a half as many again that will talk about the ‘science’ of writing. But there aren’t any where as many resources that will talk about the practice of writing, and the practical aspects of writing.
So, for a long time I tried to manage writing using Word. A directory for a story. A document per chapter. Separate documents for ‘snippets’, half formed ideas. Yet more documents for research, and character notes. I also tried OneNote and a range of other tools. But none of these really worked. It would be incorrect to say that this is what stopped me from writing, but it certainly added to the drag, and didn’t provide me any lift.
Until I found Scrivener.
Scrivener is not a word processor. At least not as you might know it. In fact, if you know anything about programming, its more like an Integrated Development Environment. Its an integrated writing environment. Using Scrivener I found that I could manage all my writing activities in one spot, in a highly intuitive way. The more I used it, the more I found that it become ‘invisible’ to my writing effort. Rather than struggle to manage my writing and information, using scrivener I found I could concentrate on the actual out put, writing.
You should be able to write using anything, from Word, to a post it note to the ubiquitous cafe napkin. But in reality choosing a good tool for a job is incredibly important, and for me, Scrivener is that tool. I cannot stress enough the impact Scrivener had on my output. I would say that it is probably the most productive $40 US I’ve spent.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
In another article I will talk about my workflow using scrivener, and also provide a Scrivener novel template that I have been developing myself. The link to scrivener is an affiliate link, but I only provide it, because I swear by it. Seriously. Scrivener will actually revolutionize the way you write, and increase your productivity by a massive amount. After using it, you will cringe when you have to write in Word.
Scrivener has a pretty good set of tutorials, but if you want to really maximize how fast you can become productive with scrivener, I can highly recommend Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Micheal.
It mainly focuses on the Mac version, but most of the information is highly relevant to windows users, and where scrivener Mac and PC versions are different, notes are generally provided. The course is very comprehensive and if you go for the ninja level of the course (and who wouldn’t want to be a ninja!) then there is a heap of extra materiel. Some of the extras were probably as much as the core materiel. A couple of established authors, like Joanna Penn, as well as well known bloggers and editors provided video presentations on how they use scrivener.
I found these videos fascinating in themselves, because not only do you get to learn about Scrivener, but its like looking over the shoulder of these authors as they produce their work, which is an insight that will really benefit aspiring writers.
If you aren’t sure if scrivener is for you, then the video to the right will probably give you a good overview of the capabilities of scrivener. There are a lot of resources on the web for using scrivener. A lot of writers have developed their own template systems, and I’ve certainly found that developing my own template helps with understanding scrivener (and the over all process of writing!)
Scrivener actually aims to remove the requirement to think about the software, but in the process, you have to unlearn some ‘MS Word’ habits.
Finally, if you like to actually read a book rather than read, Scrivener for Dummies comes highly recommended. Don’t be put off by the name.
A lot of blogs and respected authors refer to Scrivener for Dummies as the best ‘go to’ guide for using scrivener.
Want to focus on writing, not on software?
If you are serious about writing, and frustrated by MS Word, or can’t get your workflow right, then you should check out scrivener.
In addition to Scrivener, there are a couple of other tools that I use to help with the process. The first is more suited to academic writing, or history and biographical materiel where you require references.
Scrivener itself actually has a pretty sophisticated way of managing references and project meta data. But if you are trying to manage a large amount of references, then I recommend Zotero. Zotero is free, and comes with a downloadable client, as well as a web based client. I also have installed the browser bar plugin for Chrome, which allows me to save references direct from a webpage.
It will save a variety of reference and citation styles, and integrates with scrivener. The work flow for doing it is slightly detailed, but worth the effort. The video on the right is one resource worth checking out.
Finally, any detailed book probably has a degree of timeline management that needs to be tracked. Aeon Timeline is the best tool I’ve found for this. It integrates with Scrivener and allows you a wide range of customization with regard to time line tracking.
It allows you to create characters, set birth dates, death dates, as well as create historical events. You can assign characters and events to story arcs, and tag which characters were present at which event. Aeon Timeline will then tell you how old they were at that event, and who else was present.
Initially I thought this would be useful for fiction, but even for historical writing, its probably good way to keep track of who was where and when.
One of the other challenges these days is keeping notes and information organised. The above tools are all very good for organizing information in a very deliberate manner, or capturing ideas when you are at a laptop or desktop.
But when I am mobile, either on a tablet or a phone, or browsing the web I find that I often want to capture a quick idea. Either capture something from a website, or jot down a quick note.
I have a reasonably long daily commute, so voice recording is ideal, but I also like evernote to capture web pages, scanned documents and photos.
Keeping information unified across devices is also important. I think for this, the best option is evernote. Basic evernote if free, and suits all of my needs.
Evernote is ubiquitous. Its on every device I own, and I have the Evernote Chrome extension installed, so whenever I am on a webpage that has information I want to record, I click it and it gets saved to a default notebooks.
If you don’t use evernote, click on the icon above, and you’ll get a free month of evernote premium (and so will I!).