Thursday, July 2, 2015

Discovering Scrivener

I've considered buying Scrivener writing software over the years, but had a hard time picturing how I would use it, and how it would be any easier than simply typing into a text document.  I was rather stuck in my ways, so I kept putting the thought of purchasing a copy on the back burner.  Then one day my husband wanted to buy Scrivener for a screenwriting project, and said he would buy one for me to use on my laptop while he was at it.

The timing was good, because I had just started working on the first chapter of my third suspense novel, and was able to easily integrate it into Scrivener.  I've always been what writers call a pantser, or a writer who flies by the seat of her pants without any plan of where to go and where to land.  I found that approach to writing to be free and fun, however, it also led to lengthy bouts with writer's block when I could not figure out where to take the story next.  Or, worse yet, I'd get stuck because I wrote myself into a corner and knew I'd have to delete a lot of it to work my way out.

I've always admired the outline or storyboard approach to writing a novel, but never seemed to have the patience or foresight to practice the technique.  When the urge hit me to write, I wanted to write without having to hash out the plot ahead of time.  I always had faith that the plot would reveal itself in time to me while I wrote.

When I first started using Scrivener, I didn't utilize many of the tools and I actually felt that going back to fill in titles and summaries in various locations was just bogging me down...  until I hit my first roadblock.  I knew there was a fatal flaw in my story.  I didn't create enough tension in the present without first jumping into stories about the past.  This was supposed to be a suspense novel, not a biography of the main character.  I needed more action and less memories.  I needed motive to dig into the past so that the reader would be digging into the main character's past right along with me.

I began formulating in my mind what was needed to fill in the gap.  At first, I relied on my old habit of sticking notes into the text, and then I realized that was what the notecards were for.  No sooner did I create a new notecard with the summary of the scene I needed to write, and I'd think of another scene I should add in before it.  Scrivener made it so easy to add and organize pieces of the plot.  I didn't have to read through pages upon pages of text to find the best location to add in these scenes.  I didn't even have to run a word or phrase search.  All I had to do was look at the notecards and flip them around however it suited the story best.  Within minutes I had enough material to write that I could keep myself busy for the next several weeks, and feel confident that I wasn't writing myself into a corner.

Scrivener makes it so easy to save your place.  I get distracted and interrupted just about every five minutes throughout the day as I attempt to write.  My memory is lousy, so when I return to my laptop, I often times can't remember where I left off or what I was about to do.  However, with Scrivener, I can quickly add a notecard or add something to my To Do List or just simply flip to whatever scene I was going to work on next, which helps me remember much more quickly where I was in the writing process before I was taken away from it.

I love that I don't have to scroll up and down a lengthy single text document, but can navigate quickly through many different paths, and can even bring up two scenes on a split screen to make sure that they do not have information in them that contradicts the other.  Upon finishing my last novel, THE I's of IRIS, I had to do a tremendous amount of editing because, in what I thought was my final read-thru, I caught several pieces of information that did not fit with the rest of the story.  I'd think, "Where in the story did I read about that before?" and then had to run searches to locate the scene I was trying to find. 

Sure enough, I'd discover that in one scene a character was driving a white car and in another scene that car was suddenly blue.  I also discovered that in some places I had written the same scene twice.  That's what happens when you work on a novel over ten years.  You can't remember what you already wrote, and you often don't have the time to read your manuscript from the beginning to find out.  I learned that I rarely had a big enough uninterrupted block of time to read through the entire manuscript before continuing to write it.  I had to choose one or the other.  None of that would have been an issue had I used Scrivener while writing and editing that book.

So, if you are considering purchasing Scrivener software and aren't sure if it is any better than the method you are using now, I'd encourage you to take the plunge, because I'm sure you will find plenty of ways that it can make your writing process easier.  When I first started writing, my choice of tools included using a typewriter or using a pen.  Eventually, I made all my friends jealous by purchasing an electric typewriter with word processing functions.  When my boyfriend, now husband, bought me my first IBM compatible PC with WordPerfect, I was over the moon with how much faster and easier my writing became.  No more White Out!  No more typing and re-typing of multiple drafts!  Then I got my first wireless laptop and was no longer tied to a desk and chair that made my neck and back ache.  Now I have Scrivener software, and am finding nothing but clear skies ahead.