Scrivener – what is it good for?

typewriterI’ll declare my own position right now: I’m a big fan of Scrivener. When I started writing I was more than happy with standard word processing software such as Word. After all, I’ve used a typewriter and after deploying Tippex and correction tape the ability to delete a word immediately is a miracle in itself!

freytag_pyramidBut Scrivener is something else. As my understanding of novel-writing has deepened I have started to plan more. About the same time I discovered story arcs, Freytag’s Pyramid and Aristotle’s three act structure I stumbled upon Scrivener. 3acts

Until then I had been using spreadsheets and wall charts to plot my novels and stories. But because I needed to see where the peaks and troughs of my story lay, where to plot the action points and to work within the three acts more accurately I needed some way to visualise what was going on in the background while I was writing.

Scrivener provides this with its corkboard facility. With the corkboard it is easy to see exactly where you are on your story trajectory by planning using the corkboard. Then, as you write, you can be guided by splitting the screen to reveal the corkboard in a vertical or horizontal pane beside the text.

Screenshot 2014-04-12 16.43.50

This is the main advantage of Scrivener over standard word processing software. The ability to write in separate chapters and scenes and have the corkboard with a story plan visible brings my creative practise to life. It has allowed me to visualise not only the overall story arc, but also the structure of each chapter much more easily.

Within this, I have used the corkboard to structure threads that run through the novel using different colour fonts on the corkboard. Continuity aspects of writing have been a weakness until now, with ninety thousand words to wade through it isn’t always easy to spot plot holes, but by weaving the threads visibly on the corkboard it is easy to spot any problems. This has helped me not only when writing but also when revising and editing as it serves to remind me of my original thinking and return easily to a particular part in the story.

So, for me, Scrivener is good for planning, plotting and writing. The ability to see and change your plan as you go along is like a backbone to the novel. There is also the option to review your story without reading all the text, in an overview created by your corkboard, so that at any point you can refresh your perspective.

As well as the corkboard there is space to write character biographies and plot details. I use the ‘character’ and ‘places’ folders to keep descriptive pieces that  I may or may not include. I still use Word after compilation to do post-submission edits but even at that point I have Scrivener open to guide me.

Scrivener has brought another dimension to my writing and helped me to really see the structure behind the story. I would highly recommend using it alongside Word after compilation, but for the creative aspects of writing, when you are in the flow of writing, Scrivener is a winner.