A digital scribe for a disorganized, creative mind

If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you’re disorganized. I don’t mean to generalize or stereotype, but honestly I don’t know very many people who are both creative and organized. Now, I know organized people who can be creative with their organizing, but every creative person I know tends toward the disorganized side of the line.

I’m disorganized, at least on the outside. My brain is pretty carefully structured, otherwise I would have lost it years ago. But to an outside observer looking at my work area, you’d think a hurricane had devastated my desk. I leave paper trails everywhere I go. I gather strange memorabilia to help kickstart my brain. I even have a BB hand pistol on my desk at home for those moments when I need to feel the weight of a gun in my hand to enhance writing a scene. I’ve got plastic swords and light sabers. I’ve got bottles and deer antlers and toys and colored pencils all scattered around me, and they help me think.

Now if you look at my computer filing system, you’d be proud, though. I try to keep it orderly. But then I have four novels going at once, along with short stories, dramatic skits, and daily blog posts. And then there are the novels on the back burner that I’m constantly gathering information for; that process never ends. So I have to keep everything straight or I get confused.

If I didn’t, it would be like you’re watching Dr. Richard Kimble running away from the U.S. Marshals and suddenly he’s trying to fly the Millennium Falcon into the Temple of Doom. I can probably keep the characters straight, but the universes might get jumbled.

So when I heard about Scrivener, I thought it was too good to be true. Or I thought there was a catch. Or something. Because surely something that handy couldn’t be easy to use and cost only $40.

But so far—Scrivener is exactly what I expected it to be. Epic awesomeness.

Okay, for those of you who don’t know what Scrivener is, the best way I can describe it is a word processor/database/formatting tool, and if you’re serious about writing, you really shouldn’t work without it.

Now, I’ve been writing seriously since I was 11. That 20 years. And up until now I used Word. Granted, I started with cheap notebooks and then moved on to the awful word processor on our original DOS-based computer with the 5¼ floppy drives. But as soon as we got a computer with a hard drive, I started using Word. So I did everything in Word. I outlined. I wrote novels. I wrote character sketches, extra scenes, conversations, snippets, histories, cultural information, languages, setting detail, etc. etc. etc. Everything that had to do with a novel or a series, I wrote in Word files, sometimes individual files and sometimes combined files.

And then guess what would happen? Yes, that’s right. I would lose them. No matter how I tried to keep them straight, I would save them someplace and couldn’t find them again. At least, I couldn’t find them again until I gave up and saved the file in another location. And then I could never remember which one had the information that was most up-to-date, and I never had time to skim through and see which one was which. So I ended up keeping both. (I’ve learned a lot over the years.)

Scrivener allows you to keep all of that together. You’ve got your word processor, which is nice. But it’s all stored in a project folder, and inside that project folder along with your Draft, you get research files and character files and setting files and image files and audio files and video files and whatever other kinds of files you use to build your manuscript. It’s incredible. And then when you’re done with your draft, you extract your manuscript using a built-in formatting tool that will set it up exactly how you want it—ebook, novel, non-fiction, or customized however you like!

If I’d had Scrivener when I was 14, I think I could have preserved some of my brain cells.

I’m actually going to encourage the folks at work to think about picking a couple of licenses up because WOW. If I could store all my research and unique selling points and updated selling features and benefits on all the copy I write, it would be so much easier than having to sift through countless Word documents and PDFs and PowerPoints every time I needed to put some copy together.

There are a few points in the formatting area of the program that are a little difficult to keep track of and understand, but their Forum is very helpful. Just make sure you differentiate between having the Mac version or the PC version, since they are different from each other.

I started working on my next Rainbows book using Scrivener this time around, so we’ll see how it goes. But so far, it’s working great, and I’m using a lot of the features.

A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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