Computers have made writing easier. I look back at the days where I sat with a typewriter and wonder how I ever thought I could finish a whole book that way. But then I remember I was eleven when I got my first typewriter and I only wrote short stories.
I wrote stories in WordPerfect before converting over to Word. The ability to search, highlight, and replace really helped the process. I still kept a notebook on hand with all kinds of notes though. After each draft, I went back and edited, keeping that notebook nearby. I waded through pages upon pages of notes.
The purchase of my MacBook Pro helped even more. I wasn’t tied to the desktop. A month after purchasing the Mac, I came across an app that has since changed the way I write. It’s called Scrivener. Don’t worry PC fans, I hear there’s something like Scrivener for PCs. One such program is called Liquid Story Binder. I’ve never used it myself, but it gets its share of good reviews.
Scrivener allows me to keep everything on a project in one organized ‘binder.’ There’s the MS section where my chapters and scenes are kept in perfect order (but I can easily drag them to a different location if I wish). There’s the reference section where I keep folders and files of notes neatly labeled. I can store entire web pages if I need to.
The application even helps me with my synopsis and story building. With the use of the index card feature, I enter stuff for scenes or high-level chapter ideas. I can see these index cards to the right of my typing area, which is quite handy. No more opening and closing other files or flipping through notes. I can enter keywords or even notes off to the side for each chapter or scene. For larger notes or web pages, I use the split screen feature.
Like Word, it has search, replace, highlighting features along with spellcheck and many others. I don’t have to worry about formatting though. I just pick a font and type. I don’t have to mess around with margins, headers, or title pages. Just enter them in once and Scrivener takes care of the rest. When I’m done and ready to print or email the manuscript, Scrivener compiles the manuscript and outputs it to a Word .doc format.
My writing time is much more efficient now. No more flipping through notes, trying to remember where I’ve written something or waiting on Word to open and close documents. Have you ever thought about how much time you spend waiting for an app to open? How much time you spend navigating to a folder or file? It adds up! I don’t have to worry about examining headers or formatting on every page — a cursory glance it all I do for sanity’s sake.
Oh, and it keeps different versions of the same manuscript if you ever need it. And better yet, it saves your work every couple of minutes. There are loads more features inside Scrivener, including different templates for movie scripts, outlining, and the ability to take snapshots of a single chapter. Yep. Good writing software is worth its weight — at least to me. Neither application is expensive and both offer free trials. I’ve included links below to each application. Scrivener has a video tutorial if you’re interested.
*ETA: My philosophy is try before you buy… make sure the app is right for your way of working first. Scrivener and Liquid Story Binder are just two examples. Scrivener just happens to be my app of choice.