How Scrivener improved my writing process

This upcoming November will mark my sixth NaNo. A weird landmark to observe, but it’s better than trying to process what NaNo will look like now that I’m out of college. To mark the occasion, I’m going to blog about a program you’ve likely already heard about. It’s called Scrivener.

I’d heard about it when Scrivener started sponsoring NaNoWriMo, but it was only available for Mac at the time (it’s quite curious how most writer-targeted software is for Macintosh). I didn’t bother to think much of it. And then the beta came out for the Windows version.

I don’t remember when the beta started, or how I found out about it, but by the middle of the winter semester, I had the beta downloaded so that I could see what all the excitement was about (and if it was something worth buying). I was taking creative nonfiction that year and my professor had been harping on us about how we needed to build our essays around strong scenes instead of a series of weak, loosely tied together scenes. I plugged in an essay I was editing , and fiddled around with where the scene breaks should go. Almost immediately I began to see the weaknesses in the essay.

Fast forward to November last year.

I had purchased the program as a celebratory gift for making it through the semester, and the price was really good since I had my NaNo discount on top of the pre-release discount. The binder and outliner looked intimidating as I tried to figure out how to use them, but I was too proud to ask for help because I like finding stuff out for myself.

I also had never thought about my story as far as divisions of chapters and scenes.  When I had done NaNo the past four years, I had done it in a program called q10 (the year before, my first year, had been done in MS word, and I promised myself I wasn’t doing that again). It was a great program and did what I needed it to do and more as I had myself setting mini-word goals, setting the alarm for word wars.

It’s only draw back was I had a huge text file at the end of November with no clear idea where chapter and scene divisions were. The whole story was there in its unedited glory, but the wall of text reduced my will to even want to edit it. I made a feeble attempt with my 2009/2010 story, but even that attempt failed.

Needless to say, I somehow managed to figure out how to outline my novel by November. During the month, I managed to find a much easier way to pace myself. I could generally manage a scene a day, and with the help of Scrivener, my  novel was no longer an endless wall of intimidating text and I had more will power to define scenes and chapters.

My writing has never been this organized before. I’ve never been able to control my writing like this before. I get the uncontrollable urge to write during NaNo, and I end up not knowing where to end so I can return to the story another day. I was getting burned out.  Now I know where and how to draw those lines  now that I can more clearly visualize how my story is organized.

Scrivener is possibly the best investment I’ve ever made.

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