“So I think I’m going to write a book!”
It’s a fairly common scene: You’ve met with your friends for coffee and during the round table of fabulous new things everyone has going on in their lives, a ‘friend’ has decided to write a book. Amazing, right? What an ambitious goal in life! Maybe you catch yourself wondering if this is going to be like one of the last five times this idea has come up; where you’re going to sit quietly while they regale you with the tales of their new characters for a few hours and in the end you never get to read a word of it.
Well let’s stop you right there, because this time is going to be different! This time you have an answer prepared to encourage and support your ‘friend’. This time, you’re going to tell them about Scrivener.
Scrivener is a software package available for both Mac and PC which can only be described as an all purpose writing assistant. It provides an efficient working environment where you can flip back and forth from your research to your novel, as well as enabling you to write out a large document and split it into chapters before editing.
Now if your ‘friend’ is a person who needs to organize everything right down to the last detail to write a novel then this program is especially well geared to that type of writer. You can choose the Novel template that comes with the program and start filling the folders provided with characters and places using the pre-formatted templates, or you can start your own template in the templates folder to use throughout the research phase. There is a separate folder for Research where all important information you’ve accumulated can be kept in reach of your fingertips at all times without cluttering up your character/places files.
I’ve found with Scrivener, you aren’t constantly rooting through piles of paper trying to find notes on that one obscure scene in the novel – it keeps all of this information organized in a binder tab to the left of your screen which can be conveniently closed when not in use. With the binder dropped down, you can see your chapters laid out with their headlines, as well as the folders containing characters, places and whatever else you’d like to have easy access to.
Simple, right? I need to say that nothing is as irritating as reading a book and being pulled out of your story by constant inconsistencies! I mean…didn’t that character have strawberry blond hair? Now you’re saying it’s platinum? I know they only showed up for a few lines at the beginning of the book but you can bet your buttons that I will notice that – and be severely annoyed. In Scrivener you can plan your character from a template and leave yourself notes for further development while adding pictures for easy reference. I start my characters off actors and actresses.
You can keep things simple with just a few details so the character develops on their own through the novel, or you can write their whole history along with notes-to-self about which parts are common knowledge and which ones are hidden in the folds of your characters development.
If all of this seems too planned out, then maybe your ‘friend’ is the kind of person who likes to write from their heart and to heck with structure! Well fear not, let the chaos reign during the writing phase by using the “Corkboard” feature of Scrivener. Start a new index card for every scene and write to your heart’s content – or write one long document and use the “split” option to break it into chapters later.
When your creativity has finally been exhausted, scoot back and write a quick note in the index card to say what scene is playing out in that card. When all is said and done, it’s easy to go back to this feature and rearrange the scenes so they all make sense before putting them together into your fist draft.
By the time you’ve finished explaining these few features, everyone will be clamouring to get a copy for themselves so they can start writing a book too! Now, like all really amazing programs, it costs a bit of money to own Scrivener and while I would have paid hundreds for it – it only costs around $45 CAD. If you’re not reaching for your credit card yet, don’t sweat it. They have a 30 day free trial to start you off.
So good luck and happy writing to you-um…I mean your “friend”. We know it’s for you, don’t lie.
– Crystal Picard
Graphic design student & Moonlighting novelist