© 2011 Lynn Huggins Blackburn

I wrote my first novel in a Word document. It never occurred to me there might be a better way to do it. Editing said novel was, shall we say, challenging.

I tried working with each chapter in a separate file—a nightmare.

I tried working with the entire manuscript in one huge file—a headache.

I wound up wasting a lot of time as I edited, but I assumed my frustrations were inherent to the revision process.

And then I attended a writer’s conference and heard a respected novelist share how she writes her novels using a program called Scrivener.

I would have downloaded it that afternoon, but at the time, Scrivener was only available for Mac and I had a PC. Fast forward to November 2010 and the release of the beta version of Scrivener for Windows. I downloaded it the day it became available and have been a happy user ever since.

Scrivener is designed for writers tackling lengthy projects—nonfiction books, novels, theses, scripts, etc. All text, research, and notes are kept in one file for easy access as you write, revise, and edit.

Here are a few of my favorite features:

  • Tutorials—Both video and interactive tutorials are detailed and will shorten your learning curve.
  • Scene organization—I can break my novel into as many sections as I need to keep track of what’s going on. The entire project is still located in one file and accessible at all times—handy during the first draft and a blessing during revision.
  • Notes—Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, having a space to leave yourself notes as you write is invaluable.
  • Corkboard—I’m not a big outliner, but having a quick visual of each scene is crucial when deciding which scenes stay, go, or move somewhere else.
  • Split Screen—You can keep a research file open as you edit a scene, have a picture in view as you describe a setting, or keep the original version of a scene open as you experiment with a different point of view.

If you’ve already started a project, importing it into Scrivener is hassle-free.When you’re ready to send your baby out into the world, you’ll find a few clicks of your mouse are all it takes to export it into a .doc or .rtf file.

Writing is hard work. Revisions are grueling. Scrivener makes both a little bit easier.
If you’re a Mac user, Scrivener 2.0 is available now. You can download a free 30-day trial here. If you’re a PC user, the beta version of Scrivener for Windows is presently available as a free download here. The full version is expected to be available for purchase later this month (August 2011).

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She writes about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat and about life in a family that includes a child with special needs on her blogPerpetual Motion. Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, and knits whenever she can while taking care of three amazing children and one fabulous man.

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