Last Wednesday I bit the bullet and did something that I’d been mulling for almost five years: I bought a copy of Scrivener. This mysterious word processing program, specifically geared to serious writers of all stripes, has been on my radar for quite some time. Then I realized how cheap it was, and I came by a $9 off coupon, and I thought….what the heck. Merry Early Christmas to me.

So I went to Literature and Latte, took a deep breath — and bought it.

After 30 minutes of poking around, I caught of glimmer of just how powerful this thing was.

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Working on my current NaNo project in Scrivener. My writing life has irrevocably changed.

Five days and one Scrivener webinar later, my appreciation for the program has deepened exponentially. I now understand that much of my latent frustration with writing had nothing to do with the intellectual process of writing, but the natural roadblocks that Microsoft Word throws in the way of writers. For example: It wasn’t until I started using Scrivener that I realized just how much of my “writing” time was wasted just with scrolling, tabs, cut/paste maneuvers, and other “shortcuts” that actually slowed me down.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a life-long user of MS Word. (Well, almost. Ever since getting my first computer in the 90s, at least.) Even when I made the switch from PCs to a Mac computer, I paid the extra $150 to have Microsoft Suite installed on my new MacBook Pro. (Confession: I am also required to have Excel for work. But even if I wasn’t, I still would have bought the package so I could have MS Word, since it was so familiar to me. It was all I knew.)

By now, I know this program like the back of my hand. And I kept using it for noveling purposes, even after learning about Scrivener, due to several legit concerns:

  • I had too much writing tied up in MS Word already (including a couple earlier versions that, alas, I can no longer access).
  • I dreaded the meticulous hours that I expected would be necessary to convert a MS manuscript to Scrivener, what with formating, new layouts, etc.
  • I was concerned about the expense of a new software.
  • I was concerned about software redundancy. (MS had always worked for me, so why change?)
  • I was concerned about the man-hours needed to learn a new program. (As a whirling dervish with four jobs, this was really my biggest worry, along with the conversion issue.)

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Lookit! I can even blog in Scrivener.

Obviously, all these concerns came to naught in the end, as I ponied up the money for it last week. Even without the coupon, it would have only cost me $45. And it was entirely worth it.

  • My MS Word documents transferred easily to Scrivener, into a format that will make traditional or self publishing ten times easier.
  • Those “meticulous hours” ended up being a matter of minutes per manuscript. This includes my near-query-ready work Memento Mori, now transferred and ready for another round of edits. Moreover, it’s formatted in an easy-to-use way I couldn’t achieve in MS Word.
  • At $45 (minus $9 with my coupon) it was less than a third of the MS Package – or even for just Word itself, if I had bought it individually.
  • As for learning the new program, it is so minutely designed with a writer’s approach in mind that it has not (for me) been a laborious learning process. A bit of poking and one 1-hour webinar took care of the bulk of my questions, and gave me enough fodder to get on the Scrivener interstate and go like gangbusters.

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Literature and Latte. Here’s where you go….if you’re interested.

Even so, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what this powerhouse can do. But I’ve got NaNoWriMo as excuse for a crash course, and I’m already learning a LOT – about Scrivener, about other methods of structuring stories (VERY easy with Scrivener’s index card layout), and of course about my NaNo project, Portolan House, and all its characters.

Is Scrivener for everyone? – I hear you ask. Personally, I would love to see ALL my writer friends use it. It has already transformed not only how I novel, but also how I blog (I typed this draft and formatted it in Scrivener during lunch today), as well as how I structure and organize my notes for history lectures.

Of course, I have friends who eschew Scrivener as a matter of principle. They prefer Word, or working with real paper and index cards, and that’s GREAT. I completely respect anyone who chooses to do it “old school” – whether with hard copy or MS software. But for this job-juggling gal, whose time before a computer to do non-work things is VERY limited —— Scrivener has been a lifesaver.

What about you? What is your preferred media when it comes to the writerly world? Let me know in the comments! And as always – thanks for reading!

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