It’s been a few months since I last raved about my love of Scrivener so I thought I’d update you on whether my love had waxed or waned. In summary, I began writing my new book with Scrivener on March 18 this year. I have now essentially finished it. I have written 80,000 words in just over 5 months (see the lovely Scrivener Project target pic on the left). This has never happened before. I am on a creative high.
How much of this can I put down to Scrivener? It’s hard to say. I think it’s been a huge help. Also this book has been fun to write, which makes the words flow too. I’ve now moved on to editing my book in Scrivener, which is what I wanted to talk about today, because I think Scrivener has several features which make editing easier than in Word.
The Beauty of the Binder
The first of these features is the Binder, which you can see in the photo on the right. The Binder is Scrivener’s way of organising scenes. Each folder (the green and purple icons) represents a chapter. Within each chapter, there are scenes. I have told Scrivener to colour all the chapters in Part 1 of my book in green. I have told it to colour all the chapters in Part 2 of my book in purple. This allows me to see, at a glance, how long each section of my book is. Being a work of historical fiction, I want to use Part 1 to set up the current situation my character is trying to escape from, to show some of the things she has to overcome in order to escape and why she wants to escape. I don’t want this part to be overlong and bore the reader before my character has a chance to run away. I don’t want it to be too short so that the reader doesn’t appreciate the huge challenge my character has set herself. Being able to view, in the Binder, how many chapters and scenes I have in each part is a quick and easy way to see whether I think any part of the book might be too long or too short, and whether any chapter might have too many scenes or not enough scenes.
If I decide I want to delete a scene, I simply pick up the coloured icon next to the scene description in the Binder and drop the whole thing in the trash, which is at the bottom of the Binder. If I want to reinstate that scene at a later date, I just pick it straight up out of the Trash and slot it back into the Binder. If I want to move a scene to a different spot in the Binder, once again, I just pick it up and move it. Then I scan through the Binder, or look at the chapter in in the cork-board and see if I like the new location for the scene. I can be much more reckless with deleting and moving scenes in Scrivener when I edit because it’s so easy to make changes, and it’s so easy to reinstate things back to how they were if I don’t like the change.
You’ll see in the Binder picture above that most scenes are coloured blue, some are coloured pink and some yellow. Again, Scrivener allows you to assign colours to scenes and chapters based on descriptions that mean something to you. Blue, for me, is a completed draft of a scene. Pink means I need to go back and add some extra information into the scene. Yellow is an idea for a scene that I haven’t written yet. Once again, I love this system. It is so easy to see which scenes and chapters are complete, and which ones I need to return to in the edit to work on further.
You can see in the picture on the left the entire Scrivener screen. The Binder is on the left. The main writing area is in the middle. On the bottom right is a yellow section. This is the Notes section. Each scene has this section for you to make notes about that scene. So, when I am writing, if I have an idea for something that needs to go into the scene, but I just can’t write it yet because I need to do some more research, it means I don’t have to stop and do the research. I just make a note in the Notes section to tell me what it is that needs to go in later and I finish the scene as best I can and I move on to the next. I never have to stop because I can’t finish a scene. I think this is one of the biggest reasons why I have written so fast. Scrivener makes it so easy to keep moving forward. I don’t have messy notes in the middle of the scene. The notes have their own tidy section. Then, when I am editing, I just scan my eyes down the Binder, find all the pink scenes, check the notes I have made for each of these, go and do the research I need to do and then I write the scene.
Managing the Trajectory of Sub-plots
Another way to manage the story trajectory when I’m editing is to view all the scenes that relate to a particular sub-plot, or all the scenes which feature the main character’s love interest. For instance, I can use the search field to ask Scrivener to find every scene with the word “Thomas” in it. Thomas is one of the potential love interests. The picture on the right shows the cork-board, and on this cork-board are my search results—all the scenes with “Thomas” in them. I can scan through this cork-board and check the trajectory of the love story part of the plot to make sure it has enough ups and downs, the right pace, and that everything is in the right order. If it isn’t, I just pick up one of the cards on the board and move it to a different spot and the whole scene attached to the card moves too. Brilliant!
So, based on five months of using Scrivener for writing, and having begun to edit my novel now, I can only say that Scrivener gets better and better. What do you think? Do you like the sound of any of these features? If you’ve used Scrivener, how does it help you to edit your book?