Two years ago, (mind you, AFTER my thesis was completed), my husband bought me Scrivener software. It is designed to help you organize your manuscript, including fiction, plays, and screenplays, by offering one stop shopping for character profiles, gathering research, and outlining, not to mention actual writing.
I had always balked against this kind of thing. Like the transition from using pen and paper to computer (tell me other writers remember these days!), using software to
replace my previously clumsy index card system made me nervous. I was used to a corkboard or wall of notes with scribbles like, “Judy has brown eyes” or “Poplar Street is down the road from Cobble Hill Lane.” I would pick and pluck from the milieu and compose a novel that required endless coordination. Writing the damn thing felt like the least of my worries when compared to trying to make it cohesive in the editing process. I am someone who does not write in a linear fashion. I pick up, start, finish and abandon chapters all over the place, so when it comes to slotting them into place, I run into problems. I was open to change. Kind of.
I followed all the tutorials offered with Scrivener, and the more I learned, the more beneficial it seemed. Especially for non-linear writers, I liked the idea of drop and drag for organizing chapters and best of all, a little index card system for outlining chapters…a system that didn’t leave a million holes in the wall or tape peeling off paint once the project was complete.
I’ve used this program for several years now, and I can’t get enough. As someone who once had a very strict job, I thrive on the organizational abilities of Scrivener, while still allowing me to explore my creativity. And I’m a sucker for their character-naming tool. Why is it I can never come up with names that don’t sound fit for a bad YA novel?
Do you use a writing software program? If so, which ones? What do you like? What don’t you like? If you prefer the days of the index card, no judgment here. Whatever gets the book done is all that matters.
Kelly S Thompson is an executive board member of the UBC Creative Writing Alumni Association. Find more about Kelly and her writing at kellysthompson.com.