Emily Dickinson wrote poems on scraps of paper, the backs of envelopes, anything that she had at hand to capture ideas that could appear and disappear like a slant of light on a winter afternoon. Most writers carry a notebook in order to capture potential plot points, dialogue, and other ideas, but sometimes the notebook can’t be found. Then we make do with whatever is handy.
Or at least I do. I have a drawer of scribbles on napkins, envelopes, and credit card receipts, each covered with an occasionally legible plot point, snippet of dialogue, or other idea for my works in progress.
The Emily Dickinson method was fine when I was working on my own time, on my own for-fun writing. But now that I have an editor waiting for a publishable manuscript in seven short months, I thought it was time to give myself a present, a present that promises to boost my productivity. I bought Scrivener, a writing program that many authors use. The Scrivener website touts itself as “a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.” Scrivener’s “focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”
I bought Scrivener because I don’t want to be a scribbler anymore. I’ve scribbled notes on any handy piece of paper – the blank borders on newspapers, various notebooks, envelopes, junk mail. My forgetfulness (where did I put that notebook?) has conspired with my New England thriftiness (Don’t throw out that Christmas letter! I can outline on the back!) to create a disorganized monster. The time had come to corral my notes and scribbles and herd them into Scrivener.
So how is Scrivener working out? Downloading the program was simple. Tip Number One: Read the directions for downloading. They are not kidding.
The first steps were so simple I figured I’d be breezing through dozens of scenes in no time.
I opened the program and felt like an eight-year-old who had traded a skateboard for a Ferrari.
Did I mention that the digital user’s manual is 580 pages long?
Thank goodness there are Youtube tutorials for Scrivener. One of my favorites is by Karen Prince, who opens her tutorial “Scrivener: A Quick Review of How It Works and Some of its Coolest Features” by promising to show me how Scrivener works. How does it work? “Like magic,” Ms. Prince promises. Her clear description of steps and her wonderful plummy accent make watching the video a treat.
It’s only been two days, but I have a wonderful sense of possibility. All of my scribbles and the notes from my phone have been transferred to Scrivener. Everything is in one place. That I won’t lose that plot twist that came to me at 3 a.m. and I scrawled onto the back of an envelope with an eyebrow pencil is very comforting.
Many writers have sung Scrivener’s praises. Writers with series characters to juggle seem most pleased with the program’s many features. I’m still learning what those features are and I promise to fill you in. Just as soon as I find my notes.
Will it make an organized author out of me? Stay tuned.
Do you use Scrivener? Do you have any hints for new Scrivener users?