Are you a writer? If so, how do you organise all your notes and research as you write? If you’re like me, you’ll have bits and pieces everywhere. I’m quite an organised person, but even so, I find I have a notebook full of random ideas that occur to me as I’m thinking about something else entirely, for example I’ll write something like, “Need to show that the heroine’s younger sister is constantly in her thoughts.” This note reminds me that this part of the heroine’s character is of dramatic importance. I still haven’t worked out a way to SHOW how this is so, and not TELL, but the note reminds me I need to do so.
Then I carry on scribbling in my notebook – random things about the setting, the hero’s father’s dog, etc, and then I’ll have a light bulb moment about how to deal with the heroine’s younger sister and scribble that in, too. So now notes about the heroine are dotted all over the notebook, and not in one place.
And then there’s all my research. I’ll have photos of the setting, and background information, and useful websites for research, all in one folder on my laptop called “Random useful notes on setting”, or else pinned to one of my Pinterest boards.
So far, this ad hoc system seems to work for me, but instinctively I know that this is a cumbersome and time-consuming way of organising myself. So, I’ve been looking into the software for writers called Scrivener. This program is supposed to put everything you need for writing your novel into one place.
I’ve downloaded a free 30 day trial, and here’s a screenshot of how the program looks:
The screen you can see is like a corkboard, and each piece of paper pinned to the board is a scene in your novel. When you click on the piece of paper, your document opens up. You can write notes on the pieces of paper, so if you’re a proper planner you can put, for example “Inciting incident”, or “Dark moment”, or just “This scene needs some local flavour” to remind you it still needs some work.
(You don’t have to view your work as a corkboard, by the way. That’s just one of the options.)
I particularly like the possibilities for storing your research all under one roof. At the moment, all my web links are dotted everywhere, but here you can pin your useful webpages all in one folder and rearrange them. You can even split the screen and view your manuscript on one side, and your useful web page on the other. Great for if you have a photo of your setting and you want to look at it as you write your description.
One of Scrivener’s big pluses for self-publishers is that you can export your documents as a Kindle file.
Apparently there are masses of other capabilities to Scrivener, and authors who use it regularly swear by it. It’s also reasonably priced at $40. So why haven’t I bought it already? I’m tempted, but to be honest, I do manage OK with my present ad hoc system. There’s also the whole question of having to sit down and learn a new piece of software which may just be a gimmick, when I could be using that time more fruitfully by actually just writing my bloomin’ book. (Although my husband reminded me of the story of the guy on a hillside firing arrows at the cavalry. Behind him is a man selling a Gatling gun, but the guy on the hill says he hasn’t got time to learn new things.)
So what do you think? Have you heard of Scrivener? Do you think it’s a really useful tool, or just a flashy gimmick? Should I invest more valuable time in getting to know how it works, or is my time better spent writing the next chapter of my book? I’d love to hear any advice or comments on this!