Monday, June 09, 2008


If you're writing on a Mac, hie thee over to download the trial version of Scrivener. Seriously. There's a decent video there to show you why you need it.

Here's why *I* needed it! I often plot/ outline with physical 3x5 notecards, but I have issues with them. I like color-coding things, but committing to writing plot points on a green card is difficult. Green cards belong to the MC. What if I later I decide to write the scene from another character's POV? Then it should have been on a yellow card! Or even a pink card. You can imagine the dilemmas this causes. Seriously. I've sat and stared at the cards, afraid to commit.

Okay, so that's silly. I can just use white ones, and once I for sure decide whose scene it is, I can run a highlighter across the header to match the character. That helps, but I still lack space to spread them out at work.

And then there is the issue of what to do with the random bits of information that I'm not sure what scene it's going to belong in. I see a setting, but what will happen there? So really, I need to know quite a lot about the story before I pull out the notecards. And then...I may as well go straight to Word or Excel, eh?

Only the cells in Excel really aren't big enough for all the information I might want to have in them--notes for each scene. And sometimes they're a pain to rearrange. I've lost stuff doing that.

Back to Word. There each scene takes as much space as it needs. I can list the POV character, the setting, etc no problem. But there still is that random stuff that might become a scene if it found the right other information to collide with.

And with the matchmaker, I've gone round and round in Word and Excel and was pulling out the notecards a couple days ago (in desperation!) when I remembered that I now have a MacBook.

You'd think I couldn't forget such a thing. I've overcome much of the learning curve and am no longer panicking every five minutes that I don't know how to DO whatever it is I'm trying to do. (That's now reserved for like once a day!) But with the remembrance that I now use a Mac, I remembered that Holly Lisle uses Scrivener. (Ha. You thought I'd never get to the point.)

So I asked around a bit and then downloaded the trial version this morning. By the time I'd gone through the tutorial I had a bit of a headache. So much information! But then it was lunch break and I went for a long walk, came back, and decided it was time to see what would happen when Matchmaker met Scrivener.

I think they're in love.

First, importing files from Word is easy-peasy. (And they're still there in Word, too, should I need them in that application.) Scrivener arranged things fairly intuitively. I only moved a few things to new locations, and it was easy to do. So on the left of the screen, it's like an organizational tree program. There's tons out there, several of which I've used from time to time and quite liked. But this does more.

It has a virtual corkboard with 3x5 notecards! :D And because I am not actually wasting notecards by changing my mind later what color I want them (lame, I know...), I can randomly type whatever I want on a given card, and change it later.

Each card has three *levels*. There's a title, which shows in the tree down the left side. Then on the actual card itself, below the title, is enough room to write a decent synopsis of the scene (about the same amount as on a physical card). BUT, for all the little details, you can add them basically behind the cut. All of these can be color-coded and rearranged to my heart's content.

Which is cool. At the moment, I'm resisting the urge to title the cards in my outline section of the file, though of course I've labeled them in the character section. I'll save the title slot for numbers when I have them the way I want them. But one synopsis section simply says *picnic*. Because I think one scene will take place on a picnic. But I have no idea what will happen there that is significant, and I don't know if it will be early in the story or late. But for now, I have a card for picnic. Later, hopefully, one of the other cards with some other random word will decide it wants to hang out with the picnic card, and I'll combine them. Eventually, I hope, I'll have 80-90 cards with actual scene synopses on them.

The few cards that I know for sure belong to the beginning of the story--ones where characters meet each other, I've tinted light aqua. I've reserved pale yellow for middle scenes and pink for climax/ending scenes, but I haven't used any of those yet.

A person can easily write the entire novel in Scrivener. (Exporting back to Word is just as easy as importing, for the final formatting and such.) I think it would be especially cool for folks who write scenes out of order, because you can rearrange all the scenes simply by moving their cards around. So far I've always written linear, but this setup loosens the cells in my brain a little and makes it okay to play. I don't know if I will, though!

So, after one day, I'm really excited about some of the odds and ends that are stuck to my virtual corkboard and how I might arrange them and add to them. I've still got quite a ways to go to have a full and complete plot, but it's really looking positive at the moment!

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