I have just discovered a piece of software that is going to make my writing life so much easier! It’s called Scrivener and it calls itself a writing studio, not just a word processor. And that’s no exaggeration. I’ve only been playing around with it for half an hour and I’m hooked!

Anyone familiar with the setup of Access, where you can have multiple files as part of one document, accessible from a left sidebar, will be able to picture the layout of Scrivener. The sidebar (called the Binder) is broken up into a manuscript component and a research component. The manuscript component is where you work on writing the drafts and can be broken up in different ways depending on what you’re writing (they have different templates for things like Fiction, Non-Fiction, Screenplays, that sort of thing). It operates under the assumption that it’s easier to work in parts that can be combined or rearranged as you work, although you can, of course, just write the whole document in one file, if you prefer. The research component allows you to manage all the external things that get referenced during the writing process – character sketches for fiction, research documents for non-fiction, etc. You can even set up a split screen so that you have the scene you’re writing on one side and something else that you’re referring to (a previous draft, a character sketch, a research article) right next to it.

This program really connects with my compulsion to organize and compartmentalize things. But one of the things I really appreciate is the aesthetics. Windows programs tend toward the utilitarian, which always bumms me out. I’m a very practacle person, but I respond much more favourably to a program that looks interesting than one that’s just a series of grey-outlined windows. This program has an option to use a  cork board view, where whatever you’re working on (scenes, character sketches, what have you) are displayed as if they are written on file cards and tacked on a cork board. You can click and drag to move scenes around, and they’ll move around in the Binder, too, and display in their new arrangement in the page mode. This is going to make my writing so much easier! I only wish I’d had it when I was writing From Pemmican to Poutine. When I think of how I had to try to juggle so many different documents at one time…

It’s only available on the Mac for the moment, but they’re launching a Windows version next month. The Windows version is currently in public beta, so I downloaded it for now because I can’t wait to start using it. We bought the Mac version today, but I like being able to work on my cute little netbook, instead of having the huge MacBook spread out on my lap. Plus, the two versions are compatible, so if I want to work on the Mac for some reason, I can!

I’ve so far spent the morning happily importing my existing work on the novel into Scrivener and organizing it in a way I like. I’ll do the same with the textile book shortly.