Writing is one thing. Managing a complex writing project is something else. In between are word processors, writing tools and add-ons, and project managers.
I write for a living and gave up on word processors a few years ago. They’re fine for quick, simple writing efforts—a quick article, letter, or report. Despite thousands of features, word processor are not built to handle complex writing projects. What is?
Tools Of The Trade
Let me first preface my criticism and recommended solution with a caveat. I’m a firm believer that whatever tool that gets used to do the job, and does the job, is worthy.
Whether it’s a manual typewriter, pen or pencil and paper, or (shudder) Microsoft Word.
If it does the job for you, you like it, it works—great.
I’ll also note that progress and improvement in any endeavor does not come about without some kind of change. That accounts for my never ending and ongoing effort to improve my craft with improved tools.
Tools? The basics. Dictionary. Thesaurus. Mac. Apps. I say apps because, if you’re a Mac user like me, you probably use more than one. One to write. One to format. One to store ideas. One to check spelling, grammar, etc. Perhaps one for a project timeline, another for managing notes, another for bibliography. See?
What I’ve done is settle on an app that gives me focus and flexibility. The second coming of Scrivener.
I’ve Said It Before, Yo!
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Focus And Flexibility
First, it’s important to recognize what effort goes into your writing projects. Notes. Index cards. Timeline. Formatting. Organization. Research. And writing. Scrivener brings enough flexibility and features to handle the housekeeping chores of a writing project.
Then, Scrivener gives you room to focus with distraction free writing—built-in. So you can write. And while you write, you know your notes, research, timeline, and everything else remains a click away.
Scrivener gives you a digital cork board, an organizational outliner, and a competent, uncomplicated editor to keep your focus where it needs to be when you need it—whether it’s the research and notes, organizing what you’ve collected in ideas and facts and characters, or simple letting the creative juices flow when they’re ready.
The latest version integrates cork board, outliner, and editor, but adds Collections of related documents—all tab based—so you can grab information, notes, research when you need them.
I’m particularly fond of the new Page View mode which gives me facing page view of my project so I can see how it flows onscreen, in book view.
The Cork board now features both stacks and freeform modes.
Pull items from the Binder into the cork board and stack as rows or columns—easily moved around as if it was a real cork board.
Outlining now has sortable, custom columns. Comments and footnotes appear in the Inspector. Snapshots lets you view older versions of your document alongside the latest. Maybe the single most important feature in synchronization with Apple’s mobile devices.
Going Mobile With Sync
There’s not an Phone Scrivener app, but integration with SimpleNote, IndexCard, Dropbox, and PlainText so notes and ideas created on an iPhone or iPad can be pulled back into Scrivener on your Mac with just a click. Complete Scrivener project backups can even be zipped up and stored on Dropbox as a remotely stored archive.
Finished projects can be exported in a variety of popular formats, including RTF, Final Draft, even Kindle or ePub formats.
My only complaints with the second coming of Scrivener? It’s not for the faint of heart. Scrivener is a collection of writing tools, nicely and competently and usefully integrated, such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The learning curve from simple note taking to writing isn’t bad, but Scrivener is loaded with heavyweight project management features, more worthy of a novel or research paper than a simple report or article, and takes time to master.