Are you a plotter or a pantser? This one question can be hashed out between writers for hours. I used to be a pantser, letting the writing take me where it would. Then I discovered the joys of the outline, and mapping where I needed to go and making sure I hit the plot points where I needed to. But I had trouble staying with the outline, and would frequently amend it going forward as I went, without amending the beginning when I made changes which means that the outline was more of an suggestion than a direction. So I considered myself a hybrid of the two. Craving order, but with chaos as part of my process.
This past summer I started experimenting with a writer’s program called Scrivener. I wrote about it for one of my other blogs, and listed my favorite things. In that post, I wrote about the character and setting templates, the note card structure, and the visualness of the program. This past week, I started to take an online course with Gwen Hernandez, and I am literally learning something new every day.
Now, I know that some of you may be skeptical. How can a program help you write? Let me count the ways:
The way the program works, you have your character and setting lists (and notes) on the left hand column, and your notes and research on the right. In the upper right hand corner you have the notes for the scene itself. All of this is always visible, which is enormously helpful for me.
When you write a scene, you can split it or merge it. You can also move it around, and the whole scene gets moved. Think about that. You have the Fred and Ginger Fight scene you decided needs to be moved up earlier in the novel. Click and drag one card, and it is done. Or you want to split it up–use part of it in one chapter, the other part in another.
So far, I am finding this program helps with both my pantser and plotter personalities, and suits them both. If I decide I need to add a scene, I create a card, make some notes, and put it in place. And then I can go back when I want to, but I will always have the structure in place.
I will have more to report in my next post. But for now, if you are looking for a better solution than Word, I’d give Scrivener a try. And let me know what you think.
Julie Hennrikus is the Vice President of Sisters in Crime New England. She works in theater as the ED of StageSource, a service organization for the greater Boston and New England theater community. Her website is jahennrikus.com.