One Program to Bind it All

NaNoWriMo is three and a half weeks away, and for sure people are either in the process of getting ready, or wondering what the hell they should do for their project.  Many are wondering how they should write up their novel:  do it by hand?  On a typewriter?  Word?  Or are there other unexplored options for the budding writer?

There’s a metric ton of software out there, but I’ve written three NaNo novels and two Camp stories on one particular program:  Scrivener.  If you know me you’ll probably have heard me mention it once or twice.  Probably.

Scrivener was developed by Literature and Latte for Mac OS.  People raved about it enough that in 2011 a Windows version was developed, and while the two versions are not identical–the Mac version has a few more bells and whistles than the Windows version–both are more than capable of lending a writer a far better portal into their literary world.

Let’s get this out of the way:  Scrivener isn’t a simple word processing program.  There are probably a few programs that do a better job of letting someone put words into a computer.  Scrivener is a project management system.  It’s designed to allow for the development of a novel, to set it up as the writer sees fit, to allow them to keep track of research and access web pages from inside the program, and then compile your work in any format you desire.  It’s like a one-stop shop for novelists:  there’s no need to run around the Internet at the last minute searching for the perfect dragon’s name.

Assuming, of course, that you like to do research for you stories.  Otherwise you’ll still run out looking for that dragon’s name.

Let me use my own project, The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced, to show off some of the abilities.  I use the novel because, at the moment, it’s up over a quarter of a million words, and if there is ever a story that I researched the hell out of, it’s this one.  Let’s look it over–

First up there’s the Binder.  This acts just as you’d image a physical binder would work:  you set up folders, assign tabs to them, and use it to organize your story so it makes sense.  Just like a physical binder you cna move things around, delete things, and add things that help make the story more manageable.  This is what it looks like closed:

Cute little thing, isn't it?

Cute little thing, isn’t it?

Here it doesn’t look like much.  I have my novel tab at the very top, my title page–that green thing that says The Foundation Chronicles–my copyright page, and my table of contents for Act One, though I don’t have it labeled here, but I showed you how to make one in this post.  The card saying “Measurements and Scaling” came from a suggestion from a friend that since I’m using the Metric system and Universal Time throughout the novel, I should tell people how each works.  That card was added on 3/30/2014, and last modified on 5/28/2014.  I know this because Scrivener tells me so.

Just like a physical binder I can open up my virtual one, and what do I see once that happens?

I got more story than I got display.

I got more story than I got display.

It’s easy to see my folder layout here:  I have the whole binder as my novel:  in the physical world that would be the hard binder itself.  Then I break it down to Acts, and within acts I have Parts, inside those I have Chapters, and each chapter is made up of two more more Scenes.  As you can also see, Scenes can be added to Scenes, which would make them Sub-scenes, I suppose.  The sub-scenes were added as I went along:  they all related to something going on in the main scene, so I decided to keep it all together rather than spread it down the binder.

Are there other ways to look at the binder?  Glad you wanted me to ask that question . .

In the body of Scrivener one can use three different methods of seeing their story and accessing those parts they want to write or edit.  First up, and the one I used to use all the time, is the Corkboard.  This presents your story in the same way as it would if you had everything written down on notecards and had them pinned to a corkboard at home.

Act One, nice and neat.

Act One, nice and neat.

You’ll only see what is highlighted.  If you want to see the detail beyond this, it’s just like Inception:  you must go deeper–

Down a level, still just as neat.

Down a level, still just as neat.

And deeper . . .

I could go deeper, but I didn't bring my totem.

I could go deeper, but I didn’t bring my totem.

Inside the cards at the chapter level is the story proper, what you’re actually writing–

See?  I wasn't lying.

See? I wasn’t lying.

Corkboards within Corkeboards–is there an easier way to see this?  Sure:  you go into Outline Mode:

Again, more story than I've got display.

Again, more story than I’ve got display.

These days I use Outline all the time, because you can tell the program what information you want to see for each section of your story–and as you can see I like to watch a lot of things.  And what does all this mean?

I’ll tell you in the next post installment.  Promise.