A Writer’s Tool Worth Paying For

scrivenerWhile I’m in the mood to do product reviews, I have to give a shoutout to Scrivener.  Created and maintained by the Literature & Latte group in the UK (literatureandlatte.com), Scrivener is the writing tool I have been looking for for years.  They say that Shakespeare wrote his plays in one flow without corrections and with no cutting and pasting.  I’ve never written like that, except when doing translations.  My original writing is more like building a mosaic.  I may collect many hundreds of stones over years, most of which I eventually discard, and the ones I keep I may rearrange a dozen times before I’m ready to print.  OK, even that sounds cleaner and more organized than it really is.  Writing nonfiction, let’s be honest, is a mud wrestling match with chaos.

Scrivener is a writing tool that lets me win those matches.  In one of its personalities (and it has several) it is a textbase.  Yes, a database optimized for text items, which includes pdf files, jpegs, videos, and some other formats.  You name them what you want, give them index tags, colors, keywords and other attributes.  You annotate them, organize them in folders, groups, or collections.  You list them in hierarchies of any number of levels, move them up or down, in or out, as you like.  You have powerful search functions.  And of course you can view, write, and edit.  The beautiful thing is, it’s not linear.  You’re not strapped to the one-track structure of word processing software.  It works the way that I work.

Scrivener is a writer’s tool, but I also use it as a lawyer.  I copy all the key documents in a lawsuit into Scrivener.  Typically you get documents from the other side as if they’d been dropped out of a window and reassembled down below in random order.  In Scrivener I can easily organize them chronologically and/or by topic and/or by person.  When I go into a deposition or a negotiation or trial, I’ve got all the necessary papers neatly arrayed in an electronic binder, and I can pop them up on screen in one or both of two available editing windows (and I can print them with my printer, see next post).  Chaos is defeated.  I win.

Microsoft Word, in my opinion, is barely worth paying for. It used to be essential to my office because I had written macros to automate many of the routine law office tasks, but as Microsoft issued new versions, the macros stopped working, and eventually I said the hell with it.  I can do nearly everything I need to do in Libre Office, which is free.  But Scrivener is worth paying for.  It’s actually ridiculously cheap ($40).  I’d pay much more.  This is great software.  Every serious writer who isn’t Shakespeare should try it out.

Leave a Reply