Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Tools of the Trade, an IWSG post


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.  The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are JS Pailly, Rebecca Douglass, Pat Garcia, Louise-Fundy Blue, and Natalie Aguirre!
July 3 question - What are your favorite writing processing (e.g. Word, Scrivener, yWriter, Dabble), writing apps, software, and tools? Why do you recommend them? And which one is your all time favorite that you cannot live without and use daily or at least whenever you write?

Scrivener was a game-changer for me for novel-writing (and other long-form works, like nonfiction, essay collections, or short story collections). 

A great visual of why I love Scrivener

When I was writing my first novel, back in 2009 or so, I was using Microsoft Word and it was frustrating AF for me. One giant document, with no way to jump around within it quickly and easily to get to the piece I wanted? 

(My understanding is that Word has upped its game since then, but too late, I've moved on. I now only use Word for processing edits from my publisher). 

I'm not 100% sure in my memory of how I found Scrivener. Maybe by doing National Novel Writing Month? But it won me instantly with the corkboard. Suddenly I could keep the whole thing in view in a way that really worked for me. 

See, I'm a writer who writes in layers. 

My drafts begin kind of thin and bare-bones, and as I work, I come back around in loops and add depth, descriptions, breadcrumbs, interiority, setting, as it comes to me. So that means I don't necessary start on page one and finish on page three hundred, but I might write a scene that I know isn't coming for a while to give myself sort of a goal post to aim at, then go back and fill in what happens to get us there. Or I might have an inspiration in chapter 17 and go back and pull that thread through the whole book before I move forward. It's probably not an efficient process, but it is working for me.  

chapter organizational view

I've never been all that great at holding the whole thing in my head at once, balancing the big picture, small focus thing. But Scrivener makes it easy for me to off-load parts of that. I can color code my folders, use symbols to indicate different organizational elements, pick up entire chapters and drag them to a different part of the book with ease. I've never lost something to a messy cut-and-paste or glitched out the document and screwed up the formatting like often happened to me Word. 

The novel I'm finishing now (series ender for the Menopausal Superheroes--still settling on a title), for example, is organized by day, with chapters that all take place on the same day grouped together. 

Within each day, there are chapters with different points of view. Patricia, the Lizard woman of Springfield, gets a green book symbol, Leonel "Fuerte", the strongman, gets a yellow book. Jessica "Flygirl" gets a cloud, Sally Ann gets a light bulb, Mary gets a magnifying glass. This lets me see at a glance when I've left a character out too long and need to consider what they're up to during this section. 

corkboard view

When I look at this in "corkboard" I get the same symbols, my chapter title, and a bit of the text for the page. If I choose, I can write more of a summary of that chapter to show here and I have done that sometimes, using the "scene cards" technique I read about in the DIY-MFA book by Gabriela Pereira, which asks you to record 4 pieces of information for each chapter/scene:
  • a title for the scene
  • the major players
  • the action
  • the purpose (structurally)
It's a kind of outlining or at least record-keeping that works for me, even though I'm a pantser and am sometimes writing this down AFTER I wrote the scene, and has been really helpful in revisions. 

I don't use half of what Scrivener can do, but it has still revolutionized the whole process for me and alleviated a lot of stress and worry. 

So, thanks for coming to my TED-talk :-) In all seriousness, I am quite a fan-girl of Scrivener, but you should always remember how individual this process is and find the tool that works best for you and your process. No matter what we're talking about, your mileage my vary. 

So, how do you organized your creative life and projects? I'd LOVE to hear it about in the comments. And don't forget to check out the rest of the blog hop and see what else is out there to try!


  1. I've been using Scrivener for drafting for a little while now (switched from Word), and I've been pretty happy with it so far. I know I'm barely scratching the surface as far as its features, and it's probably going to stay that way because I am not great at learning new technologies. It's pretty amazing that I've stuck with Scrivener for as long as I have.

    Glad it has worked out for you so well!

    1. I know I don't use half of what the program can do either, but what I *do* use has changed my writing life for the better.

  2. It's great that Scrivener is so much more helpful that Word for you. I'm still okay with using Word and have my own system for staying organized and making changes.

  3. I write start to finish, but I can see the usefulness of being able to hop around in a manuscript.

    1. It's helpful when I want to clean up a particular thread for sure, even when I am writing more chronologically.

  4. I tried Scivener once years ago and got pretty lost in it. I think I gave my subscription to my brother, who uses it to write sermons. I'm a pretty linear writer, so I don't feel the need for that level of organization. I also use a lot of physical notes (i.e., on paper in a notebook) to help me keep track of stuff, and after so many years with that system, I'm not keen on the effort to change--even to something that might make it easier!

    1. It's always hard to change systems, and it sounds like you've got one working for you, so no need!

  5. Great talk, but you were talking to the choir. hehehe

    I've loved Scriv for years now.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  6. I'm glad Scrivener made such a difference. Many writers swear by it.

  7. Thanks for all the information, Samantha. I use Word, but that's because I'm familiar with it. I don't want to tackle a new program now. I have enough trouble as it is. Have a lovely July!

    1. If what you have is working for you, there's no requirement to try something new just because it works for others.