A while back I heard about a panel at a local library called “Technology for Writers” or some such. No more information than that was provided, but it sounded interesting enough, so I went, and I’m very glad that I did. It was given by Steve Beisner, a writer and self-professed tech guy. His presentation touched on different writing programs and on the importance of backing up your data, but focused on Scrivener. I had experimented with the trial version of Scrivener before, but had a problem really cracking the UI and figuring out what it could do. In his presentation, Steve went through it with us. He showed how the program could split a manuscript up into chapters and even scenes, while still keeping everything in one document. It makes large projects much easier to navigate.
The panel came at a perfect time for me. I do write straight-forward one-off stories now and again, but my passion lies in elaborate and expansive shared-universe monstrosities. As you can imagine, it’s been a challenge keeping all that stuff organized using spreadsheets and layers of folders. Then BOOM there’s this panel where a solution is laid out in front of me. I bought Scrivener that very night after the panel. While I haven’t spent a ton of time in the program yet, it has proved very useful. I can’t imagine going back to switching between Word documents.
Everything pertaining to a certain universe – completed stories, novel outlines, comic scripts, character information sheets, artwork, reference photos, etc… – has been uploaded into a single Scrivener project. Inside the project, documents themselves can act as folders for other documents in a tiered list. You can apply searchable tags to everything, view multiple documents side by side, and customize the icons for each document. I downloaded a set of space icons and use them to differentiate between my notes on fictional solar systems, planets, and individual moons. Gas giant planets have mini Jupiter icons, habitable worlds have Earth icons, and so on. I’m not exactly sure how useful that will be, but it looks nice and makes me happy.
A big question, though, is how much Scrivener can handle. Could it hold multiple completed novels and an on-going comic series in a single project? Will the program start chugging on me when I have a project containing thousands of pages of text? I hope it’s robust enough to handle those things, but I expect it probably isn’t. It’s designed to be writer’s workstation while working on a single novel. Some writers apparently have a separate Scrivener project for their universe bible, and create other projects for each book. That’s a solution, I guess, but I’ll just be switching between windows all over again. I want EVERYTHING in one place. I’m excited to continue exploring the program further and really test its limits. I’ll keep you posted.