Anyone who knows me for very long — either in person, on this blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter — knows that I am in love with a little program called Scrivener. I’ve done visual guides here and here, and I talk it up to anyone who even mentions writing software (and often people who don’t).
It’s by far the program I use most in my writing. The other one that I use — not for writing, but to track my progress and crunch some numbers — is Excel. Both of them have loads of functionality, and both of them do what I need them to do. The difference is that using Scrivener doesn’t actually feel like using a program — it feels like an extension of my brain. By comparison, using Excel feels sort of like the software equivalent of wrenching out all my teeth by hand, then trying to eat a sandwich by gluing molars to my fingers. (Gruesome? Maybe. But so is Excel.)
It could be because no one ever taught me how to use Excel, and maybe I’m just doing things the hard way — but guess what? No one taught me how to use Scrivener, either, and we get along just fine.
How I Use Scrivener: (A Review)
Without getting into huge details like the visual guides above, let’s just break it down quickly. I use Scrivener to plot, organize, and write my novels and short stories.
How much time does take to set up? Almost none. Scrivener is intuitive, if a little intimidating at first; once you realise that the program exists to be your willing slave, it’s smooth sailing. Before I can finish the thought that I want to do x or y, I’ve already found the feature — or Scrivener has done it for me without me realising. It’s incredible.
How I Use Excel (An Exercise in OCD)
I am obsessive-compulsive, and as I mentioned in another post, I like looking at numbers because it helps me justify what I’ve done.
How long does it take me to set up? Aaaargh I don’t even want to know. I couldn’t find any templates for word count tracking that lasted longer than one month, and they didn’t account for different projects, so it took me a stupid amount of time to come up with this. First I had to conceptualize what I wanted, and then I had to wrestle Excel to the ground to get it to do even half of what I wanted to do. The first night I stayed up until 3 am despite having a 6am wake up call the next morning, because my OCD wouldn’t let me sleep until I’d figured out the basic framework. It took another day to get the graphs, and I’m still finding stupid errors that I have to stop to fix.
I have never had to fight Scrivener for anything. Meanwhile, I don’t think I’ve ever managed anything beyond simple formulas in Excel without wanting to tear off my own arm and beat myself to death with it. I’d rather listen to 100 smarmy covers of “Let it Snow” non-stop for 6 hours (oh wait — that was today in Starbucks!) than work with Excel for any given length of time.
I know Scrivener looks scary, and tutorials are not the most exciting way to spend your time, but I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. It does what you’ve wanted every program ever to do, and in the meantime does things you never knew you wanted — in essence, it’s like the commercial for that toy you saw on TV as a kid that you never knew existed before, but now knew you desperately needed.
Because I like pictures and because I really can’t explain things without showing them, have some screenshots:
(Just a note: I am not, nor have I ever been, a shill for Literature & Latte (the company behind Scrivener). There is no affiliate program; I get nothing for doing this. I merely think that when a product is good, then people should be enthusiastic about recommending it. There are fully-functional 30-day trial versions for Mac and Windows, which I cannot recommend highly enough.)