I recently upgraded from my extremely old—and, I have to say, extremely reliable—Windows PC to a 27” Apple iMac. I did this primarily for my photography. My Windows machine was no longer capable of running the latest version of Adobe Lightroom without a major upgrade. Adobe Lightroom is the must have application for any serious photographer. I’d coveted the stunning Apple retina displays for some time, so decided the time was right to take the plunge.
A secondary reason for my decision to move to Apple was to assist with my writing. Nowadays, I write almost exclusively in the light-weight, plain-text-based Markdown format. Basically, writing in Markdown allows me to bang out text without having to worry too much about the formatting. The Apple ecosystem is particularly well served by applications that support Markdown.
Linked with my need for better Markdown tools was a desire to start experimenting more seriously with the Scrivener application. Scrivener is a free-form writing tool that allows you to draw together research, vague ideas, outlines, and other random stuff, move them around at will, and gradually expand and evolve them into the first draft of a significant piece of work. It would have been ideal when I was researching and writing my first draft of On the Moor, but the recommendations from a couple of friends came too late. Nevertheless, on my friends’ recommendations, I bought Scrivener on Windows, had a play with it, and could see how useful it would be. But I never really had the right opportunity to try it out in anger. I also got the impression that the Apple version of Scrivener was more advanced than the Windows version, and had some useful additional features.
So, last weekend, I set a couple of hours aside to have a serious play with Scrivener on my new iMac. Over the years, I had amassed a large number of vague ideas for articles, books, and other projects that I’d jotted down in random text files, electronic Writing Journal entries, emails to friends, assorted Dropbox Spark Files, and Moleskine notebooks. I decided it was about time I tried to draw these ideas together, organise them, and try to separate the wheat from the chaff. It occurred to me that Scrivener sounded like the perfect tool to do this. So I decided to set up a Scrivener Articles Register.
Within ten minutes, I was totally sold. Dragging and dropping ideas from my text files, journal entries, emails, and Spark Files was an absolute breeze. I created a separate Scrivener sub-document for each idea, dragging and dropping them into different Scrivener folders according to subject matter. In the space of an hour, I’d retrieved and collated all of the writing ideas I’d previously captured in diverse electronic formats. I haven’t begun to go through my mass of Moleskine notebooks, yet, but I already feel so much better organised and—dare I say it?—professional.
It’s early days yet, but I’m now using my Scrivener Articles Register to identify which articles I should be working on next. (Top of the list is an entry entitled Using Scrivener as an Articles Register.) I’m also looking forward to experimenting with Scrivener document tags and statuses to help me filter my article ideas in different ways. And I’ve now set up separate Scrivener documents for holding:
- initial notes about two potential future book projects;
- my writing journals;
- my ‘strategic notes’ about developing my writing and photographic careers.
After only four days, Scrivener is proving itself to be a damn useful tool. If you’re a writer and you’re not using Scrivener, I would strongly suggest you give it a try.