I’ve been a fan of the writing program, Scrivener, for a number of years. I first used the Windows version back when it was in beta, but I then purchased the Mac version when I got a new computer. There’s so much you can do with Scrivener to help you organize and write–so much so, in fact, that managing screen real estate can become a real issue if you want to take advantage of more than just the basic features.
Therefore, I thought I’d show you how I use Scrivener on a small laptop–specifically, on an 11-inch MacBook Air. The screenshots below are from my ongoing project, Secrets of the Conclave, a fantasy serial published over at JukePop Serials. I am using Mac OS Mountain Lion (10.8.2).
Note: in case you haven’t read Secrets of the Conclave yet through Chapter 12, many of the screenshots below contain spoilers. Don’t stare at them too closely (or click to enlarge) if you don’t want to be spoiled.
The image below shows my default layout. I use Scrivener in full-screen mode to maximize my working space. Then, I have the screen split into three sections: (1) the left side is locked in place for notecards (which I use for outlining); (2) the center section contains the text of the chapter; and (3) the right side contains the Inspector.
If you’re familiar with Scrivener, you might notice that the center panel shows a single document, rather than a composite of documents that correspond with each scene as depicted in the notecards. I like to have one general document for each chapter so that the information in the Inspector remains the same for the entire chapter. I keep scene notes on the notecards themselves. As a result, when I re-order notecards or add/delete them, it has no effect on the content of the center panel. This has not proven to be an issue thus far–I don’t mind cutting-and-pasting text–but I probably will play around with these features some more to see if I can optimize my workflow a bit better.
In full-screen mode, just like other Mountain Lion-compatible programs, the menu bar is hidden until I hover over it with the pointer. This preserves some vertical real estate.
What about the Binder, you ask? I keep it hidden from view until I need it. When I drag the pointer to the far left of the screen, the Binder pops out, and I can manipulate its contents. When I drag the pointer back toward the center of the screen (or click outside of the Binder if I’ve been doing more than just looking at it), the Binder hides again.
Here’s a closer look at how I use the Binder. Secrets of the Conclave has four point-of-view characters, and the color that appears on the icon for each chapter corresponds to one POV. (You can also see the colored label as the “Status” in the Inspector, above.)
I did not use notecards for outlining at first, which is why the earlier chapters do not contain nested notecards. Also, because I’m writing a serialized novel, I keep the chapters I’ve already published separate from those in process. Once the story is complete, I plan to compile everything in the “Published” folder into a single book.
I use my default, three-panel layout for the first few drafts of each chapter, when I’m often adding and removing big chunks of material. Keeping the notecard panel up also allows me to add, edit, and delete scenes for outlining purposes.
I also like having the Inspector panel open during this time so I can add notes that apply to the chapter as a whole and so I can take frequent Snapshots. I use the Snapshot feature of Scrivener a lot; I’m actually a little obsessive about it. I usually take at least one Snapshot during each writing session, and I also take one when I change the status of the chapter. With so many versions stored as Snapshots, it is easy for me to pull text from a prior version in the event that I change my mind about an edit.
Finally, when I have the general structure of the chapter fixed, I switch to Scrivener’s full-screen composition mode. This allows me to focus on editing without the distraction of a busier screen. I use the composition mode until the chapter is ready to publish, though I do close it briefly when I need to take a Snapshot or a quick look at something in the Binder.
And that’s it!
If you have ever considered using Scrivener for your own writing projects, I highly recommend that you give it a try. I hope that the above screenshots show that even if you have a small computer, Scrivener can be a great asset in your writing toolbox.