Recently, I've begun playing with a new writing toy: the software program Scrivener. It's a tool developed for the brainstorming and drafting stage of longer writing projects, whether novels, screenplays, or dissertations. It allows you to keep your research, various media files, and notes all in one program. And my favorite part? It allows you to tag each scene with a "notecard" and description, and THEN it allows you to rearrange said notecards, with the changes reflected in your master document. Goodbye, Copy & Paste!
I've recently fed my Rapunzel novel into Scrivener, after I followed the advice for revising in No Plot, No Problem!, which was to read through the novel and make a notecard for every single scene. (Incidentally, reading this section in Barnes & Noble YEARS ago was what made me want to get the book in the first place.) You make notecards for scenes you need to add, too. And of course, you can theoretically throw out notecards for the scenes you plan to cut, although I haven't been that brave yet. ;) Oh, and I ran out of notecards during the process, but little pieces of paper worked fine as a supplement.
Then I fed all those notecards into Scrivener, as tags on each scene. Transferring the notecards into electronic format took about two to three hours total. That may seem like a gross waste of time, especially when I'm trying to get at least a few scenes of the story ready for my writers group by the end of this week. But I didn't find the time wasted at all, because it allowed me to continue spending time with the original draft in three different forms (my first read-through, making the initial cards, and then inputting them into Scrivener.) Each time I went through it, I came up with new ideas for the revision, and became more sure about which sections were working, and which ones weren't. I hope this will pay dividends in a smoother revision process, but perhaps Scrivener will just distract me with all its features! Still, it's given me a new burst of enthusiasm for drafting and brainstorming, so if it doesn't do anything else, that alone makes it worth the hour it took to learn the software.
Since I use a Linux operating system on my "writing" computer, I was able to download the Linux beta for free here. If you're on a MAC or Windows operating system, you can get a free trial download (30 days). That's enough time, if you dive right in, to decide whether it's worth the $40. And if you sometimes make a little money off your writing, you can even tax deduct that.
As I continue to explore the program further, and get into the nitty gritty of actually writing with it, I'll have a better handle on whether it's a good investment for writers or just another potential distraction (there is something to be said for nothing but a blank page screaming to be filled, after all). If you're a writer who has used Scrivener, I'd love to hear your opinion. And if you haven't, stay tuned for more of mine. ;)