A few years ago when I was still consulting, I discovered a writing program called Scrivener. It was then available only on the Mac operating system, but has since been ported to Windows. I used it to develop complex client reports and, as I began working on my forthcoming novel, wrapped it around me.

Scrivener is not just a word processing program; it is a writing environment. You prepare your document in it and, when finished, compile it to virtually any popular format in use. Use it to create a pdf, a word document, an ebook, formatted paperback, publish directly to the web, or all the above from one master file. Producing the finished product takes minutes.

It is extremely flexible. A “pantser” can spill his story onto the screen, making changes and self-edits as he goes. “Plotters” like me outline their story in advance, building character sheets, describing places where elements of the narrative take place, and collecting research. You can drag images and websites into the character, places, and research folders to support your writing.

Using the outline approach, a plotter can build a novel scene by scene, writing them out of order if desired, rearranging them to change the dramatic arc, and moving them between chapters. Scrivener integrates with Aeon Timeline to keep track of dates and sequences within your narrative and ProWriting Aid to help edit and analyze your writing.

I was surprised at a recent meeting of my writer’s club to learn that I was the only person using this tool. Scrivener has moved me from years of starting novels that I could not find a way to finish to having my entire plot outlined and being within days of completing my first draft.

If you do any type of writing — creative, business, or technical — I recommend that you give Scrivener a try. It’s free to take for a trial run and only $45 if you decide it is for you.

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