You’ve pared commitments, limited distractions, and locked down the Internet. Despite your efforts, time slips by until you face the choice of abandoning your word count goal for the day or sacrificing family time. Again. Try as you might, the day doesn’t hold enough hours to accomplish your to-do list. If only you could find a way to write fast.
I feel your pain, believe me. That’s why I wrote this article. After over-committing myself to write two full-length novels over the summer, I had to learn how to write faster or disappoint some people who matter to me.
Disclosure: I am a Scrivener affiliate and receive compensation from sales made through the purchase links in this post. I only endorse products I believe in. If you decide to purchase Scrivener, you will benefit Live Write Breathe.
Before I go into how Scrivener helped me write fast, I want you to know that I’m no different from anyone else. Some writers seem to naturally spout words and always have to trim what they write. I am not one of them. In fact, before I went through this trial by fire, I averaged 1,000 words in four hours of writing with on good days occasional gusts up to 1,500. That was a turtle’s pace. I even got into a friendly argument with a Facebook friend for the title of world’s slowest writer.
Yes, my 1,000 words were mainly good words that needed little self-editing. And also yes, what I produced by writing fast needed more editing. When writing at 3,000 words an hour, a huge improvement over my previous speed, I had more time for editing. And that was without putting in my daily word count by writing into the wee hours. I won’t say it was a piece of cake, but it was manageable.
I decided to share the methods and tools that helped me past my crisis because I want you to have more time to live the rest of life in addition to putting in some happy word counts. Can I hear an amen? When you think about it, being chained to a desk for hours on end is not ideal for a creative artist, and yet this is what happens with writers. I want to free you so your stories will soar. We’ll go into this more next time.
I had long heard about Scrivener as a writing tool, so I decided to purchase it. This was a calculated risk, since I also knew their would be a learning curve to overcome. Fortunately, Scrivener is fairly intuitive to use, so my adjustment went well. I tend to pick up on technical things a little faster than average but a person with an average tolerance for new software should do well with Scrivener. If you find technology challenging, however, consider taking the free Scrivener mini-course at the Scrivener Coach website.
1. You can see the whole story at once.
Once you lay out your plot, broken into scenes, in Scrivener, the binder view provides an at-a-glance reference to each and every scene. (See sidebar in the picture, above.) When you need to review the story outline, it’s easy to find scenes. You might need to refresh your memory on whether a certain event takes place before or after the one you are writing. Or maybe you need to add important information into the story. You can scan through the scenes list and decide where to place it without a lot of trouble.
2. Moving scenes in Scrivener is ridiculously easy.
The cork board view in Scrivener (shown in the image above) makes quick work of moving your scenes around, even after they are written. You’ll still have to go in and make adjustments, but being able to see the whole plot at once makes that simpler too. Compared to managing all this in a Word document, dragging and dropping “index cards” in Scrivener makes moving content a lot less of a headache.
3. You can write in a distraction-free window.
Sometimes I have to fight myself in order to focus on my writing, and the closer a deadline looms, the more that proves true. It’s a lot like when I went through finals week in college. Just when I most needed to focus, I can’t summon the energy. I suspect stress is the culprit at such times. When you have to write anyway, being able to close off the distractions on your screen really helps. If you respond to imagery, it’s nice that you can include a background to pull you into the story.
4. There’s no hunting for your notes with Scrivener.
You can create profiles that allow you to view character and location details while writing, as pictured above. Before Scrivener, finding my research notes involved searching in multiple locations. Now everything is together in one place. And when it’s time to move to the next installment in a series, it’s relatively easy to move files from one Scrivener project to another.
5. You can have side-by-side windows in Scrivener.
One of my favorite ways to use Scrivener is to split the screen. Doing this enables you to refer to your notes or the plot outline without leaving your manuscript.
6. Scrivener lets you track target word counts.
You can set a bar-slider at the bottom of every scene for a desired word count. As you write, it will change from red to green. A project target tracker gives you the ability to set both a writing session word count and an overall project target.
Some Final Thoughts From Janalyn
I’ve really only scratched the surface on everything you can do with Scrivener, but it’s enough for our purposes. There’s more I could learn about the software myself, and I will over time as I use it. The beauty of Scrivener is that you can operate on a level of technology that is comfortable for you until you’re ready to learn more.
If you’re new or missed a few posts in what has become a series on how to write faster, catch up by reading are How to Manage Your Writing and Write Faster with This Surprising Technique. Next time I’ll cover the most important tool I used to get the words out, so I hope you’ll return for that.
Over to You
What are your thoughts on using Scrivener to write fast? Has it helped you in ways I haven’t mentioned? I appreciate all comments.