1 Surprising Trick to Staying Motivated to Write

What software do you use?

A lot of writers use Microsoft Word, and if you’re one of them, I feel for you. I send you my deepest, most heart-felt sympathy.

I used to use Word, too.

software to write

I know how much precious writing time you waste digging around for the right Word document with your research notes.

I know how frustrated you get trying to arrange two documents side-by-side so you can work with both your outline and your draft open.

(And then having to switch again when you need a character sketch? Or image inspiration? GAH.)

I know how often you swear at the computer screen because Microsoft Word.

(Who, me? I never swear at the computer! OK, maybe in Spanish.)

I always knew I hated Word, but I never knew quite how much until I stopped using it.

You might be wondering what this has to do with motivation at this point, because what kind of software you use to write couldn’t possibly matter that much, right?

I didn’t think so. But it did.

You’re not going to want to believe me, I know. I didn’t believe it, either, for a long time.

Three writers told me what I should do instead, and I still didn’t believe it.

But when I did finally stop using Word, my productivity skyrocketed.

I’m more efficient because everything’s organized, easily, and right there at my fingertips when I work. I can switch between documents like lightning — no more digging, no more swearing. Sitting down and starting the day’s writing is now a joy instead of a giant pain in the ass.

I kicked myself for not doing it sooner.

What is it, you want to know? What did I do instead of using Word?

Here it is, for you, verreh easy:

Use Scrivener.

Use Scrivener NOW.

Scrivener is a program that was designed specifically for writing novels and screenplays, and OHMYGOD is it so much better than Word (or whatever the heck else silly word processing program you’re using when you should be using Scrivener).

I started using it in October of last year. I had read about it on YA author Justine Larbalestier’s blog; I had been told in person by YA author Holly Black that it was all the amaze; and I had read in Write. Publish. Repeat. that Sean Platt uses and loves it, too.

It’s possible that I may be a bit thick-headed at times. Three recommendations before I followed up?

OK, I had a legitimate concern. At the time, I was writing both at home and sometimes at my day job. I wasn’t allowed to put software onto the company computer, so I wouldn’t be able to access Scrivener there, and I didn’t know how that would work if I was using Scrivener at home. So I didn’t look  any further into it.

But after reading Write. Publish. Repeat., I couldn’t put it off any longer. On a week-long writing staycation, I downloaded Scrivener and started exploring it.

You wouldn’t think a piece of software could make a person so happy. I mean really, it sounds ridiculous, but I did the happy dance A LOT that week. As I started figuring Scrivener out and seeing how easy it was to use, I leapt out of my seat with excitement (it’s true; I am a geek; I have accepted it). It changed everything.

All the frustrations of Word, gone!

So much easiness of use!

You see, Scrivener organizes your document like a giant outline. The “binder,” a column on the left, shows all the documents within the project. Inside the binder is your draft, full of all your goodies that are a part of the book, and below that is your research, for all the other stuffs you need (character sketches, plot outline, image research, research notes).

Scrivener binder

Here are some of my favorite things you can do with it:

•    split the screen vertically (or horizontally if you like, but I’m a vertical girl) and put your outline on one side and whichever part of your draft you’re working on on the other side (makes the planning stages of novel-writing so much easier, because you can flip back and forth from putting together your plot outline to making notes on particular scenes in a flash — no more endless digging!)

Scrivener split screen

•    track your word count progress for both the draft as a whole and for the current session in the project targets window (aiming for 1500 words in a session? No problem! Just plug that number in to your session target and watch the little colored bar grow and change color as you type!)

Scrivener project targets
•    enter full screen and shut out distractions
•    pull image research and websites directly into your project

I am a basic user of it still. I haven’t made much use of the cork board feature, although I like the idea of it — add a one-sentence synopsis describing each of your scenes, and when you switch to the cork board view, it looks like a cork board with an index card describing each scene. If you’re a visual plotter who tends to use handwritten index cards, that could save a lot of time and energy. Color coding can help with pacing and point-of-view issues.

One of my other favorite features:

Scrivener never breaks, and it backs everything up automatically.

How many times have you been in the middle of writing something important and all of a sudden you get the COLORED PINWHEEL OF DOOM? And then your heart sinks as Finder says, oops, Word unexpectedly crashed. And, if you’re like me — a bit careless with backups — you go ahead and start ALL THE PANICS right then.

None of that with Scrivener. In almost a year of using it, it has never failed on me.

With Scrivener I now consistently write 1500 words every day during the week with day job and 3000 words+ every day without day job. Some days I’m hitting 5000 words.

Since June, I’ve written 20K in blog posts, 15K on one e-book, and 18K on another. Plus some fiction in there, too.

More importantly, I look forward to it. No moans and groans as there used to be with Word. Time slips away and words get on the page so much more easily.

Oh, and that concern I had about working on more than one computer, one of which wouldn’t have the software?

I solved that, too. It turns out you can sync Scrivener with Dropbox. Your project gets divided into text documents, and you can work on those on the computer without Scrivener, and then it updates automatically when you return to the computer that has it.

I use Scrivener for EVERYTHING now, from blog posts to magazine articles to cover letters for job applications (seriously).

(Even the default font is prettier to look at. Cochin, dear Cochin, you are so much nicer than Times New Roman. I will stare at you all day long with so much more contentment.)

Don’t be like I was and wait for another two recommendations before you save yourself all the headaches of trying to write novels in Word. Seriously, you’ll be so much happier if you buy Scrivener now.

(Yes, if you buy it through one of my links on this page, I get a small commission. I’m pretty sure you can deal with that. You know I would tell you all this anyway if we were having a drink together. I have a ridiculous love affair with this program.

Or maybe it’s that I hated Word so much. Either way.)

Heck, if you don’t know yet, go ahead and wait. Get three more recommendations before you’re finally convinced you should check it out. Just come back here when you’re ready, okay? I want to say I told you so. 😉

If you’re hesitating because you’re worried about the learning curve, don’t. That was part of my reasoning for not jumping on it, too. Aw, man, gotta learn new software, and that’s gonna take time, and it’s gonna be awkward … it’s worth it. Spend a teeny bit of time now to learn it in exchange for a huge time savings after you do, on everything you work on. Not to mention exchanging all that pain for a bundle of joy.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

 

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12 thoughts on “1 Surprising Trick to Staying Motivated to Write

  1. I agree with you Rachael. You’ve hit most all the strengths of using Scrivener that I have experienced in creating my manuscript. I have one frustration though. Although I am trying to live MS Word free, editors and collaborators almost universally required manuscripts to be formatted in Word, Times Roman, 12 point type. I have had a real struggle compiling my manuscript on a MAC to be read in Word on a PC. I lose very important italics. The compile feature is driving me nuts. Any words of advice?

    • Hi Sydney! I haven’t gotten to the point where I have to deal with that much yet, but I’m planning to get to know it in a lot more depth. I’m going to take a class or do some studying online very soon. When I do, I’ll make sure I do another post or two about it, since a lot of people seem to be interested. Sign up for the email list if you’d like to be notified of new blog posts.

  2. Scrivener is the best writing software ever invented. I also used to use Word as my primary writing tool (I only use it for essays, short stories, lists, and blog post now) and it made me want to cry. The change to Scrivener was life-changing. It’s so easy to organize, separate documents, work side by side. I’m an intermediate user and there’s still features I haven’t used yet.

    Save yourself and use Scrivener.

    • Hi Tiffany! Completely agreed! I still can hardly believe how much it matters. My attitude toward sitting down and working is so different now.

  3. Seriously? If only I had come across this before. I just bought scrivener yesterday after the 30 day trial. I’m so happy -sorry about you missing that commission!

    But yes you’re absolutely right -it’s fabulous even my supervisors were impressed and asking about it after I sent my intro to them – downloading it from scrivener – so easy and it talks with endnote and it just does beautiful things with my writing – come on people JUMP!

    BTW really enjoyed the post Rachael Ann Mare. Thanks for sharing. ?

  4. Great posting. I have used Scrivner for a year and I stay within the program all day going betwen my different novels.
    I utilize the note cards, outline, research, character sketch, scene sketch, research and I have found a template for blog post. ( I love the research and scene folders )
    I literally stay within Scrivner for hours during the day. I only change writing venues with the seamles cloud saving on my Mac’s. When the application is developed for my iPad Air, I cannot imagine using any other writing program.
    Oh, yes, Scrapple is it’s companion and I use that also. Again great posting!

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