Don’t use expensive writing programs for your novel. Writing a novel with Scrivener, for example, does not transform you into a better writer.
First, I must qualify this article. This is not meant to be a critical review of novel writing software of any kind. I have mentioned some novel writing products and am lumping Scrivener into a category with these products. I intend merely to disclose my method of novel writing, which doesn’t include Scrivener or any other product like it. For more information about Scrivener and other writing products, visit their respective web-sites. I also encourage you to read reviews about these products before buying them.
Often, specialized novel writing programs, such as Scrivener, Storybook, or Newnovelist offer unnecessary crutches. It is important to remember, as a writer, that the most important component to writing is… drumroll please… writing. Although writing a novel with Scrivener seems like an attractive draw, it is better to balance what it takes to learn a new, complicated piece of software with just getting the copy down. It’s better to spend your precious writing time putting your ideas on paper than marching up a new software learning curve.
When it comes to outlining, simplicity is the key. You can outline your novel, keep your character arches in check, depot your research, catalog your locations, beat out your blow-by-blow story breakdown, and even write your prose by using a Story Canon. A Story Canon is simply a folder where you keep all of your writing assets pertaining to a single story.
You might name your story canon folder something like this: Canon_MyStoryTitle_DatStamp
Here’s a practical example:
With multiple stories and folders in one location, starting the name of your story canon with the word “Canon” keeps your long-form project folders together where you can easily index them.
Before you dive into your prose, it is necessary to gather all the assets you will need for your novel.
A good story canon might contain the following assets:
Individual character sketches for each main character
A character sketch for multiple, minor characters
Location sketches, such as a main character’s home or place of business
Story outlines from 1-page to full beat sheets
The actual prose for your novel
As you work your way through your first draft, you can pull up any of these documents and change them on the fly. Many specialized novel writing programs don’t allow you to have multiple documents open; this is argument enough against writing a novel in Scrivener or similar applications.
When it comes to writing your novel, rely on your wit, logic, and imagination. Get organized with a simple, story canon folder. Keep it simple. Plug forward and you will finish your novel.