I have discovered an awesome writing tool for the Mac called Scrivener. They also make a version for Windows, but I cannot use Windows for psychological reasons, so will only speak of the Mac. I love Scrivener! I have already felt its power, and know that it will help me write a book which could change the world.

For years I have wanted to write a book about meditation. I discovered the proper technique around the winter solstice of 2010, and began writing. Things started out well, but gradually became overwhelming, and I hadn’t worked on it as much as I would have liked. I need to get this thing out there!

While searching in the Mac App store for writing tools, I came across Scrivener. I actually decided to go to the web site and download their free thirty day trial, which I would recommend. It comes with a tutorial which you need to go through before beginning. It may seem like it has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get through it you will understand. The developer even fixed a VoiceOver issue I submitted.

I began to feel Scrivener’s power as soon as I began converting my book. I saved what I had done in rich text format, then imported it into the “Research” folder which the default template helpfully includes. I then began going through the original text and pasting the parts in the proper order. As I did this I realized Scrivener’s paradigm, and my mind opened.

Remember in elementary school when they made you write research papers, and they made you use those stupid note cards? As a blind student I always hated doing it, because you can only fit so much on a braille card, and eventually the whole thing would become unwieldy and impractical. I quickly learned the advantages of writing an outline. It lets you see the structure of your writing, improving your ability to organize it. Memories of writing outlines on a braille writer came flooding back. If you do a really good outline you can convert it to a paper and have it ready in two nights of medium work. Trust me.

A flat textfile just doesn’t cut it for non-sequential writing. One does not just write from the beginning to the end nonstop. I therefore wanted to format my book as an outline. I wanted a way to jump between parts, and view how the parts fit into the whole. Scrivener does exactly this and more. At first I pictured that my Draft folder would just have a piece of text for each chapter, and I would jump between chapters. That would have satisfied me or so I thought.

I read on their site about the metaphor of the cards and suddenly all these visual metaphors made sense. I could have folders within folders, containing little pieces of text that when stitched together would make up the chapters and the book as a whole. Beautiful! Now instead of thinking of the book as a large flat endless plain of text, I can think of each little piece of text, each card, and nothing else. Just write about this topic on this card and don’t worry about anything else. When it comes time, the Scrivenings mode lets you view the whole folder or any arbitrary pieces of text contiguously. Splendid!

I love it when a program does exactly what you need it to. The description said it helps a writer get through that all important first draft. It gives me strength to know that others have had these problems enough to inspire them to write a program. Scrivener works well for the Mac, and will work even better with VoiceOver as development continues. Now that I’ve learned the rudiments of this software, I have to actually get down to some serious writing. And yes, I really do believe that my book could change the world.