OK, this is actually the first time I’ve had a Reader Question in which to answer. So why not make a post of it?
I forgot to ask: do you use any tools like Scrivener, or do you just use a good ol’ fashioned word processor (or the even more good and more ol’ fashioned yellow legal pad)?
I essentially use Microsoft Word for actual writing. I occasionally will work longhand, as it’s sometimes a good way to get cobwebs out… though I prefer a lined notebook to a legal pad. Something about turning the pages instead of flipping them over the top appeals to my sense of aesthetics. Of course, in a desk drawer I have about twelve such pads with a ton of unorganized notes. Most of those have been typed in, so they are essentially redundant.
I have tried out Scrivener, and was more or less underwhelmed. When I first saw the pitch for it, I found it interesting, and yet vaguely offensive. They’ve since changed the pitch, from what I can tell, but at the time it was along the lines of, “You can’t actually write on MS Word, because that doesn’t make sense to your writer brain. Here’s some software that thinks like YOU do.”
I’ve never quite understood the complaints with MS Word as a writer’s tool. I’ve, personally, found it completely functional for my needs. I can do whatever I need on it, write how I want to, move text around, re-format in a snap. I don’t see what’s non-functional about it. Maybe someone else can explain it to me.
Anyway, back to Scrivener. I think it is probably a perfectly fine tool for helping one organize ones thoughts and materials. The thing is, I already have my thoughts and materials organized my own way, so the act of transferring it all into Scrivener seemed more work than it was worth. On top of that, most of what Scrivener actually DOES is take anything you put into there and make it into text files. Scrivener just allows you to look at text files in different ways. Again, I’m sure that helps a lot of people, but it’s not particularly useful to me. At least, not MORE useful than what I already do.
Like I said, I use MS Word to actually write, as well as most of my notes are done on MS Word. On any project, on top of the actual Rough Draft file, I make three other files: Outline, Dramatis Personae and Facepage.
The Outline I already have a template document, in MS Word, using Notebook Layout mode. Twelve sections for the twelve parts of the outline.
The Dramatis Personae is just that: a list of all the characters, with a basic description of who they are and their relation to anyone else in the piece.
The Facepage is a word document with just headshot pictures of the characters with their names. Collecting said headshots is part of the prep process.
Worldbuilding is done on MS Word, with MS Excel, Filemaker Pro and Adobe Photoshop all playing a role. Also, with my Space Opera worldbuilding (for USS Banshee) a wonderful star-system program call ChView has proven invaluable.
But sometimes it’s just a notebook and a pen, of course.