I have always used Word, making each chapter a new document, copying them to create new revised versions, sorting each version’s chapters into separate folders — first draft, revision 1, etc. When I’m revising, I may want to look at several chapters at once. That means multiple windows, each needing to have changes saved.
Using Scrivener is like having all your documents – scenes, chapters, notes, research, pictures — all of it on your desk in front of you. The screen has three parts- the Binder, where you can see all your documents organized and easily clickable; the Editing Pane, where your writing appears, and the Inspector, which holds a place for notes, status, key words, research citations, etc. The Binder and the Inspector can be closed, leaving you with just the Editing Pane, which can be split to show more than one document at a time.
The thing I like best is the index cards. I have always used index cards for everything – writing, notes to self, contacts, etc. The contents of every folder in Scrivener can be displayed as index cards pinned to a corkboard. The cards can be easily grabbed and moved around, even into other folders. I make a folder for each chapter, then individual documents for each scene. When I look at the corkboard, I can easily move scenes around. So much easier than scrolling through a document looking for the scene you want.
Another feature I love is Snapshots. As I’m editing my NaNo, I can take a Snapshot of each scene I’m changing, preserving the original version. If I don’t like my changes, I can revert to the Snapshot. It’s like time travel — with index cards.
Every day when I sat down to write, I could view a live bar graph showing my progress towards the final goal (50,000 words) and the session goal (1700 a day). I could easily view my total word count without going through every chapter. Some days, just seeing that bar fill up as I typed was all the motivation I needed. I really think it helped me finish.
When I got ready to upload my novel to the NaNoWriMo web site, I clicked “Edit Scrivenings” and was able to view the entire thing. Then I exported it into Word, one of the acceptable formats, though I could have chosen several other formats.
My days of folders and subfolders are over. I don’t have to remember what folder my notes are in or what I named them. I don’t have to think about what to name each chapter document so I can find it again. Scrivener is my new brain.