My favourite tool – Guest blogger Pip Ballantine

Pip Ballantine is my tenth guest blogger from Write by the Rails – the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club‘s Endless Blog Tour 2014.  In the coming weeks, you will find here posts from additional guests. Enjoy!

My favourite tool

By Pip Ballantine

scrivener_screenshotAll kinds of jobs have all kinds of tools. Carpenters have hammers and saws. Seamstresses have threads and sewing machines. But what do poor ole writers have?

For the longest time it was Microsoft Word. That was it.

It is fine for writing in an office setting, but when you are working on a novel it is rather clunky. Moving long piece of text around is a tedious process of Cut and Paste. You have to have multiple files for everything which you have to flip between.

So when I discovered Scrivener it was a case of love at first sight.

Developed specifically for writers back in 2006, and it has a myriad of features that make my life much easier.

It isn’t even all that expensive ($US45 for Mac and $US40 for PC). You can find it at

It isn’t just about the writing—it is a program for organising your writing project. There is a main writing window, but on the left hand side are folders for organising your work.

There are so many wonderful features of Scrivener it’s hard to talk about them all, so I will just settle for the ones I use the most.

Outside of the main writing window, everything is organised with notecards—the digital equivalent of the ones writers use to plot or make notes on. It gives Scrivener a very familiar feel and makes it pretty easy to handle.

Since I write steampunk and fantasy, on the left I have folders with notecards for characters, settings, magic. On each one you can import images. For example in my character folder each character has an image of what I think they look like. It’s easy to use images you run across on the internet in this way, and makes for a quick touchstone reminder as you are writing.

Also on the left hand side I have my references which are very important.

When I do history I particularly like the ability to import in webpages that are references and having them on hand—even should the webpage I am using change or disappear I will still have what I need within Scrivener. It’s like magic!

Each chapter I am working on appears in this left hand line of files too. This means I can color code them, mark them as in progress or done, and easily shuffle them around if I want to move scenes. (So much easier than in Word!)

Then when you are done you can compile your work into a huge variety of formats to share with your editor, your friends, or the world. Yep, Scrivener will compile your book right into epub format!

I haven’t used it in this way but I also hear it is great for screenwriters as well.

Writers don’t get too many tools, but without this one I would be lost. You can try Scrivener free for 30 days, and I would highly recommend you do so. It has certainly made my life a lot easier, and I am onto eighth book written using it.

Thanks to Shay for hosting it on her site. Don’t forget to check out Write by the Rails, which is full of a diverse range of amazing writers. You can find out more about our steampunk series the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences at our site, and me here.

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