Opening the toolbox

I said I would write a little about the tools I used to finish my first draft. In case you’re interested in such things or were looking for some advice from tried and tested tools.


Scrivener is a software package that helps you to plan a novel – and is really useful for early drafts. I found especially helpful when structuring and placing scenes, and then restructuring, which I did halfway through writing. The thing with a Word document, as you may have found, is that if you want to get to a scene and move it or refer to it, you have to either find and replace or do a lot of scrolling. With Scrivener, you can insert scenes, chapters, notes or research (colour coded) into a draft and as you add one, it creates a little index card for you. You can then view this on the right hand side of your manuscript, or on a cork board. Locating them is easy, moving them around is easy and marking them as to do, first draft, redraft or final draft is also easy. It’s the organisational aspect I liked of it.

It does a whole range of other things, including a fabulous name generator tool which I tried out one evening for fun (good if you’re writing a spoof country house fantasy thriller, not sure of its use in anything else) and probably some other features that I didn’t use. When you’re finished, you compile and export the whole thing (or as much or little you want) into another format.

Scrivener costs a bit but I thought the price was reasonable for the amount of time and worry it saved me.

Write Track

Write Track is a relatively new website community for writers where you can set yourself writing goals and track your progress. I have not used it for its full potential yet, including the community forum or finding out about other writers using it. Now I’ve got my first goal out the way, I may do that. I found it useful purely for the mental boost I got each time I posted an amount in (my goal was to “Let’s finish this bloody thing”) It kept momentum going, as well as showing me how much is normal for me to write each night. Finally the thought that other people were liking my progress kept me going back to the keyboard as I wanted to them to see I was serious.


I have copies of the draft on a USB, an external hard drive and on Dropbox. Mostly I updated the one on Dropbox, knowing it would still up there in the sky if anything happened. Do this. Back up every time. I used to do it in different formats as well, in case one didn’t download one night or the file was corrupted. Thank God I write now and not in the days of carbon paper.


For encouragement, advice and occasional writing sprints, find some writers on Twitter. Chat about their work, like their achievements and read their work! Then see how much they will support you.

Caffe Nero

Sometimes only a good strong coffee in a comforting atmosphere will do.

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