Work-in-Progress Update

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on turning my first draft of Model Makes Good* into a coherent and entertaining story (touch wood). I created new scenes to make the plot and characters more complex. Then I started a rewrite of my draft. It was going slowly.

I wrote the first draft in Microsoft Word, as this story was originally a 3-day-novel contest entry. Under that pressure, there’s little time for planning. You start typing on page one, and keep going until you are done. I had planned to revise in Word as well, by going back to the beginning and starting over until the rewrite was done. Repeat as necessary. That worked for Ocean’s Lure, though since I spent about ten years rewriting it, perhaps that is not the most efficient approach.

I’m comfortable with Word. I’ve used it since 1997, when people questioned why I chose it over WordPerfect. After embarrassing myself at a temp job interview in 1999, I learned how to use styles and headings, and until 2020 it was my daily writing tool for technical writing jobs. Now I use Madcap Flare, a word-processor dedicated to producing technical documentation, founded by developers laid off from Robohelp when it was bought by Macromedia (Macromedia was subsequently bought by Adobe).

Word is a powerful multi-purpose word-processor, and it can do books, but I’ve always believed it is happiest preparing short business letters for printing and mailing.

Clippy, a much disliked and retired interactive help tool, always eager to assist in writing a letter. This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Some years ago I purchased Scrivener, an authoring tool dedicated to book writing. With the novel template, you get multiple documents in a single file for characters, settings, and other background notes, as well as scene sections within chapters. It’s more work than typing away at a single document, but, once set up, it’s easier to keep track of descriptive details. You can drag and drop scenes or chapters to test or resolve pacing issues. There are other benefits like a name generator. It’s great for coming up with names and procrastinating without leaving your file.

I’ve used Scrivener a little. It was handy for a major developmental edit a few years ago, and it’s long been my intention to use it when I become a more professional writer. My switch to a purpose-dedicated authoring tool in the workplace encouraged that thought.

A few weeks ago, I attended an RWAC workshop on plot structure. Last week, I attended a Scrivener webinar where they demonstrated using it with Save the Cat structuring tips to outline a romance novel.

After the two workshops, I went back to rewriting chapter five and realized why the re-write is going slowly. My plot structure is weak. I already knew I lacked a clear path (or beats) for several plot arcs, but assumed I’d sort it out somehow in the rewrites.

For example, the main external conflict for my couple is my divorced heroine’s involvement in a custody battle. She could lose access to her children unless she ends her relationship with the hero. This may seem ridiculous, but I have some experience with family court and can make it work. In my draft, this conflict is resolved about 2/3 of the way through—far too early.

The problem with fixing this in a rewrite is that I’d need to rewrite several scenes out of sequence, moving them to other places in the story. Meanwhile, I’m trying to rewrite other scenes without knowing where they fit around the relocated rewritten scenes. That could be cleaned up in a subsequent rewrite, but I could avoid all this if I organize all the scenes first, then rewrite.

I can drag and drop the scenes in Word, but it’s a challenge to move them in a 127 page Word document. So I copied everything, scene by scene, into Scrivener.

Now I can add and re-arrange scenes with ease. I can get all the scenes in a well-paced order, including coordinating the internal and external conflicts. I can also balance scenes between the hero and the heroine’s points of view, and the mix of narrative and action. I’ll work on all that before returning to rewriting.

Hopefully, this will let me fix everything in one re-write instead of ten years of gradual fixes in multiple re-writes. And no, migrating everything into Scrivener was not procrastination. Really. But maybe writing a blog about it is….

*Previously Picture This. But I’m not wild about Model Make Good either.

PS. There’s a good Word – Scrivener comparison here.

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.


  1. Always love a post about writing tools. I myself used to use Scrivener, but have since moved back to plain text. So it’s Vim for me. I find manipulating hundreds of pages of text much more efficient in plain text. And I format through Markdown. Only after all that’s done do I worry about styling or converting it to .docx. Plus, the industry still very much depend on Word, so there’s no escaping that. Thanks for this post!


  2. Part of the appeal of switching tools may be the new perspective it gives on the content, regardless of the tool. Whatever works!


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