Nick Thacker at Live Hacked has a great post about how Scrivener can help writers to organize not only their thoughts, but their projects as well. Nick does a much better job explaining the capabilities of Scrivener than I ever could, so check his post for all the details. For the condensed version, suffice it to say that I bought the full Scrivener program after using the 30-day free trial for just two days. I would have bought it after the first day, but I got distracted by something or other (LOOK! A SQUIRREL!!! Dang adult ADD).

Scrivener is an excellent product and well worth the $45 asking price. I don’t know why I wasted so many years screwing around with Microsoft Word, shuffling from document to document, or searching through one huge file for something and wasting hours trying to get it to format properly. Scrivener allows you to categorize your work by chapter or scene, but compiles everything together in seconds when you’re ready to format it for publishing. Seeing my novel compiled into a PDF preview of a paperback book really stunned me – as in, look, ma! I wrote a book! It’s that enlightening. It takes your work from amateurish scribblings to professionally looking product in no time.

The Target tool allows you to set daily and project length writing targets, and it tracks your progress for you. For example, for my current book, I picked a random completion date of November 20, 2012. I also picked the totally random word count goal for my book of 80,000 words, which allows me to divide it into twenty equal chapters (for first draft purposes only) of 4,000 words each. Scrivener keeps track of each chapter’s running total, showing me how much each one needs to get to my baseline goal. It also recalculates my required daily goals depending on the time remaining to my deadline.

For example, when I started using it last week, it showed me needing to write 342 words per day to get to 80,000 by November 20. I wrote steadily for the first couple of days and met or exceeded that goal, one day going over 1,000 words. Then came several days of being sick, going to work sick and being exhausted trying to recover, and just the normal everyday life that conspires to keep me from writing. Today when I sat down to write, I noticed the daily requirement had gone up to 344 words.  Not much of an increase for a couple of days of slacking, but having Scrivener show me in black and white what I need to do to keep my goal within reach is huge. Using Scrivener in my writing this past week was enough to push me over the edge and start this blog, set writing goals for my project, and actually start thinking of myself as a professional writer. If you’re as disorganized as I am, or you procrastinate in your writing like I tend to, Scrivener may just be the organizational tool you need to get you moving.

What tools do you use to keep your writing on track? Thanks to Scrivener, I know that as of today, May 1, 2012, my word count is 10,052/80,000 words. I’ll keep updating my progress in future posts.