I tried StoryMill a few months ago and, while I found it revolutionary compared to my previous approach to writing (i.e. staring at an empty text file and flipping through my pages of handwritten notes until I figured out where to start) I nevertheless found it lacking - which is why, newly aware that such software existed, I went looking for something more suited to me. That’s how I found Scrivener. Since then it’s become one of my favourite applications.
It’s interesting to hear other people’s perceptions of StoryMill as compared to Scrivener, and I’ll offer mine for contrast. StoryMill strikes me as being more of a playwright’s tool than anything else, because of the way it’s organised.
In StoryMill the text is meant to be divided into chapters and then subdivided into scenes. There is also a section for background info such as character bios, location details, etc. The segmented approach to writing was new to me, and I found it helpful, but I don’t think in “scenes”; I think in blocks of text which are sometimes defined by theme, sometimes by time, sometimes by place, sometimes by relation to a certain character, etc. I found myself spending a lot of time trying to adapt the predetermined organisation structure to the way I think. I also found it immensely frustrating that StoryMill doesn’t (yet) have a function to view your entire text all at once. Eventually, I decided to see if there was something out there that would work better for me.
I love that Scrivener gives you the tools to build your own organisational structure. With the ability to construct a hierarchy of documents and folders, I can divide things up by whatever criteria I like, and I find that determining that structure myself is a valuable brainstorming tool. I also love the outlining and corkboarding functions, and the ability to see all of my text or any combination of various parts of my text in scrivenings mode. Footnoting and annotation are invaluable both as a means of referencing, and as a vehicle for asides, mental notes, etc.
I bought Scrivener with fiction writing in mind, but I’ve also begun to use it for other things. I’m a law student, and Scrivener is a fantastic tool for research papers (although I still take notes and make summaries in an outlining program, my indispensable CircusPonies Notebook). I also translate prose and poetry from Latin to English, and it’s very well suited to that for various reasons which I won’t go into here. The same flexibility that makes Scrivener the right fiction writing tool for me also makes it useful in a number of other contexts.
Since this is my first post (I am a notorious lurker and didn’t even register until a few days ago) let me take the opportunity to say thank you. Both StoryMill and Scrivener are fantastic programs, but this is the one that works for me. I can’t imagine working without it, now.