I recently had someone ask me about Scrivener and other writing tools. They were interested in my opinion of their usefulness as an established author and whether they should purchase some of the tools folks are discussing on sites like Facebook.
Scrivener is a great tool but it has a bit of a learning curve. It allows you to organize complex novels or trilogies and have important character and worldbuilding information at your fingertips.
If you participate in NaNoWriMo, you can usually get it for half off if you hit your 50K word goal for November. It’s only around twenty bucks with the discount.
Here’s the funny thing. I almost always write using Notepad++, which is like Windows Notepad but with multiple tabs. I have 113 tabs open on mine as I type this. That’s a lot of short stories and novel chapters. I personally like writing with it because it takes away all of the formatting and forces me to just write the words. When I’m done with a short story, I normally paste it into Word, update any required formatting, and then send it off to an editor or a slushpile. If I’m working on a novel, I paste the chapter into Scrivener and update the formatting. This works for me because it prevents me from getting distracted with minutiae.
If you decide to try Scrivener (they do have a trial version), you can find lots of interesting templates for novels and training videos on YouTube.
The Marshall Plan is one that comes up every so often, and it can be useful if you’re interested in answering a lot of questions as you build out the plot. I have both the book and the workbook because I bought everything hoping there was a magic answer to writing novels. Before you invest in books (unless they’re on the bargain table), I would recommend you get your local library to get a copy through intra-library loan so you can see if it is something you’d use over and over. I did get some good ideas from the Marshall Plan, but I eventually evolved a new system that worked with my style of writing.
As far as formatting, manuscripts are almost always in Shunn format. There may be some tweaks outlined in the guidelines of a publisher, but the vast majority use Shunn as the standard.
Short stories: http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html
I have free Word templates for short stories in Shunn format here on my website in the Downloads section. Some publishers like running headers but most don’t. You can download both types there for free if you wish. I don’t keep your email address or add it to my mailing list, just so you know.
When I was re-starting my writing career I kept looking for books and useful tools to help me write. I would recommend authors focus on getting words on a page foremost and then look into other tools like Scrivener, the Marshall Plan, or the Snowflake Method of outlining when you’re ready to try different things, understanding it will take away some of your writing time when you’re learning something new. Apps and books won’t replace word generation on a page. I spent a lot of money until I realized I should only invest in something because it accomplishes or fulfills a concrete need like helping me generate words when my carpal tunnel flares up (Nuance Dragon Dictate Premium 13 and a condenser microphone), book formatting (Jutoh, Adobe Acrobat Pro, and Adobe InDesign for my uses), or graphic novel art tools (Poser, Adobe Photoshop). I can afford the expensive tools because I no longer buy everything that looks interesting or nifty.