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This year’s Booker Prize longlist sees what is surely a literary first. In the Acknowledgments at the back of Maggie Shipstead’s 580-page long Great Circle, as well as thanking a long list of people and organisations, she writes: “It may be odd to thank an inanimate entity, but I could not have surmounted the organisational challenges of this novel without the writing application Scrivener.’
Is this the first time a writer has thanked a piece of software? Scrivener is a tool for writers established by the British independent software company Literature & Latte founded by writers for writers in 2004. It is based in Cornwall and released the first version of Scrivener in January 2007.
Scrivener describes itself as ‘tailer-made for long writing projects’. It says ‘we provide everything needed to craft your first draft. Used by best-selling novelists, screenwriters, lawyers, students, journalists and more, Scrivener brings together tools familiar to writers everywhere in new and exciting ways’.
It takes its name from the nineteenth century term for a clerk or scribe who could read and write or who wrote letters to court and legal documents. In the world of literature it is immortalised by Herman Melville’s story Bartleby the Scrivener.
Shipstead’s novel has a large cast of characters and spans decades and different settings, ranging from the great days of ocean liners, the world of early aviation pioneers, to the Battle of Britain and modern-day Hollywood. It required a huge amount of research.
Scrivener uses a ‘powerful ring-binder metaphor that allows [users] to write, research and arrange long documents by breaking them into smaller sections…Your research is always within reach, because Scrivener allows you to import almost any kind of file and view it right alongside whatever you’re writing’.
If Shipstead’s novel wins the £50,000 prize then Scrivener will surely benefit from the extra publicity too as more writers are tempted to explore its possibilities.