Meanwhile, I have spent a lovely day/evening in front of the computer, answering her occasional emails while she does all the work, languidly messing about on LJ and playing with computery applications like ... SCRIVENER.
Scrivener: is totally amazing!
If you use your own languages, you need this program!
If you forget what secondary characters look like, or where you've mentioned them, you need this program!
If you write incredibly detailed paragraphs interspersed with paragraphs that read (Stuff Happens Here), you need this program!
Basically, YOU NEED THIS PROGRAM! (Unless you're strange or efficient. See details below.)
The way I see it, this program is primarily useful for two things: modularising your writing and value-adding with notes and appendices all in the one place. So of course it would be fantastic for those people who do NaNo, or someone who has set a daily goal of some sort for him/herself. (You can even set up PROGRESS METERS with your own WORD COUNTS! And can flag chapters as finished/unfinished/need work etc! SWOON!) It's also good for people who write in little pieces/short bursts and have to come back later to find where the hell they were up to.
But the latter option, value-adding, is where it really shines. When I wrote the Book of Running, I was forever flicking through my notes (Notes.doc) for an idea of where I was going, then trying to find where I'd put that bit I cut out (Stuff.doc), then to languages (Langstuff.doc) to find out how to say 'you human idiot' in Alachastan - okay, that's a lie, I knew that one off by heart - and then rummage around for the .jpg where my most current map lived ...
In Scrivener, I would just have to click on 'Languages' (perhaps even subfolder 'Alachastan' if I set it up) and skim through the phrase I wanted underneath my story text. Then click on the Map image. Then hum to myself and drag the Angry Octopi Scene back into Chapter 13: Herbal Shelf Attack.
When in the Dark Ages I wanted to change a secondary character's description, I had to go back and find every place I'd mentioned them earlier. In Scrivener, you can associate keywords with a given chapter (ie. character's name) and see at a glance where you need to be editing.
If you're super-keen, you can work not with chapters, but with scenes. I can see pros and cons to this, since the reading pane from section to section isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but I understand you can modify the display too. Maybe it will be amazeballs after I try that.
You can add running notes in the margin - "do I really want her hair to be pink?" and be able to refer to it and muse on it later. Words cannot express how much I have needed this feature forever.
If you don't like a scene, you can move it down to the 'Deleted Scenes' folder. Then you can pull it out and dust it off (rather than keeping it in 'Stuff.doc' or 'Stuff2.doc') if you change your mind.
Sadly, they don't have an iPad version at the moment (even though it's originally a native OSX application). The thought of someday being able to scribble a map on an iPad, then attach it straight to Scrivener, though ... ooh, I just got goosebumps ...
In short: if you are a windy, scribbly, OCD type of person like me, or religiously keep some sort of story bible (see what I did there), this program is the bomb.
If you are a more organic start-to-finish writer, or only writing something relatively short, I'm not sure I see any great benefit. BUT GUYS. FOLDERS. WITH PLACES AND CHARACTERS AND ALL SORTS. HOW CAN YOU NOT.