one of the things that helped derail my NaNo plans this year is the purchase of the writing software Scrivener.
not that Scrivener ate my NaNo project or anything, but it was just so distracting to have a new toy to play with!
i spent 3 days diligently going through the tutorial (which Scrivener claimed would only take an hour. on what planet is that only an hour-long tutorial? ha!), and then i spent another few days plugging in a manuscript to take the software for a real test run.
and i thought i'd share my thoughts on Scrivener so far.
- ability to compile everything you need into a single source - outline, actual text, character notes, research (including photos and web links!), etc... all available at the click of a mouse without scrolling or toggling through different Word documents.
- easy export. it takes less than 5 seconds to convert your Scrivener binder and all its contents into a properly-formatted Word or PDF or any other kind of document for easy reading and sharing with others.
- user interface. most of the basic-functions are self-explanatory, and there are at least 2 or 3 ways to do everything you want to do (select from a menu, click an icon, keyboard shortcuts, etc...) so you can make the program work the way YOU like to work.
- easy recovery of deleted material. (you can move an entire scene to a trash bin or take a "snap shot" of it before you start tinkering. both things can be brought back in an instant.)
- importing is not as simple as exporting. if you have a partial manuscript in Word or any other format, you can pull it into Scriv easily enough, but then you have to manually break it all up to create your binder. this is a simple but time-consuming process.
- saving is not so simple. the first time i reopened Scriv after a save, all of the work i'd done appeared to be ERASED except for the last chapter i'd been working on. this is because if you simply open the Scrivener program to start working, it will take you to a sub-document which shows only your work since the last save. you have to actually locate the primary program file in your folders in order to open the complete project. (full disclosure: this could absolutely be the fault of my own computer-challenged brain, but i thought it was worth mentioning after i found a few dozen online forum threads with questions from panicked authors about how Scrivener ate their work!)
who would benefit from Scrivener:
i can see how this program would work for both plotters and pantsers, but i'm still figuring out if it's the best software for a plantser like me. (click here for my definition of plantser.)
- the use for plotters is clear. Scrivener can get you organized like nothing i've ever seen. you can divide and subdivide that manuscript into as many pieces as your little plotting heart desires. you can color code your chapters by characters, setting or anything else you can think of.
- it doesn't look like a system for pantsers, but i see potential. people who like to write by the seat of their pants can jump in and start typing away. then, at the end of a scene, they can use Scrivener to attach notes (virtual index cards) to the scene to remind them what's in it. in a way, this is Scrivener outlining and organizing for you as you go along.
- but will Scrivener work for a plantser? hmm. only time will tell.
at first, i relished creating my Scrivener "binder" - a feature that allows you to break your novel down into chapters and scenes much the same way Windows folders work. it's all very tidy and will keep me from scrolling through hundreds of pages to "find that one scene where character X says that one thing" (my current, inefficient method of locating scenes in Word.)
once i started actually writing, i discovered a problem.
after every scene - or sometimes in the middle of a scene - i would stop writing to make notes on my Scrivener index cards.
writingwritingwriting.. oh! character Y is in this scene?!.. stop writing. open index card. make note about character. make sure it's color-coded. study outline to make sure it works with all the other scenes this character is in. spot continuity issue. rework outline to fix.
time spent writing: 10 minutes.
time spent updating Scrivener to make sure the outline stays organized: 25 minutes.
this is not Scrivener's fault but my own. i just need to figure out how to make it work for me so that i don't spend more time plotting/organizing than actually writing!
any Scrivener aficionados out there want to share a few tips with a newbie like me?