Saturday, November 19, 2011

scrivener so far

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.

major pros:
- 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.)

minor quibbles:
- 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?


Linda said...

I've found that Scrivener is really great for revisions. My last project required me to rearrange a lot of chapters during revisions and it was so easy, I just had to drag and drop.

It's great for outlining too. Especially if your WIP requires a lot of research. I used to have a hard time keeping track of all my research when I just used Word to write, but now it's all there in the same file along with my WIP.

I also love the full screen mode. I always write in full screen, zoomed in, with the background faded out so that I'm not distracted by the internet and other apps.

It does take a lot of getting used to. I've been using it for almost a year now and I'm probably still not using it to its full advantage, but it has helped a lot.

Chanelle said...

I'm still trying to get used to it too, and definitely agree with everything you've said.

Going to try and write in full screen mode today...I'll probs fail.

Also, another thing that irritates me a little is that I never know what my overall word count is. I have to guestimate. And when I did export to Word, all the italics got changed to underline. Very annoying.

Overall, loving how you can split things up and keep a better watch for things.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about this tool. I will have to check it out and see if it´s right for me (maybe in the editing stage as I am not a big plotter)

erinjade said...

Linda, i can definitely see the revision potential in Scrivener! i'm tempted to still do my next rough draft in Word but then plug it in to Scrivener for revising.

Chanelle, agreed about the word count. i like that you can get a chapter-by-chapter wc, but there should be a way to get a whole doc count.
also, for your italics/underlining - did you export in novel format? i think the novel export does courier font and underlines all italics. a standard doc export kept everything in tact for me.

commutinggirl, i'd say check it out when you get to the editing stage for sure. i think that's how it's going to be most useful to me as well.

Christina Farley said...

This post was very helpful for me. I'm thinking of buying it but I wasn't sure on the pros and cons. Thanks!

Linda said...

I feel like I'm missing something re: the word count problem. I have the Mac version of Scrivener and I have no issues finding out my total word count. As long as everything is in the draft section, when I click on project statistics, it shows my entire word count. Is the Windows version different or something?

erinjade said...

Christina, i'm so glad it was helpful!

Linda, i didn't know about the project stats. found it after i read your comment. thanks! :)
what i was thinking of (and maybe Chanelle was too) - is when you're in a chapter working, you see the running total at the bottom for the chap wc only. it would be nice to see both the chap and the total adding up at the bottom. minor quibble.