Sunday, January 2, 2011

Who's using Scrivener?

Rhian's gonna kill me ("Not another tech post!") but I really am curious if any of our readers are using Scrivener, the dedicated word processor for fiction writers.  This used to be a Mac-only affair, but a Windows version is now in beta, and anyway I've switched to a Mac laptop for my writing.  (Sorry, Ubuntu, those were good years.)

My awareness of this app comes at a time when I have been quite vexed by the problem of re-organizing a book that contains dozens of small chapters, which I am doing now.  In a conventional word processor (in my case, OpenOffice.org), this is a really annoying task.  In Scrivener, you can assign each chapter a note card, on which you can type a summary of the chapter; then, on a "corkboard" screen, you can rearrange the cards at will.  When you're finished, you can export the whole thing as a unified .doc or .odt.

I think it's too late for this novel, but I may switch over for the next.  If any of you are Scrivenists, please share your thoughts.

21 comments:

Blythe Woolston said...

I wrote my second book using Scrivener. Once it hit revisions for the editor, I switched to Word. (Track changes is perfect for the back-and-forth of revision process.) I wrote the first couple of chapters of my third book in Word (They went out as a stand-alone.) When I get serious about finishing that one I'll move the word docs into Scrivener to build the rest of it.

It works great for my process, but I write short books composed of short chapters. I do all of it on a Mac.

Arna Bontemps said...

I use scrivener too. I agree with Blythe, and would say it helps with any/every kind of 'building' you can do with a longer project.

For me, I think it is most helpful in terms of organizing the research for my novel manuscript (and also, to a lesser extent, my short stories). I'm not as "good" at all Scrivener's features as a lot of other people, but I find the ability just to have an unlimited number of documents at hand / accessible / quickly interchangeable immensely useful. And the index card / time-lining aspect of it is great too. I know if you happen to be someone who produces and/or uses 'fragments' of prose, or writes things out of order, it would be helpful.

A lot of my classmates here at Iowa use it, but it seems to me that, for them, the focus is mostly on the compositional function (i.e. the ability to use it as a word processor that cuts out almost all distractions). A whole lot of the students here also use Freedom and other anti-internet, anti-distraction software too.

Kendall Giles said...

I've just switched to using Scrivener (and I use a mac). So far, it's been really great for collecting research and organizing sections/chapters of longer works. I'm also using it to help organize a presentation. I'm still learning all that it can do and incorporating it into my workflow, but for now it's my goto writing application.

Best,
Kendall

Sung said...

I would prefer not to.

(Sorry, I had to do it!)

Günter said...

Sung: Nice.

jrlennon said...

Sung, I reached for the "like" button and was rather disappointed that it wasn't there.

Good advice, all, and I had forgotten about the research documents feature. Presently I have a pile of files on my desktop--stuff copied off the web about the multiverse, Rhian's notes on the first draft of the book, etc.--but I also have an email in my inbox from a friend, advising me on something in the book, papers on my physical desk, etc. It would be nice to have a formalized, technically uncomplicated way of putting all this in one place.

Oddly, I have never been able to get my brain around Track Changes. When I change something, I want what I replaced to go away forever. If I really want a record of it, I print it out.

jrlennon said...

One other thing about this software...I found out about it years ago, before I had a Mac, so it was moot...but anyway I found it too cute...I didn't like the mimetic graphic gestures, like the corkboard. Now, though, that I've been using iOS all year, this kind of thing seems natural to me.

Skeuomorphic design, that is:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph

rmellis said...

I know this probably seems knee-jerk, but I'm suspicious of something that could make one's writing on a screen look more finished or accomplished or real or, well, good, than it actually is. I think I might be so charmed by the cute corkboard and little card headings and the magical rearranging that I might ignore the fact that what I'm delightedly organizing is actually crap.

Anyway, though I'm incredibly disorganized and messy, the secretarial aspects of writing are the least of my troubles.

The word processor was a huge help. All improvements since then: window dressing! :D

Pale Ramón said...

I tried the PC version of Scrivener, but I didn't like that the program was mainly a drafting tool. If I'm gonna end up in Word, I might as well start in Word.

I use a Firefox plug-in, Zotero, for gathering research on the Web (though I'm not sure if you can include e-mails), and SuperNotecard replaces the corkboard feature that initially attracted me to Scrivener. I also use Stickies for making quick notes.

5 Red Pandas said...

I started using it for a novel and it seems to cut down on distractions for research, especially if you have the links handy and images handy without being tempted to visit the Internet.

Writing these days might be a test of who can resist goofing off online to actually do some writing instead of "research".


Rhian- unless I'm doing it wrong, Scrivener doesn't really make your work look more finished, especially since it's broken up into chunks and pieces. It reminds me of how much work I have to do.

KooKooKaChoo said...

I love scrivener for the organizing features that others touched on. But I love it most for editing. I often write little gems, then can't get rid of them as they're so precious and took so long to write....

But in scrivener, I can reclassify whole chapters as "research" or whatever. I keep them close at hand, but out of the main document. So I'm deleting while not really deleting...

Funny, they never do come back into the main document.

Five stars. Love it. Have written three books on it. I'd never go back to Word.

jrlennon said...

Diana, I can't believe we've never talked about it before. I love the idea of sticking deleted passages into research files...my tactic for recalling those is to thumb through the printed 1st draft ms.

You should try collageing an entire extra book out of your other books' castoffs.

rmellis said...

I usually have a file called NOTES and another one called CUT OUTS -- that works, too. Having my writing computer not connected to the internet is also good...

Russell said...

My approach doesn't require Scrivener. I copy a hundred thousand or so words from the Internet then edit them into a plausible book-length narrative. Et voilà! And nobody can tell; it's all entirely reworded. Happy New Year.

Shauna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shauna said...

I heart Scrivener, JRL. It is the bomb.

Tim said...

I've just started using Scrivener and love it. Was able to easily re-arrange scenes and bump others to the research pile.

rmellis said...

All this scrivener love is making me want to buy typewriter ribbons... :D

gvNL said...

I’m sticking to good old Abiword for my stories. It’s least distracting, has all the features I need, and gives me the maximum full screen on my 7 inch EEE netbook. Wifi is disabled. Ideas and variations (headed VR) are kept at the bottom of the document. If they get out of hand I make a copy and leave the edits etc. in the old doc - I need to be able to check them to make sure I’m not rewriting what I have rejected before.

The Scrivener sreenshot looks like an intricate metroplan of a megacity of the 23rd century to me. I need at least five years.

Franz said...

Scrivener is excellent.

Writeroom deserves mention if you don't need the organizational features. Hogbaysoftware.com. Writeroom shares the nice full-screen option found in Scrivener. I find myself using Writeroom for short pieces and Scrivener for novels.

One nice feature of Scrivener is the option to make zipped backups. Set it to save them in a Dropbox folder and you don't have to worry about backups.

Anonymous said...

I want to write a book in 3 parts. Part one called Book 1, etc. I'm having trouble doing this in Scrivener. It keeps assuming that the first folder is Chapter 1. Can anyone offer any help on this?

Thanks

Rick