Scrivener Revisited

Last year I brought up Scrivener and the fact that I was experimenting with it, laid out some of the features it had, and how things were going. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will not shut up about how awesome it is. For me, it did not take long at all to report that I was giving up on it. In listening to the Self Publishing Podcast, all of whom use it, I decided to take a whack at it again.

First, for those that don’t know, Scrivener is a word processor and management software engineered to be used specifically by writers. At first glance, it’s just a word processor, and not a robust one at that. It’s very basic, giving you the general fonts and editing options that first tab on Word gives you and nothing more. Now, for generating a resume or putting together a technical document, that won’t work. Word has so many tools that you could build pretty much anything with the right amount of knowledge. Of course, that tends to get in the way of the simple stuff and Scrivener isn’t made to do those things. It is purely for writing, and specifically seems geared toward fiction for novels, short stories, and even screen plays.

So what does that mean? Why would you cough up an additional forty bucks for less of a word processor? Simplicity? If you use Word in school or work, it’s not difficult to format a default that is more than applicable for a manuscript, and even a document to be loaded into KDP or other stores. Word can be a pain in the ass, but if you’re using it for one thing and one thing only, it’s really pretty easy. Why pay for less? Or if you’re willing to argue that it’s just as good as Word, why pay for the same thing you more than likely already have preinstalled on you computer?

Because that’s not the point.

Scrivener is so much more than a word processor and, while similar to Word in that they can be very, very intimidating (these features put me off six months ago), I’m really taking to them now.

First though, a disclaimer. Importing a document and dividing it up using their tools is a special type of hell. Originally, I had tried doing it with Sorcerer Rising (which was 99% complete) and it was slow, tedious, and painful. I saw no benefit because the story was already laid out the way I wanted it. I would recommend trying it out with some type of new project before pulling everything in, and the less tech savvy you are, the higher this frustration will go up. There is a tutorial document that does a really good job of summing up how to do everything and all the features. It takes a couple hours to go through. Do yourself a favor and go through that.

Because once you get used to everything you’re gold.

Scrivener offers two things that I really like.

The first is the way you divide up documents, and that is probably what you might know it for. As you move along, you can split off scenes, chapters, concepts, so that you have a directory of files withing a folder. Each folder can be dedicated to whatever the hell you want it to. Divide it by books, parts, chapters, scenes, idea, whatever suits you. One of the things that pushed me away was the standard novel template. I didn’t want to organize my novel like that and couldn’t figure out how to edit that. So I definitely recommend starting with a basic blank document.

Besides the main Draft (which is what would be in the book), it also gives you folders for research, notes, bibliography, etc. It’s really neat because as I am creating world documents, I can keep them with the manuscript…just not a part of the manuscript. That is incredibly powerful. No longer do I need to have a folder with chapters or manuscripts, another doc for notes, another doc for things I cut out, another folder for brainstorming. I can have it all within the same project.

The second thing I like is the cork board. I’ve discussed before how much I love my physical cork board, and that it has completely revolutionized the way I envision my stories and construct them. Well, Scrivener offers a digital version of that. The cards can be customized in size and easily moved around. Even better, each card stands for one of the split of scenes.

As you can see above, on the left is the Binder which serves as a directory. The cards stand for each of those files. One problem I do have is that you can’t look at the draft board and see inside the folder within. So, you can’t see the whole outline. If you have it divided by chapter, with scenes in each of the chapter, you can’t see an exploded view of all scenes. That’s something I would suggest as an improvement, the ability to temporarily explode a card to see all the underlying ones. As a result, I am only grouping scenes that are wholely seperate yet will, no matter what, occur right next to each other. I think the Mac version (which is actually to the point of being Scrivener 2) has a better corkboard, and if Windows version ever catches up, I will feel a whole lot better.

What all this offers is the ability to see a very macro view of things. I haven’t had to hunt through the document for anything which is brand new for me. It has also helped in outlining.

I am working on a novella (I think it will be that size) as well as DITF, my second novel. I was having problems with both of those as far as where the story was going and decided to spend Friday night in my own personal story meeting, going over the outlines and just talking to myself until I was happy where they were going. Both were very different. I have a beginning, middle, and end for DITF (95,000 words at this point) with the main issues being certain plot points throughout the story. With the novella, the opposite is true, all I have are a few plot points (already written out to about 9,000 words). Using Scrivener’s board, I inserted key points into DITF, coding them as red, while taking away key points, coding them as blue. As I go through and edit, I am also checking things off by their status. With the novella I could just throw out ideas, then put them in order like I normally would with my corkboard, though now I don’t have to worry about the real estate that would take up.

I haven’t made the purchase yet, Scrivener offers a fantastic 30 non-consecutive day trial, but I’m coming to it like I did when I first got DVR. I didn’t think that was a big deal, but now I can’t imagine going back to anything else. Scrivener hasn’t revolutionized my life (though it might when it comes to compiling, that doesn’t come with the trial and might make uploading a lot easier), but I think it’s worth the forty bucks.

Just like I put out there last time, I’m very interested in hearing from anyone else their experiences, tips, advice, concerns with Scrivener. Hope this helps others.

Update: Jeremy Lee James reached out to me about a post he wrote, specifically on how to compile. It’s incredibly in depth, a great resource for those who find themselves lost in the process.

About enathansisk

My name is Nathan Sisk, and I am a writer and aspiring author.
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5 Responses to Scrivener Revisited

  1. I love scrivener. The only issue I have right now is, they still haven’t finished their app. I do most of my writing on my ipad and would love to make it easy to transfer scrivener files between it and my pc. Hopefully soon.

    As it is right now I take my documents from the ipad and get them into scrivener. From there I make the docs into kindle files for read throughs and edit notes. All editing is done in scrivener where splitting scenes makes edits easy and notes are right there in the file.

    • ensisk says:

      So you don’t do the formatting or anything like that on word?

      • After I edit i do formatting in word. Word is better for the overall appearance. But I do very little production work in word. Production is done with scrivener and pages.

      • ensisk says:

        Gotcha. Thats what i’ve been doing so far but haven’t had a chance to try compiling yet. Appreciate it.

      • The compiler is great. Scrivener can create a mobi or epub file if you choose to use those. I make my kindle edit copies this way. When you transfer to word, scrivener uses the 2003 version. I end up cut and pasting this copy into the current version of word and wipe all formatting at the same time.

        The wipe is important for setting up a clean copy for uploads to amazon and smashwords.

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