Scribe and Scrivener

I hope y’all had a fun and safe holiday weekend. I’m excited to get back to writing after the break, and I’ve still got some posting to do before I catch you up to my current point in the process of writing and publishing my first novel. I’ve fielded lots of questions about the software I used to write The Achievers, so I thought we could pick it up there.

I admit it; I have wholly bought into the iParadigm. My computers, tablets, phones and TV and music delivery systems were conceived of, designed by and built for Apple. Like many people, I’ve spent my career working on PCs in a Microsoft environment, but I’m a complete convert in my personal life. I am totally connected at all times, in all places. I even accessed drafts of my book with my iPad in Amsterdam! I am a true believer.

Over the weekend in May that I spent thinking about how and where I wanted to write, I decided I didn’t want to be chained to my desk with my iMac. I thought that I may want to work by the pool or in bed or at my parents’ house. My iPad wouldn’t cut it; it’s an extraordinary tool, but word processing isn’t really its forte. I would need a laptop, and to close my technological circle, it would have to be a Mac. I decided on a MacBookAir, but that left the question of software unresolved.

My iMac is fully loaded with Microsoft Office’s usual suspects, but I imagined that there would be a better way. I considered using the Mac interpretation of Word called Pages. Documents could be stored on the cloud, keeping them safe from a spontaneously combusting computer or other localized mishap and allowing me to access them from my computers, my iPad or even my iPhone. I’d never really used Pages before, but Apple software has always been intuitive so I knew there wouldn’t be too much of a learning curve. Just to satisfy my curiosity, though, I ran a quick search for software created for writers. I am very glad I did.

Scrivener caught my attention. It performs the obligatory word processing tasks, but it also does so much more. The software was designed by an author for use on a Mac although it is available for PCs, too. I studied its features and downloaded the free trial. After a short tutorial and an assurance that one license would provide copies for both my iMac and my MacBookAir (the good people at Scrivener are true believers, too, so they understand the “need” for multiple devices), I bought in.

I love, love, love Scrivener!

As a novice, I was thrilled that the app provided templates for character and setting sketches. Completing those forced me to articulate my vision so that I could easily draw on character backgrounds and reference their profiles when the story became more complex. Next, I set up the chapters and scenes I had already mapped. As I wrote, I provided a one-liner synopsis of each scene so that I could quickly navigate between passages. I never had any trouble finding what I was looking for in my 183 page manuscript. One of Scrivener’s most versatile attributes is that with a push of a single button, it would turn my manuscript into either a set of color-coded index cards or an outline!  Authors who work from full outlines can set them up in Scrivener and switch back to their manuscripts just as painlessly.  The software keeps track of everything and does all the work.

Once I’d completed my first chapter, I started sending drafts to a select group of people for feedback. Scrivener compiles a scene, chapter or the entire manuscript into any format–pdf, Word, Pages, ebook, etc. It’s a simple matter to change the font or other formatting, and it embeds the author’s name, the title, word count and page numbers as well as other personal information an author may want to include. One of my favorite features is that Scrivener automatically saves (I never lost so much as a comma!) to my Dropbox account and automatically opens on either of my computers where I left off. I was concerned that I would run out of space on Dropbox, but the completed manuscript with all of my notes, research and edits only takes up 2.5 MB. To put that into perspective, the dozen or so photos from my Amsterdam trip occupied 48 MB.

Now that I’ve entered the editing phase, I take a “snapshot” of a scene before I make any changes. If I decide that I don’t like my edits, I can revert to the original, or I can compare the original to my edited version(s) side by side. It’s a relief not to manage multiple drafts. I wish I’d had this software when I was working on the Texas Energy Assurance Plan over a three-year period!  For that major undertaking, we had to save yet another copy of the entire document for even the most minimal edits.  We must have ended up with hundreds of versions to wade through by the end of the project.

I realize that I haven’t used all of Scrivener’s components, but I look forward to further exploring them as I finish my edits and dive into the next two books of the trilogy.  The best way I know to learn a software’s capabilities is to use it, after all.

I hope I’ve answered everyone’s questions about Scrivener. If you have others, don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thanks for reading!

1 Comment on Scribe and Scrivener

  1. Chris
    July 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Wonderful that you found just the right tool in Scrivener!


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