Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scrivener: Love it or Hate it?

Well, I'm back from Editville and I have survived intact!

Sometimes there's nothing like a deadline to get a writer to stop checking out stuff on YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and blogs and forums and email and Zappos and Etsy and (oops I'm not supposed to admit I daydream-shop when I'm supposed to be writing)... I am a bit mushier from lack of yoga and too many lattes, but alas. How we suffer for our writing!


So I wanted to chat just a bit about Scrivener. I posted about it just over a year ago here. At that time, I was wondering if I should use writing software to help me with my editing process. Back then, editing consisted of a lot of note cards and color-coded notes. It was a mess, but it worked.

This time around, I vowed to make my life a little bit easier. So I bought Scrivener (it was $45) based on a friend's experience with it.

What I've loved about Scrivener:
  • The "binder" view lets me see my whole manuscript sectioned into chapters and scenes. I can title each of these separately so I can find things easily. So for example, a chapter titled in the binder with "girl kicks boy's undead butt" doesn't show up as the true chapter heading in the manuscript.
  • The split screen. I can have one part of my manuscript on a lower half of the screen, and a different part on a upper screen. This avoids the whole scrolling back and forth within a manuscript to fix stuff. Also, I've used other manuscripts by betas or my editor with their comments in a different window so I can fix stuff simultaneously. Brilliant.
  • Compile. Once you're done, you can compile all these chapters and scenes together and export your document to be printed, or as a PDF, RFT, Word doc, whatever. I always use the "original" setting so Scrivener doesn't use those wonky formatting presets I don't like.
  • Automatic saves. No need to hit command-S anymore. My laptop has died at least three times when I forgot to hook up my power cord. Nothing was ever lost!
  • Snapshot. I can take these snapshots of scenes or chapters, which saves an old version. This way when I'm making changes, I can easily view the previous version when I need to.
  • The potential to use with the iPad. I haven't done this yet, but I'm set to try it soon. Using a go-between program called Simplenote, you can sync your computer's Scrivener files with Simplenote, then write/edit in your iPad using Simplenote. Here's a great blog post that outlines how to do this. 
What I've disliked about Scrivener:
  • The formatting is wonky sometimes. Importing my Word doc into Scrivener, I've found that sometimes my tabs and paragraphs have become weird. It's been a slight pain to redo/undo them. Also after compiling, I've found random blank pages in there which I've had to delete.
  • The initial work. As with any new program, the first time you use it, you make mistakes. And then there's the initial time it takes to get to know the software. Plus importing your document and painstakingly separating out each chapter, scene, and writing titles for them took hours. In the end, it was worth it but with a deadline looming, it did stress me out a lot.
  • Can't import track changes. You can import comments on manuscripts by saving as an RTF, but track changes won't import. So you must accept/reject them in Word, then import the rest of the comments after. Kind of a pain.
  • I only know the tip of the iceberg.  (Oops, I almost wrote "iceberk" which would have been more appropriate, given the beserky nature of what I've been going through). I know Scrivener has a million more uses that I don't know of. Time will tell if I'll use them.
One of the Lucky 13's, Erin Bowman, has two great tutorials on using the character worksheets and freeform corkboard, as well as how to outline using Scrivener. Pretty awesome, thanks Erin! I may do that with my next manuscript.

Also, here's a great, basic tutorial on how to use Scrivener.

 So how about you? Do you use writing software? Why or why not?
And if you use Scrivener, please tell me your favorite trick! I'd love to learn. :)

57 comments:

Old Kitty said...

I don't use any more extraneous software as I find Word already most complicated! LOL!! But I like the advantages you list here for Scrivener - the automatic saves sound like a godsend as I've lost so much stuff whenever my pc has a nervous breakdown and I've forgotten to save things!!

Take care
x

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know a lot of people really like it. Think I prefer simple though. A notebook and Word work for me.

shelly said...

I've got Word 2007 and am in the dark ages still with editing. I print what I write and save it that way. If I want to find a chapter I use a code word like LOLLYPOP to find where I left off.

Sarah said...

I gave it a try as I started book 3 and quickly fled back to the comfort of Word. I'm not sure if I'll try it again, since I don't really have complaints about Word and I'm so used to it ... but I've also heard good things about Scrivener for those who took the time to learn enough to navigate it easily.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I won a copy but haven't tried it. I just got the new version of Word and am learning it. Not sure if I'll try Scrivener but I'm saving a link to this post in case I do.

Connie Keller said...

Wow, it sounds wonderful. I've never used anything but Word.

Congrats on finishing your edits!! I hope you celebrated.

Richard said...

I'd heard of it, but didn't know what it was. Sounds useful.

Richard said...

I'd heard of it, but didn't know what it was. Sounds useful.

Louise Bates said...

I appreciate your balanced view of Scrivener - most of what I've heard about it is praise, which always makes me nervous. Every program has to have some negatives, and when I never hear what they are, I start to worry. I much prefer getting into something if I already have an idea of what I'm going to like AND what I'm going to dislike.

Matthew MacNish said...

For an outline nerd like myself, I've always considered it a great option. I definitely intend to check it out, but I need a new computer, and a new story idea, before I start (I'm not importing something I'm already working on, too uptight for that).

That being said, I already use two monitors and two versions of a document when I'm revising, but I can see how an application built from the ground up to make that easier might be nice.

Shelly said...

Now this is very intriguing. I teach writing to middle schoolers, and I would love to see how this integrates into that process. Thank you for sharing it~

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I LOVE SCRIVENER. But here's the thing: I don't use it for writing. I like all my words in a single docx and I like the flexibility of Word. Where scrivener works for me in a HUGE way is outlining, research, storing pictures, links, etc. It's my organzational file for everything - I even take notes on books I'm reading in Scriv. But I'm too superstitious to allow it to touch the MS. :)

Rachael Harrie said...

I love it, but definitely agree about the formatting. Still haven't figured that one out yet :(

Hugs,

Rach

Angela Felsted said...

My goodness. I hadn't even heard of Scrivner until I read this blog. I'm cheap I guess, or maybe just not very high tech because I usually just open two windows and do my editing that way.

Laura Pauling said...

I love it and I use it to write. Sometimes I get wonky formatting too but I don't know if that's Scrivener or due to the word doc formatting which is known to be horrendous when bring into a different program.

My next goal with Scrivener is to understand the formatting aspect of it and getting it to compile and transfer out how I want it. I think in the long run if I put in the time to learn this, it will only help me.

Kelly Polark said...

That program does sound very useful. Will you use it for your future manuscripts?
I just use Word and a notebook. (and google doc for a joint project)
It does seem like once you get used to it, it is very helpful! Maybe one day I'll try it!

Giles Hash said...

I've considered checking out the program, but with all of the back-and-forth I have to do between my Mac and PC JUST to make sure the .doc is correct when agents ask for it, I just don't want to add ANOTHER step. And it sounds like it WOULD add steps to my process.

I'm glad to hear that it's helped a bunch of writers, though! :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I am like Kitty and Alex: Word is enough of a challenge for me and I learned to edit the notebook and grim way. I admire you for entering the 21st century of editing. I'm still in the dark ages. LOL.

E. Arroyo said...

Sounds like a great tool. I just still like the familiarity of paper and Word. =)

Barbara Watson said...

Glad you're back. I've heard mainly great things about Scrivener although I haven't given it a go myself. There's still part of me that likes to physically mess up my drafts with lots of arrows, notes, cross-outs and such, however...

Carolyn Abiad said...

I love Scrivener! I've never uploaded beta comments, so I'll have to try that next time I get a crit. Thanks for the tip. :)

Linda Gray said...

This is fantastic, Lydia, thank you! I'm bookmarking this post. I fiddled with Scrivener a little bit last year, but never actually attempted to implement it with my manuscript, mainly because I wasn't sure I'd love it. With these tips and tutorials, I think I'll try again. :) p.s. congrats on finishing your edits!

Stephen Tremp said...

I use plain ol' Word for my MS. Then I format the best I can and pay someone a small fee to go over it and make sure its ready for submitting to Kindle and Smashwords.

Welcome back and enjoy the yoga once again!

Stephen Tremp said...

I use plain ol' Word for my MS. Then I format the best I can and pay someone a small fee to go over it and make sure its ready for submitting to Kindle and Smashwords.

Welcome back and enjoy the yoga once again!

lee said...

I really want to invest in Scrivener. I actually had a trial version of it a while back (since expired) for NaNoWriMo, but didn't give myself enough time to learn the program and consequently reverted to my old standby, MS Word. (I should have known trying to learn a new software during NaNo was crazy....)

I'll be editing a ms soon though, so maybe I'll look into it. Great post as always, Lydia. :)

SA Larsenッ said...

It's awesome to have you back!!

So glad you posted about this. I've been thinking of purchasing Scrivener for about a year, but wasn't sure it was worth it. So you think learning to write within this new system is worth it?

linda said...

Yay, welcome back! Good to hear you survived. :)

Also, I'm glad you decided to write this post on Scrivener! :D I've downloaded the trial but still haven't made the leap. I mostly use Word and OneNote, but I've heard lots of great things about Scrivener. Thanks for the post highlighting both pros and cons! :)

Jenny Woolf said...

After reading your review I think I'd probably like Scrivener if I got around to using it A good split screen is such a boon. But I don't like learning software so, in the real world, I probably won't use Scrivener.

Christie Wright Wild said...

Sounds great for organizing and planning. I write picture books, so those are very easy to edit in Word.

Jai Joshi said...

I've heard about software like that but I still resist! I guess I'm just old fashioned. I like printing it out and editing with a pen on paper. I feel like that way I'm less likely to miss something.

But thanks for giving us the verdict on your experience. I'll keep it in mind in the future.

Jai

Alex Villasante said...

Thanks for the informative post! I started my wip with Scrivener after using word for the last two books. I like it, but I don't understand it (which happens to me a lot) Even though I've been using it for 3 months, I haven't yet used all the bells and whistles. I think I'm intimidated! But I like the fact that I can use it straight, like word until I learn more. I also like that it makes it easier to write out of sequence - something I'm just starting to experiment with.

DL Hammons said...

So what's your bottom line? Was it worth the investment? Your positives outnumber the negatives, but that doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. I'm leaning towards using it for my next project.

Lydia Kang said...

Lee and Sheri, I actually did that too. I downloaded the free trial, got freaked out by it and didn't use it. About 6 weeks ago, I realize I had to go through three sets of manuscripts with comments on them for my MG manuscript. The idea of poring through three MS alongside mine in different windows was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was incredibly useful in this context.
I have yet to use it brand new with creating a new MS, so I'll have to report back later for that.

Jennifer Hillier said...

This is perfect, I've been wondering about your thoughts on this program. They have it for Windows, right? I was thinking of picking it up this week. I also saw a book called "Scrivener for Dummies" which I'll probably need, because I'm TERRIBLE at learning new software!

Lydia Kang said...

DL, the bottom line is that it was worth the investment for me. I'm becoming a crotchety old gal when it comes to new things, so learning new software did give me a headache. Like Alex, I don't know all the bells and whistles but I'm sure I'll learn them slowly and find it even more useful.

So yeah--yes worth the money and the initial headache. But warning--it can be quite a headache!

Lydia Kang said...

What? Scrivener for Dummies? Must. Get. THAT.

Krispy said...

I used to mostly use Word and One Note when I was on my PC. Then I switched to my Mac and as I had no word processor, I've actually been doing all of my writing in a semi-sad way in Google docs. It's actually okay.

BUT I did buy Scrivener at the end of last year, after NaNoWriMo because you get a discount if you participated in NaNo. I figured since I didn't have a word processor on my Mac, I might as well get the much touted Scrivener. I still haven't used it much because like you said, it's a lot of work to figure out at first. BUT the things I've learned are awesome. I'm definitely starting my next project in there.

Shelley Munro said...

I do all my writing in Word, but I've recently purchased an iPad app called Manuscript in order to help me with the planning of scenes and character notes etc. I think that's the part that I would use most in any writing software.

Clarissa Draper said...

I use scrivener and love it! I don't think I would go back to Word anymore.

Coleen Patrick said...

I've been wanting to make the shift to scrivener, but figured I will wait until I start my next wip. For all the same reasons you listed in your cons--but mostly the learning time factor!

Jay Noel said...

I've thought about using something like Scrivener in the past, but heck, I've made so many changes to my process already.

This time around, I actually outlined every single chapter and did a 7 point story structure plan. That's a lot of plotting for me. One change at a time, I guess.

bethchristopher.com said...

Congrats on wrapping up the editing!

I've been on the fence about getting Scrivener. I like what you've said about the double screen -- sounds really helpful. Like many of the others commenters, I'm going to save this post!

February Grace said...

Yay on edit finishing, we have missed you!

I have Scrivener and I love it but I don't entirely trust it to generate Word documents correctly all the time. I have had it compile a couple times where things came out garbled for some reason.

But I love it overall and it saved my book. I never could have reordered scenes and things as I did after two years working on the same manuscript out of order as I did without it.

bru

Sarah said...

I've been tempted to download it so many times, but just don't know how it will do with my netbook. The screen is so small that I'm afraid it won't display well. :(

LisaAnn said...

Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog! I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener awhile back, but I got so intimidated by it that I never got through the initial break-in period. Perhaps I will give it another whirl... Thanks for breaking it down!

Meredith said...

I've never used Scrivener, but it sounds terribly useful! Congrats on coming out of Editville!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Welcome back!
Every so often I flirt with thoughts of using Scrivener, but my trusty notebook and Word have been serving me well. I don't want to mess with what's working, but I am curious.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I have heard a lot about Scrivener. It sounds great for writers.

Jolene Perry said...

I might be sold simply because I could possibly have an easy go-between that and my iPad...
would be NICE.

Genissa said...

I downloaded it and gave it a try, and while I didn't dislike it, I didn't stick with it. I just got a keyboard for my iPad, so I might have to try out the simple note and give Scrivener another go.

Emy Shin said...

I've tried it multiple times -- and really wanted to love it -- I'm afraid I don't know how to utilize it quite well enough to appreciate all of its features.

So far, I've only been using it to write, which works just fine in Word. Maybe when I need the organizational features, I might come to appreciate Scrivener more.

alexia said...

I haven't used software, but that sounds pretty cool! I may have to give it a try.

Julie Dao said...

I keep hearing about Scrivener, but haven't tried it out yet! Apparently there's a temporary trial that you can download... I might just have to do it because the positives seem to outweight the negatives :) Thanks for the in-depth review!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I won it on The Bookshelf Muse two weeks ago. I have the PC version but someone gave me their Mac notes. I wish I had a Mac. That version can do way more than the PC one, but I do love how I can keep everything organized just a click (instead of multiple clicks) away. There are somethings I'm going to have to do in Word (then copy and paste back into Scrivener), but so far I'm a fan.

Karen Lange said...

You daydream shop? Okay, so don't tell anyone, I do too. Sometimes I even enter contests when I'm supposed to be writing. Keep it under your hat, okay?

I haven't tried Scrivener, so I appreciate your thoughts about it. Might have to check it out. Thanks!

Leslie Rose said...

I'm a WORD girl all the way, although if I could take a Scrivener workshop I might bite.

Casey L. Clark said...

I first draft on a basic doc or one file in scrivener...but I love it for later drafts...it helps me take a step back and see the novel as a whole in a few different ways.

 
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