Dating Scrivener

by limebirdkate

My first love was notebooks. They were readily available, easily transportable. I always enjoyed how welcoming notebooks were, offering up eager, blank pages. Because I enjoyed writing so much, I didn’t bother myself with the technical aspects until that story was out of my system. Notebooks and I were the perfect mates.

I abandoned my notebooks for a brief stint when I learned how to type. The luxury of typing words as fast as I could conjure them up was seductive, addictive. I hung out with it at all hours. There were times my parents caught me breaking curfew as I mingled with my typewriter.

Eventually, the romance fizzled when precious hours to write were lost because I couldn’t bring my typewriter everywhere I went. I resumed my affair with my notebooks, cavorting with them whenever the mood struck, while I used the efficient typewriter for final, polished drafts.

Along came computers and word documents. Saving and editing stories on a machine was exotic. I excitedly broke up with my electric typewriter for my computer, even dumping my notebooks in my desire to get to know my computer better.

Once I learned the basic features, I didn’t experiment much with Word. All I cared was that I could write, and write fast, save it at any point in the story, and come back to it with no worries, breezy as a summer day. There was no other writing tool like it, anywhere! I was officially in love.

When laptops became the rage (imagine, carrying your computer around with you!) I was totally smitten. Picture it: just me and my laptop, together at a coffee shop or park, writing off into the sunset. Match made in heaven.

I still dallied with the notebooks, though, because as convenient as a laptop is, they are also cumbersome and, let’s face it, fallible. Notebooks are classic, undemanding, and pure. I don’t think I could ever, really, truly, leave my notebook.

I built a long-lasting relationship with my laptop and in particular Word, but I still didn’t experiment a lot with options. I kept each of my stories in separate documents. All of my darlings were stored in one document. My research stashed in another document. I didn’t want to get fancy and organized with folders, sub-folders. Not that Word offers much more beyond that, but even so. I simply wanted to write.

Then I met Scrivener.

I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Scrivener. Because I won NaNoWriMo last year, I was able to download Scrivener for 50% off the regular price. I thought that was a sweet deal I shouldn’t pass up.

But, Scrivener and I are off to a rocky start. I downloaded the PC version, and I have been making my way through the tutorial. There are a lot of paths to learn in this new relationship, it’s like exploring a labyrinth. The tutorial is clear and easy to understand. But there is so much to use, to remember, that I’m nervous about writing a story on it. I feel like unless I use all the bells and whistles, that it would be pointless to make a commitment to Scrivener.

But writers are raving about it. The program supposedly helps with structure and organization. The program keeps everything in documented places so it’s easy to navigate from chapter to character to plot with the click of a button. But could I find that button to click when I need it? Then the tutorial coaches on how to choose sub-folders, turn off the Inspector (where is it again?), splits, outliner…I’m already lost just talking about all the features of this bad boy.

I want to give Scrivener a chance, because I think it could help my writing process immensely. But I’m a hands-on type of learner. I can’t read a tutorial, absorb it, then frolic with Scrivener. I have to learn by doing, so my question is Will that slow down my writing? Will I be so concerned about how to properly arrange my chapters and character sketches that I won’t be writing to my full potential?

How about you? Do you date Scrivener? What is your relationship like?

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67 Responses to “Dating Scrivener”

  1. I’ve gone through a similar journey. Add an old Amstrad PCW9512 Word Processor into the mix. I’m starting Camp NaNo today and plan on using Scrivener for the first time proper. Looking forward to it 🙂

    • That’s right, the word processor! How could I forget? Well, good luck with your budding relationship with Scrivener. And Camp NaNo to boot. You’re going to be a busy boy!

  2. You sound a bit like me. I kind of hate the process of learning to use a new piece of technology or software, I can’t take it in when I go through the tutorial, I have to just try it out, use the basic features first, and gradually learn new bits as and when I discover them. Once learned, then I usually love it and can’t imagine how I managed beforehand, but at the start it feels like standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up. I haven’t tackled Scrivener yet, but I’m sure that will be the same for me if/when I get to it. So I shall follow your journey with interest!

    And congrats on winning NaNoWriMo last year!

    • Hey Vanessa,
      Okay, well, you’ve given me hope. I’ll just have to dive right in and see how it goes. But it is overwhelming, and I just know I’m going to get lost in the folders somewhere. Perhaps if I yell loudly enough, someone will find me and pull me out.

      Oh, thanks, NaNo was fun. I look forward to doing it this year. Hopefully Scrivener and I will be ‘tight’ by then. 😉

  3. I’ve never tried it but good luck, I hope you work it all out!

  4. I’d say get the basics down (as you did for Word), and branch into the bells and whistles as you find a need or desire for them. Especially if you’re still deep into a project. I know there isn’t much that slows me down like trying to learn a new program in the middle of a story!

    Good luck!

    • Hi Mayumi, yes, I think that’s what I’ll have to do. Only about an hour ago, I decided to hell with the tutorial and now I’m trying to write in it like I would any normal Word doc. We shall see…

  5. Being old-fashioned goes with my gray hairs. I’ve read raves about Scrivener, but why take on a perhaps lengthy learning experience when the old system works fine, at least for me? I’m used to Word; I’ve learned how to format for CreateSpace in Word, and for Kindle and Smashwords, too, so I’m sticking with it. The main annoyance for me is that whenever I decide (or am forced) to get a new computer, it will mandatorily (is that a word?) include the latest version of Word, which will be different in many aspects from what I’m used to. A lot of my docs were converted over from Word 97 to Word 2007. What will happen when I have a third conversion to, say, Word 2015?

    • Hi Lorinda,

      Hmm, yes, that has certainly been my main stumbling block–when Word docs work fine enough what is the use of something like Scrivener? However, my weakness is structuring and organization and so I’m hoping that this will help me keep things in better order. I will try to do it without getting into too much of the fancy stuff and see what happens. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I’m not sure I want to start using Scrivener. It looks like a brilliant tool but it also sounds like one of those things that when you start using them you’re committed. I use Open Office on Ubuntu Linux and would have to use Scrivener under Wine. If I delve too deeply there may be no going back and who’s to say future upgrades make it incompatible? I know, just use Windows, you might say. Frankly I don’t want to.
    Ooh, the temptation! 😉

    • Gosh, what is Ubuntu Linux? Is that English? 😉 I think I am afraid of exactly that, I’ll be committed and then I’ll be stuck with my novel in pieces all over Scrivener. I did try it earlier today and I didn’t trust that it was actually being backed up, so I cut and pasted the whole thing into a Word doc, lol. Basically doing what I was trying not to do. Sigh. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. You won’t need many of the “bells and whistles” for novels, poetry, or short stories. Scrivener is also designed for writing other works such as dissertations or non-fiction manuscripts that incorporate graphics and other media. Unless you decide to write a graphic novel, you can safely ignore those features.

    There is a bit of a learning curve, but you catch on quickly, especially if you start entering a full-length manuscript. That’s when you really see the advantages over Word, I think.

    You can approach a novel in two ways with Word. One, you can enter everything as a single document, which is what I did. Second, you can break chapters or scenes into separate files. Both have their drawbacks.

    A single document has everything in one place, but scrolling or “finding/replacing” your way through the document is cumbersome. Chapter files keep things shorter, but then you have to open multiple files if you want to look at another chunk of the work. Scene files make that even more difficult.

    But Scrivener combines the best aspects of either style. Writing separate scenes (or Chapters) keeps them manageable in length. But the Binder lets you see all of them like an interactive Table of Contents. Working in a scene in Chapter 15 but want to look at a scene in Chapter 2? Just click on the desired scene, and up it pops—without having to save your work in Chapter 15 first. That’s all automatic.

    And I love the Inspector for those note cards, document notes, and key words. They’re great for jotting down ideas or areas that still need work.

    The character and place sketch templates are also handy for other record keeping and creative ideas.

    I regularly make backups of files, and I still can’t get completely weaned from Word. I use it for printing drafts. But compiling the Scrivener files into rich-text or Word file is easy, and I’ll do that as my backup in addition to a Scrivener backup. I’m covered either way, then, if something ever happened to one of my programs. 🙂

    Give it time! The best relationships often aren’t the easiest. 🙂

    • Hey JM, oh good, I like the sound of that–with all the chapters seen all at once. Now that you mention it, that was one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and try it. Because it didn’t sound too different from what I’m used to doing with Word. I was working on it today, and I quickly realized how much I like writing separate chapters. I haven’t tried breaking down the chapters into scenes yet, though.

      I also need to spend more time with the Inspector. I love the name, it just sounds cool. I’m guessing that’s like the Search/Find feature on Word? But I can use it to scroll through all individual files or folders?

      Okay, didn’t know about the character or place sketch templates. Hmm. *Jotting that down on notes for tomorrow*.

      Haha, yes, as I mentioned to Richard above, after using Scrivener today I wasn’t completely trustful of its saving mechanism, so I cut and pasted everything into a Word doc! OMG. Completely defeating the purpose of Scrivener.

      I’m such a wimp.

      Thanks for your extra help and info, JM. I’ll be sure to bone up tomorrow!

      • If you look near the upper righthand corner of the Scrivener screen, you’ll see a magnifying glass with a box next to it. The box may say something like “All (exact phrase).” That’s your search area, and you can pull down the menu from the magnifying glass to choose whether you want to search the chapter/scene you’re in or the entire document.

        The Inspector toggles on/off with that i in the circle next to the search box. It has lots of goodies I use. The synopsis note card is great for jotting down the gist of the chapter/scene. And I like the “Document Notes” for reminders of things to add or questions I have about that scene/chapter.

        Once you get familiar with it, I think you’ll really enjoy it. I’ve jumped full into writing separate scenes. It’s easy to move them around, which is great if you’re starting a new work.

        I haven’t used them, but fivereflections said there are good tutorials on YouTube, too.

        And it really is saving everything automatically as you type! But yes, I always save the file before I exit the program. 🙂

      • Excellent. You know what, I’m copying all your comments and pasting them into, egad, Word. But only so that I can easily access them when I try Scrivener again tomorrow.Thanks again for your help! 🙂

  8. One more note for those who fear future incompatibility. The developers of a dedicated writing program like Scrivener is less likely to make upgrades that are incompatible with earlier versions. And they’ll have to also keep up with the new operating systems or they’ll go extinct.

    And remember—you can compile every Scrivener document into a variety of formats: .doc, .rtf, .pdf, various e-pub formats. So one program lets you save into a file compatible with just about any other program/operating system you like to use.

  9. Huh. I hadn’t even thought of switching. I’ll have to hear more about your journey with Scrivener!

  10. I dabbled with Storybook, and while at the camp I wrote longhand and came home with almost a thousand pages (of minute handwriting) but nothing compares to Word. Not OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Symphony, or anything else… at least for me. Office was worth purchasing.

    I’ll keep track of plot and construction myself, it keeps my head in the story. But as with those who write from outline and those of us who flow free form, we all work differently.

    • Mmm, good points. Habits are hard to break for me, so I know part of the reason I’m struggling is my resistance to change. But I also know my weak spot in writing is structure. Supposedly this helps with structure, which is why I thought I’d give it a go.

      I won’t give up immediately. I will give it a fair shot, but so far the outlook is bleak.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Had Scrivener for about a year and agree with all the comments above in terms of being worth the investment in learning how to drive it. I haven’t driven it hard but entirely believe that it is a wonderful piece of software for any writer; novice, amateur or professional.

    For me one of the strong positives for Scrivener is the way that it resonates with the unstructured creativity of the writer (well this writer, anyway) supporting the sheer joy of writing and then can help bring all those thoughts and ideas into a coherent publication. I’m (very, very slowly) pulling a book out of blog writings and finding Scrivener indispensable.

    Nelle, really would have to disagree with your feelings about MS Word. The Oracle OpenOffice suite is just superb and the price is great!! 😉 And I speak as a long-time MS Office user, well up until a couple of years ago.

    • Oh good, another pro-Scrivener user to bounce questions off of. Yes, structure, that’s what I’m hoping Scrivener will help me with. Today was my first foray into the realm of Scrivener without the use of the tutorial, and I ended up cutting and pasting everything I wrote into a word doc–all because I couldn’t trust that it was being backed up.

      I promised myself tomorrow I’ll let loose.

  12. I recently learned about Scrivener and am tempted to try it. But it sounds like you are less than thrilled with your new boyfriend.

  13. And I like the fact that I can copy my background research into Scrivener, and actually find it when I need it…

    • That was one other aspect that sold me on Scrivener–easy access to research. I haven’t had to use that feature yet, but I am excited to try it out.
      Thanks for commenting!

  14. I love the poetic way you’ve described your long lasting relationships here! 😀 Though, I know nothing of this Scrivener.

    • Thanks, Laura. I had fun getting silly with this. It helped stave off my impatience at my inability to corral this sucker. Like I said to Robin, Scrivener is playing hard to get right now, but perhaps in a month or so I’ll have a more positive update on my bad boy. 😉

  15. Scrivener is my crack cocaine. I am addicted. I did go through the learning curve but like anything, once you’ve used it for awhile it’s second nature and I couldn’t imagine not having it now. I love the cork board where I can see at a glance where I am up to and what’s about to happen. I can get back to any point quickly to check a fact. My left sided brain loves the structure and the right side is happy with the creativity.

    • Yay, another pro-Scrivener user. This is good, because that means there is hope left for me yet. I know I can wrangle this thing. I just have to be clever, patient, and calm. I can do that. Really, I can.

      Thanks for swinging by.

  16. I love scrivener for revisions, organizing and researching. I tend to not use it to draft with. For that I use a Neo or my pocket pc. The Neo “sends” directly into the scriverner files and the pocket pc saves in rtf. I like setting up keywords in my chapters to help me keep track of locations, characters and important objects of the story. I can set it up to simply track one character through the novel if I wish. It does thing for organizing that Word simply is not capable of. However, I own Word and do use it. I keep previous draft versions separate from Scrivener and Word is good to use to look over these from time to time.

    I was able to use scriverner right out of the box. I started with a beta version during NaNoWriMo and have never looked back. I find that my first use was not as deep as what I do now. I learn new ways to use the program all the time and the interaction with it simply becomes richer over time.

    • Hi Wendy,

      You do make a good case for it, that’s for sure. I tried it again today, and really I haven’t done much more than drafting. But that’s because I’m starting a new project, so I’m not at the point of revision or reasearch. I like the idea of tracking characters etc., which is one of the reasons I was intrigued initially. It’s just a lot for me to grasp all at once. But I’ll try!
      Thanks for commenting.

      • I think that I’m going to write up a couple of posts on my blog about how I use Scrivener, both for organizing my blog and for writing novels. I’ve read a few books on the subject and have a system that works for me, taking methods here and there that made sense for me. One of the great things about this program is that there are so many ways of doing things with it, it really can be a custom experience.

      • You know what, Wendy–if you do go ahead and post about it, please drop me a line. I would be really interested in reading what you have to say. I bet you’d be teaching a lot of would-be Scrivenites.

      • Kate, Wendy did post that item, the URL is http://nowastedink.com/2012/08/03/blog-organization-with-scrivener/ There are some good points and one that really caught my eye, using Scrivener in connection with writing a blog. That just hadn’t crossed my mind. May play around with that.

      • Great, Paul, thanks for keeping me in the loop here. I will definitely hop over to read up!

    • Wendy, re-reading the comments and just picked up on your reference to the Neo. Presumably you are referring to this? http://www.neo-direct.com/ Would love to have your fuller review of the device (or feedback from other ‘Limebirders’ who use it. I have a Kindle and while it’s great for general browsing I do miss a keyboard. The Neo would appear to offer all the benefits of mobility without the loss of a keyboard. Thanks, Paul

      • Hi Paul and Kate. Sorry for the late reply, but I’ve been in Vegas for the past week! 🙂 In answer to your question, yes I use the Alphasmart Neo from RenLearn. It is a basic typewriter with a small LCD screen. It has the ability to send its text into any word processor you wish to upload your text too. It can also be used as a computer keyboard. You put in two AA batteries into it and you are powered up for writing for the next year or 700 hours, which ever comes first. What I like about the Neo is that it provides a platform for undistracted writing in any location I wish to use it. I wrote a little post about my Neo on my blog http://wp.me/p25YUL-n It explains the Neo and how I use it more fully.

      • Thanks Wendy – really appreciated. Will go across to http://nowastedink.com/2012/01/03/alphasmart-neo/ and check it out. Paul

  17. I don’t know but reading the comments, it strikes me Kate that this is more about you testing an idea out for a novel than really learning a piece of software! 😉

    • Hey Paul.

      Haha, well, it’s probably a bit of both. I truly am lost with this thing–I’m not technically inclined and computer lingo goes over my head. But I am starting a new story, and I wanted to try it out with Scrivener from the beginning, rather than midway through. So, I’m learning Scrivener via a story I’m writing rather than the tutorial, I guess…? Who knows what I’m doing. I certainly don’t.

  18. “writing off into the sunset” Love it! You won NaNoWriMo? Outstanding! I had no idea. I haven’t been successful in following or participating in that yet, but it’s on my bucketlist. Which reminds me, I need to start that bucketlist thing on pinterest… always something, huh? I say, give scrivener a full-bodied opportunity. Do it, Kate. 🙂

    • Hi Eliza,

      Thank you–and I hope you know when I say I ‘won’ NaNo, I only mean that I completed the 50,000 word novel which is the goal for all participants. They say you “win” NaNo if you reach that goal. So, there were a lot of winners and I had a blast doing it. I hope to do it again this year. I highly recommend it if you’re a goal-setter. 🙂

      You’re right, of course. I need to just throw myself into Scrivener and see what happens. It’s not like if I push the wrong button my computer will explode…right? I mean, that won’t happen. Will it? Will it?

      😉

      • It won’t! 🙂 I think starting with a new story is a great way to learn. And if you’re still worried about “losing” your work, just compile a Word or rtf file at the end of the day, and you’ll have a copy available in a familiar program. 🙂

      • Good to know, JM. 🙂 I’m so very thankful there are a lot of people out there who know how to use this program and don’t mind throwing out tips. Yes, I am pasting everything into Word at the end of each day–just until I am confident I know what I’m doing. Then I’ll stop being so OCD about this thing. Yeesh.

  19. Kate, I’m using it, loving it, and learning as I go. You just need to jump into it, like you probably did with Word and other software. Use the parts you like and leave the others alone. I also got it at discount via NaNoWriMo. But take heart: Scrivener for Dummies is soon to be released (September 4). I can’t wait to buy it; I already have it loaded in my Amazon.com cart. Here’s a great article on Writer Unboxed by the author http://writerunboxed.com/2012/06/19/more-things-to-love-about-scrivener/

    • Thanks for the helpful tip, Darla. I’ll be sure to check into that link. And I love that there is Scrivener for Dummies. I may have to purchase that if I can’t figure it out in the next month. Goodness. I hope I can figure out what I need to know within a month!

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Darla, thanks for that – one for me to buy!

  20. I must keep an eye on this post and the comments because I have been considering this programme for some time but haven’t used it yet. At first I was put off because I don’t have a Mac, but now there is a pc version I should be well away. For now I suppose I should keep reading reviews until I know if I want to commit.

    • Hey Ileandra,
      Yes, I have a PC, so that’s the version I downloaded. Even though I griped a little here, I have continued to work with it and I am starting to get kinda addicted. I am beginning to see the differences between Scriv and Word that make organizing my novel much easier. That was the primary reason I wanted Scriv–to help me structure and organize my novel. I still haven’t attempted a lot of the fancier features (well, fancy to me), just stuck with the writing and keeping my scenes and chapters separate, titling each one individually for easy referral. Even though I’m no pro, I would recommend it even based on my sparse knowledge! 🙂

      Let me know if you decide to go through with it.

  21. Scrivener for Dummies is now available from Amazon (dot com). Ordered my copy and it’s due here today. Thanks everyone for the heads-up on this. Running out of excuses as to why I’m not writing the damn book quickly enough!

    • That’s great news, Paul. Perhaps you can post about the guide sometime and I’ll just feed off of your newfound wisdom. 🙂 And I’m especially glad to hear that you’re still plugging away at your book.

      • Kate, yes most certainly. Although a bit challenging just at the present as caught up in the implications of selling our house here in Arizona in preparation for a move to Oregon in November. But keen to get under the skin of Scrivener soon.

        For me the big reward of this post came from Wendy Van Camp when she mentioned the Neo and that led me to her article and a comment from one of her readers about the Asus Eee laptop. That reader, Jeremy, said how much he enjoyed the Asus especially when being used with the Q10 writers software, see http://q10.en.softonic.com/

        I had an Asus Eee that spent too much time in a cupboard and have now blown the dust off it, installed the Q10 writing software and realised that this is my tool for writing in a much more unstructured environment than being sat at my desk where I am now!

        So great outcome!

      • Wow! You’re moving. Well, good luck with that. I’m glad that you’re writing seems to be heading in an enjoyable direction. 🙂

  22. Reblogged this on Ayesha Schroeder and commented:
    Scrivener is my go to tool for writing!

  23. I’ve never really gotten the Scrivener obsession. Maybe I’m old school. But I like it simple. Type a document in Word. Print and paper edit it. Not sure what Scrivener does that makes it such a lifesaver. Not saying it isn’t amazing (haven’t tried it so I don’t know). But I haven’t heard anyone articulate the benefits in a way that makes me want to invest the time to learn it.

    • Hey Kourtney, after having used it for over a month I have to say I might agree with you. There are a few benefits that separate it from traditional Word doc, but nothing so earth-shattering that I would be the spokesperson for Scrivener. One thing I don’t like is that I can’t figure out how to back it up outside of the Scriviener software. I can’t easlily copy/paste the entire document into a Word doc. Unless I’m doing it wrong. It’s enough of a stickler that I will probably post about it and see what others have to say. Thanks for swinging by.

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