Thoughts on Scrivener Software

Back in January I posted here asking for any feedback on Scrivener software. I remember at the time being so completely inundated with paper and as it was January and the New Year was upon me, I am pretty sure I was doing a new-year-desk-cleaning and trying hard to turn over a new leaf on the cluttered-and-messy-office front. 

So as I’ve been hunkered down inside my writerly cave these past month getting the final bits in place on the novel, it occurs to me that I have been terribly lax on ze blog, and I have yet to follow up on my thoughts after months of using Scrivener.  So here goes…

The short answer: I love it.

The longer answer: Scrivener has transformed my process.

The even longer answer: As an organizing and efficiency dreamer, I thought I had stumbled upon some ginormous secret when I found Scrivener. It was everything I never knew I could ask for in the organized-writer category, and more.

I was initially drawn to it for the research folder. The idea of going paperless with all the bits and pieces and websites and source materials I tend to gather for my novels made me giddy.

I’m using less paper (and ink): The first thing I did was go to my stack of research and pull out all the web-based stuff I’d printed out, returned to that URL and reprinted all that stuff as a PDF, scanned the rest, and brought them all into Scrivener as files. Some of the web-based stuff I just cut and pasted into my source files with a link to the source URL within the page. The reason I don’t just save the links is because this one time I saved a link to something totally awesome and when I went back, the site was gone. So, by all means, document URLs meticulously, but my experience tells me it that the wise researcher grabs a permanent slice of the things she plans to use down the road.

Instant-On File Saving. Writing that reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry go check out an apartment for rent and in the add it says IOL as a feature of the rental. When they asked, the landlord switched on the light and said, “See, Instant On Lighting!”

Since making the switch to Scrivener, I have not lost a single piece of my work to computer saving issues. Scrivener saves everything all the time. You can still go to the File/Save process, but I no longer worry about stepping away for a second and coming back to find my kids had shut something down or the system froze and whatever I was doing was lost. It is such a fabulous change.

Draft management made easy. When you use Scrivener, you have total control over how to break your work up. I choose to work in chapters one at a time, but you could drill down further into scenes within chapters if you like and organize that way too.

As I have been working on my final draft, I’ve found myself revamping whole chapters of the book. But sometimes I am not sure if I want to keep this new draft and might want to revert back to the old.

There is a neat Roll-Back feature where you can take a snapshot of the current version (it actually is a little camera icon complete with camera sounds!) and save the old version in case you decide to roll back to the old. You can save many roll back copies in your file and pick and choose to bounce between them, all from the place where you took the snapshot.

Super simple exporting. Got critique partners? I belong to two critique groups and I’m also enrolled in a writing class where I need to send various parts of my book to others. When I did this in word, I would cut and paste the section from the original file into a new file. Save that and move on. This was slow and cumbersome for me. Scrivener “compiles” your work with a click and you choose which sections are included in each compile. So simple. Once I got the hang of it, it has been a Godsend.

Which brings me to: Scrivener comes with an excellent video tutorial. It is a couple of hours long, but it is organized so well using the software (go figure) that you can break it into chunks. Trying to dive into this program without watching the tutorial is possible, but there are SO MANY fabulous features and concepts and ideas in the tutorial that you’d never discover on your own. Or if you did, you might find it down the road and say, damn – I wish I had known. So, take the time for the tutorial, you’ll be glad you did.

The bottom line: Scrivener is worth a try for anyone who has to organize a writing project.  And its inexpensive!  Go check it out: Scrivener

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