Monday, December 3, 2012

Scrivener: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I first heard of Scrivener in 2009, after I finished my first nanowrimo.  I had used Word, and my story was 52,000 words long, about 119 pages, and 15 chapters.  It took place in an alternate world, with 10 days of the week, none of which ended in 'day.   Forget about editing... just to write the darned thing, I printed out the Work In Progress several times, and had it full of sticky notes, to keep track of what I'd written.  Then, I heard of Scrivener, and after I finished drooling, I discovered it was available for Macs, only.  :-(  But, hey, a girl can dream, right?

And then, in the fall of 2010, my dreams came true!!  The makers of Scrivener came out with a beta version, for PCs...  Woo Hoo!!!  In the past, I'd avoided beta versions, but Scrivener is just a small piece of software, doesn't take up much room, and Mac users had been using it for years, so what could go wrong?  The answer -- absolutely nothing!!!  I used Scrivener for nanowrimo 2010, and it was even better than I dreamed  :-)   Please note - I am NOT a computer geek, and I couldn't be bothered with studying, and testing the software, and besides, nano was right around the corner.. so I watched the short tutorial, and jumped in with both feet.  I used some features, I ignored far more...  but Scrivener was WONDERFUL!!  and when the final version came out, I gladly paid for it.  The price?   $40 to the public, $20 to those who had completed their nano goal of 50k in 30d.  Nope, I haven't left off any zeros... this software is on the market for Forty Dollars.

Now, in 2009, 2010, and even 2011, for the  most part, I wrote my stories 'in order'.  I pretty much started at the beginning, and worked my way through to the end.  Every now and then, I'd have a brainstorm of a plot twist, or some particularly witty dialog, and Scrivener made it extremely easy to write that stuff when the idea hit, and save it for  'later'.
This year, my story didn't work that way.  I had my beginning, and I had a couple of interesting things for the middle, but the end popped into my head before November even began.  Writing, this year, required a lot of jumping back and forth, as I figured things out, realized that some things were wrong, and even sometimes just jumped to the part that I was in the mood to write at that moment.

And oh yeah, I've left out some really cool stuff.  Scrivener makes it extremely easy to gather and organize, and then get back to, research.
What? you say.  What research?  You're writing a piece of fiction, just make it up.
Easy for some to do, impossible for me.  When my story says that Tampa is the lightning capital of North America, you can be darned sure that Tampa truly is the lightning capital of North America.

So -----  clearly, this is the Good part of Scrivener.

What's the bad part?  Well, the bad part is that this year, I have an iPad.  Woo Hoo!!!  MUCH lighter than my laptop  (the difference between 5 pounds and a few ounces is -- well, almost 5 pounds.. which is heavier than it sounds).  AND.. I can get online, even if I'm not near an internet connection.  No -- wait -- that doesn't sound bad at all.... OH YEAH...  The bad part, is that the designers of Scrivener have not yet designed an iPad version  :-(     That's ok, I'm flexible... well, kind of.  So I can export, and compile, and use txt, or rtf and then import back in.....   except that I lose all sorts of formatting, and I don't have access to my research while I'm writing.    And so I can make it work, in a fashion, but it's far from easy, and far from ideal.  Amazingly enough, I never lost anything that I'd written, but switching back and forth was cumbersome, to say the least.

Sigh.     clearly, this is the Bad part of Scrivener.

However, on balance, there is no question that the Good, far outweighs the Bad.  It's not even a close call.  AND...  the designers of Scrivener are working on an iPad version.  It would be easier if I were a patient person, which I'm not, but it's not as if I have a choice, and as much as I love writing with Scrivener, I know the wait will be well worth it.

So that leaves the Ugly part.. except there is no ugly part.  Scrivener is a beautifully designed piece of software.  Based on the website, it's apparently used by students writing papers, by technical people writing manuals, by lawyers writing appellate briefs...  and I can easily see how well it would work in each of those applications.  But don't take my word for it... click on the link on the right sidebar... there's a free 30 day test.  And don't worry about your busy schedule, because, unlike most tests, it's not 30 consecutive days, it's 30 days of use... no matter how far apart those days are.
I have no financial interest in Scrivener, and there is no referral program, not even any brownie points.. so don't bother looking for a place to enter my name.  I just really Really REALLY like it.

By the way, sitting here, eating my homemade peanut butter cookie and drinking a cup of Bewley's Irish afternoon tea.. an excellent combination.  But... I don't want to sell my Typhoo tea short, so I think I'll have to follow up with another cookie, and a cup of Typhoo.


  1. Hurray for Scrivener! I love it too! (and now I want a peanut butter cookie...)

  2. I beta'd the mac app for 2010's NaNo, and used my code to buy it that year for half price. Then 2011 came along and I decided I would use the code to purchase a Windows license for the software as well, that way I could use it on any of the pc's in the house. I must say, I wish there were mobile versions, but that is the only thing wrong so far.

  3. I haven't used this particular piece of software, but I'll certainly check it out. As an attorney in solo practice, I am always looking for tools that are free or cheap to let me work more efficiently. My office currently uses Libreoffice 3.6 (which is FREE! and does everything the $200 MS product does) and that's what I write my stuff in. I've been looking to branch out for different projects, however. I write fiction and plays on the side, and I've done all of these in LibreOffice Writer. One of the strange things about theatre, however, is that there's no shortage of "standard" formats for scripts: some publishers want to have the character names centered and in caps over the lines, others want it on the left in caps with a colon ("BOB: (sighing) I sure wish there was a single standard . . . "), some want it double-spaced, some want it single-spaced, and so on. I have discovered a tool for this called Celtx that supposedly allows you to quickly transfer from one format to another at the click of a button. I'm probably going to try doing my next play in that to see if it's as good as advertised, because dramatic switching from one format to another in LibreOffice is laborious.

    I'm wondering if Scrivener would be useful for fiction in terms of note-keeping. For instance, keeping straight how a character has been described or trivia about that character ("his mother died when she was 54 and he was 20") or (as you indicated) keeping track of trivia about a particular locale; like you, I try to keep things legit. (I'm writing a story set in Scott City, Kansas right now and I'm making sure I keep the streets and business names correct.)

    Thanks for the tip on this one. I'll definitely give it a look.

    1. Steven - You DEFINITELY need to check out Scrivener. It comes with five built-in templates... I tend to use the 'blank' one, but other templates include fiction, nonfiction, and scriptwriting. Beyond that, it's not difficult to create your own template, I know many who have, and will share what they've done. If you go to Literature&Latte's website (the Scrivener people), you'll see that they have a 30 day free trial. That's not 30 consecutive days, that's 30 days of use. So if you only open it on weekends, you've got a 3 1/2 month trial.

  4. So - my question is...what recipe did you use for the cookies? Because I have the best recipe ever...unless yours is better.