Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Super Tool

I've lauded Scrivener several times, and based on comments and emails, I know a few of you are very interested in this software. Allow me to gush. I mentioned early on that I found Scrivener while hunting for a writing software for Mac. There were several for PCs but I didn't like their wizard styling--the "my computer writes better than I do" tool with prompts and suggestions. Blech! I started a blog called Writer's Diet to review writing software. I even devised a rating chart. There was one post for Storyteller before I found Scrivener. Instead of writing about it, I dove into my novel with it.

It was easy to import and organize 22 separate Word documents. In the Inspector pane I made notes, used the synopsis tool, and was able to color code. Immediately I was hooked and it changed everything. I became efficient, dedicated, organized, and enthusiastic. The time between writing grew shorter and the dedicated time became intense. This is an essential tool in my writing.

With Scrivener I can move scenes, shift chapters, promptly rename anything, format everything, find/replace all chapters at once, use the statistics tool to get a grasp on the entire project (word count, pages), compile a draft for export to another format: .doc, html, etc, and numerous other marvelous things. Here are some images to illustrate how Scrivener helps me:
Early on, the cork board was critical to helping me organize and then edit my whale of a story. I firmly believe I was overwhelmed by the size of my project, and now it's double!

Binder, Cork Board, and Inspector
Inspector Detail
In Scrivener I loved clicking on and dragging an index card or simply moving a scene from one chapter to another in the Binder section (far left).

I used yellow to identify Chapters. The red tacks above indicate scenes I felt were final. I used blue for a new scene while green meant editing required. In the screen shot below, you can see red and yellow tacks as well as the red and yellow colors in the Binder Section on the far left. I love how I have multiple views of color coding. It's possible to even color the entire index card.
Binder, Cork Board split view with text, and Inspector

This is actually a view I intend to use on my next project now that I'm familiar with Scrivener and how to maximize its usefulness. I like that I can see so much information all a once with the split plane allowing me to type while viewing the cork board. Of course, there's an option to use full screen for typing (removing all other panes).
Pics in Research

I expected to use the photos far more in my research and text to help me visualize Downtown. It's a marvelous concept, but now I believe it'll be more useful to me with a script. There's a wonderful FB page for Scrivener where people post how they use Scrivener, or highlight elements they find useful. I'm eager to read how others implemented photos in their writing.

Script Options
Formatting is easy if for one reason--you don't have to open 40 separate docs. Okay, maybe I'm a rare bird for always using a new doc for a new chapter, but I needed to compartmentalize and when I was editing, I found it much easier to handle 13 pages versus 220. As I'm still learning Scrivener, I don't know how to alter the entire project all at once so I try to commit to the style early (font, size, margins). As there are very limited specs for manuscripts, this is rarely an issue. I love the script options, though. I look forward to reading how others rate these.

When exporting, Scrivener gives excellent control to formatting. If, like me, you like Chapter titles, you name the folder that contains the scenes and then include that in your export.

In formatting, you can assign font and size. I have Titles and Subtitles and really enjoy this feature. In Text Options I always use the Scene Break option and love that I can force my emdashes to remain solid.

If an editor prefers italics to be underlined, Scrivener makes that a simple change. It also formats the Headers and Footers so all my pages are numbered with my name and the name of the novel. With a single click, I can turn this feature off and make a clean copy for publication.

A feature I used a lot was selecting what to print. In the main Compile screen, it's possible to select specific chapters. I'd often focus on those that featured a certain character.  It's also possible to check off which chapters should be included for the export from the Inspector pane in the main screen. I love the ease of being able to select and assign from various screens.

When compiling a export, another small but useful feature allows you to place a page break anywhere you want. (I'm boring--it's always before a new chapter).

If you click on the image above and examine the far right, you'll see that you can include Folder Titles. That's how I name my chapters. I never have to format the titles into the text.

Something I think is incredibly useful, I've yet to use. But soon I will as I prepare my Compiled Draft for e-publication. Recently I clicked on the Export Format (lower right) and this menu opened.
When I saw that it had an HTML option I WHOOPED with joy. I know that there will be a lot of work preparing my novel for upload but this option makes the first, major step a ton easier.

Two other tools I'd like to mention are simple features that give me great pleasure or assistance. One is obviously useful: The Project Statistics. Who doesn't love to know how large the whole project is while also investigating the stats on the new scene you're writing? I used this feature daily during NaNoWriMo. For me it was like dangling a chocolate cookie. Period. Just dangle a chocolate cookie.

The other feature I rarely used but the one time I did, it was a life saver. My stick drive DIED. I'd been moving between my laptop and desktop so often, I kept my main copy of Strong Enough on the stick drive. When it died, a month of rigorous, important work disappeared. I'd not used Time Machine in a month (I use it every seven days now). Luckily two things happened in the days before: I exported a full copy of my novel and I'd used Scrivener's Outline tool.

As you can see from the options, you can make this feature as detailed as you like. I'd just done this and I printed it (not actually an easy function--I copied the screen image painstakingly into Word to print. Maybe the newest version of Scrivener makes this easier?). This was such a life-saver because I'd made notes about what was happening or what I wanted to work on and these were included in my Outline. I was able to fully reconstruct my novel. Now I use Dropbox in addition to Time Machine. Please click on the link if you don't know about Dropbox. Trust me.

There's a newer version of Scrivener. I couldn't afford even its tiny upgrade fee a few months ago but I'm splurging this summer and also I'll spend some time with the user gurus featured on Scrivener's FB page.

Thank you Scrivener. I can't imagine writing without you.

This was written while listening to my "Strong Enough" soundtrack. :-)