Sunday, December 02, 2012

Writers' tech: trying out Scrivener

As the latest step in either true procrastination tactics or an attempt to get a handle on the whole manuscript and where the latest piece fits, I started moving chapters into Scrivener yesterday. I had tried before but had given up the lengthy tutorial because hey, the Internet has destroyed my attention span just as it has everyone else's. There was a 10-minute video at the site that gave me the basics, though, so with that I marched ahead.

What had made me buy it in the first place was the cult-like devotion that Scrivener users seem to have for the program, and who doesn't need another cult to join? Seriously, though, there were two main reasons for finally trying it:

  1. I can put the chapters along the side, one folder per chapter, and break it down from there, so I can really see what sections I've got and what I still have to write. 
  2. A corkboard with index cards on the screen! How cool is that? I can't figure out yet how to get the corkboard to look like the screenshot, but breaking the chapters down so that each main topic in one gets a section (and an index card) looks like a good plan.
A highly productive colleague who's writing a book right now has index cards of various colors on her walls as an organizational tool.  I tried that, but there were problems: I spent more time rearranging the cards than Martha Stewart would give to a wall display of antique plates, and, once I was on my feet, it was too easy to wander away from the computer in search of distractions. "Apply seat of pants to seat of chair" is still good writing advice, even if I can read things standing up or even walking on the treadmill. 

There are all sorts of other features I haven't figured out yet-- how to use the Research folder, for example.  Although my desk has a "mind-map" quality to it, with things spatially arranged for what I'm using now--the air-traffic controller model--I've never been able to use official mind mapping or brainstorming or whatever they're calling it this year. On the screen, there has to be a linear order, and what I'm hoping Scrivener can give me is a way to visualize the order even for things that are out of sight. 


Anonymous said...

I have a similar conversion story. I'm not sure I'm in love yet, but I am desperately grateful at the ease with which I took a big document and moved it into Scrivener. I bought it for the index-card-on-corkboard thing because I,too, had been using real index cards. Since they weren't linked to anything, I could rearrange every week but still have an unwieldy document that didn't reorganize easily.

I'm not in love yet. I know almost none of the tools despite doing the whole (holy guacamole it's long) tutorial. But the editing process is infinitely easier.

Glad you found a new tool. Hope it furthers your text and your goals.

undine said...

naptimewriting, I am going to try the tutorial again when I have a minute, but I think it will have more meaning if I've already wrestled with the program. I have tried real index cards over the past few years but had the same problem: I could rearrange the cards but not the text.

Jonathan said...


It definitely takes time to get used to it and I'm not there yet either. It's been really good for helping me get a lot of complex, non-narrative things on paper but at a certain point I still have to convert to Word to get the little things right, especially footnotes.

undine said...

Jonathan--I'm still working mostly in Word and then pasting it into Scrivener because I can't always get Scrivener to do things (because I don't know how). I think it'll be very helpful eventually, though.