Scrivener Revisited

02.07.14 | Comment?

Nearly a year ago I caught word in my social media circles that Scrivener download codes were on sale for only $20 at Amazon. For those not in the know, Scrivener is writing software. For years it had the reputation of being the go-to software for serious writers, but was only available for the Mac. Later that excuse was demolished with a Windows version but then the $40 price tag kept me from taking the plunge. After all, I’d been writing just fine with Word for many years. In fact, I found the “track changes” tool absolutely invaluable in my writing collaborations with Ed, Jerry, and the rest of my partners at 12 to Midnight and I was afraid that I’d feel its absence.

But $20; that was a different story. For one thing, 12 to Midnight collaborations had pretty much dried up. Not that there wasn’t occasional work to be done, but by last Spring we had already entered a new phase in writing. To use a musical analogy, the band was still technically together but we were mostly working on solo projects. I wanted to focus more on fiction and Scrivener has a reputation for being a great tool.

And hey, $20.

Scrivener is sold via digital download, so I paid my money, got a download from Amazon, found out that it was just the program that validates my code and initiate the download from Scrivener’s site, and finally got it installed.

My first impression: boy is it different than Word.

My second impression: the tutorial is TWO HOURS?

I’d already bought the thing though, so I sat in bed with the laptop and soldiered through 45 minutes of lessons before deciding that I’d had enough of that and it was time for some hands-0n. I added info on my characters, messed around with organization, and basically poked and prodded. Then I gave up.

The thing was (and is), my writing time is very valuable to me because it’s in such short supply. After having invested a couple nights of my precious writing time trying to learn how to use the software, I was done. I could either keep trying to overcome the learning curve for new software to do what I was already doing in Word, or I could write.

Also important, at the time I didn’t have a regular writing routine so I was using whichever computer was surrounded by the least distraction at the time. One day I might use the laptop another the desktop. I vaguely recall that the license allowed me to install on two machines (but I may be totally wrong about that), but even so I didn’t look forward to passing files back and forth. Maybe if I’d paid the full $40 I would have been more invested in trying to make it work, but the same price point that made it worth the risk for me to try made it easy to walk away.

Fast forward to February 2014. Scrivener came up in a friend’s conversation in Facebook and I related a significantly shorter version of what I’ve explained here. It got me thinking, though. In the story I’m revising I’ve had to cut whole scenes, some of which has really great dialog that I hope to recycle. I didn’t want to delete the text but I didn’t want it cluttering up my Word document either. I recalled that Scrivener was designed with that sort of scenario in mind. Also, I’m three months into a new writing routine in which I write during my lunch break at work. All my writing takes place on my ancient (6-7 year old) laptop, so no need to worry about Scrivener licenses or passing files back and forth. Maybe it was worth another try.

So yesterday for the first time in months I opened the program. My first job was letting it update to a never version, which was easily done. Next, I went online looking for video tutorials. I found the video below, which did a better job of explaining Scrivener basics in 10 minutes than the tutorial I used last time. I wish that I’d had the patience to watch this video last year because I think it would have gone a long way toward reducing the friction I felt during the learning process.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Scrivener, I highly recommend watching this video. It’s worth your 10 minutes.

Now I’ve important my short story into Scrivener using the “short fiction” template and moved all my cut scenes out of the main story but still accessible at the click of a button. I then began work on the next scene, which I’d already outlined and added as a note card. Scrivener, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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