Friday, 7 January 2011

Scrivener - Josh Lacey

At the beginning of this new year, newly resolute, I'm working on a new book, and I've decided to use a new piece of software too. I heard of Scrivener several years ago, and thought about trying it, but never did. I suppose I'm very conservative: when something works - and my current word processor, with its quirks and annoyances, does work reasonably well - then I don't see much point changing it. Learning new software wastes a lot of time; and, although I'm a master of procrastination, if I’m going to waste an hour or two, I'd rather do the washing-up or go for a walk then stare at my computer’s screen.

But this year, for some reason, I feel the need for Scrivener. Perhaps my procrastination has just reached a deeper level. Or perhaps it really will make writing easier. Because Scrivener is, in the words of its website, "a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents."

I've downloaded the trial version. Thirty days for free. Which should be enough time to decide whether to keep using it (and pay the thirty quid fee).

First impressions. (After an hour.) I read the website and discovered that Scrivener is based in Cornwall, which immediately made me like it more. I downloaded it, started it up and began working my way through the tutorial. I hate tutorials, but this one isn’t too annoying. So far, Scrivener seems neat, cute and quite confusing.

Second impressions. (After a day.) I’ve started writing in Scrivener and still feel confused. I’m tempted to give up. Over the years, I’ve evolved ways of working with my computer, and feel uncomfortable jettisoning them to fit a new format. But I’m going to persevere for a little longer.

Third impressions. (After two days.) I’m beginning to appreciate how this might work. I wouldn’t say I’m a convert. Yet. But I’m enjoying writing with a piece of software which is specifically designed for writers. There are lots of nice touches. Ways of organising chapters, drafts, notes and bits of research. I do have reservations and I still can’t decide whether all these nice little innovations are rather useful or entirely pointless, but I’m going to carry on.

In a month's time, I'm going to write another blog here, and I'll let you know if I've decided to pay the fee for Scrivener or gone back to my old, familiar word processor. Or jettisoned them both and started using a pencil and a piece of paper.

Does anyone else use Scrivener? Any tips?

Josh Lacey

http://www.joshlacey.com

10 comments:

Joan Lennon said...

Interesting ... I can certainly see uses, but, like you, I already have my own ways of doing much of this stuff, though much less elegantly. I look forward to your next report!

And I would love to know what happens next to Emma and the Squid!

Anne Cassidy said...

Boys and toys. Enough said.

catdownunder said...

This is where I start to feel totally hopeless. I just sit down and write. Done this way I suspect it is a terribly messy process! I wonder how many people actually use these things and whether they could not do it for themselves.

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

I downloaded Scrivener during Nano, it was one of the presents they were giving. The windows version is full of bugs and I presume you have the Mac version, but I am a convert. After working through the tutorial, I thought no way this is so complicated, but as soon as I ran into problems in the wip I began to see how useful it was.
I love the fact that you can move the chapters around just like that. When you are working with multiple plot lines I was able to write the main characters plot line all the way through, then I went back and did the sub plot and slipped that into the right places. If you want to chop a character, you just do a character search and find where they are and chop them out... So, it's not just boys and toys ;)

Stroppy Author said...

Hmm, interesting. I look forward to your report on it in a month. I've stayed away from these as I build an Access database if a book needs a lot of things tracking and just use printouts and pen for simpler things. But I shall certainly come back to read your evaluation. And I'm not a boy.

Lucy Coats said...

I'm not a boy either (!) and I'm going to look forward to your next report too, Josh. I'm a bit worried by what Mich V says about Windows bugs though--I can do without any more of those. At the moment I'm using my normal mode of lots of files and huge mindmaps and post it notes....

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Hi Lucy, it's still in Beta mode for windows, with the real version coming out sometime in Spring I think. The windows version is always going to be slightly different to the mac version (grr...) and I'm now giong to slink away now before I come across as a complete geek!

Josh Lacey said...

I use a mac, so I don't know anything about the windows version. Sorry. It works perfectly on a mac, though.

Andrew Strong said...

I've always wondered how much technology influences how we write: clay, slate, papyrus...the invention of paper, the pencil, then the fountain pen, ball points etc. There must be writers who steadfastly refuse to use anything but loose leafed paper, perhaps there are some who still use the typewriter. But the thing is, apart from the obvious (eg the chisel!) is it possible to tell from a writer's output the technology he or she prefers? If you stick to Scrivener, Josh (and you've tempted me to look at it) will it change what you write?

Josh Lacey said...

Andrew - yes, I think technology has a huge effect on the way we work (and think). But using Scrivener isn't like moving from pen and paper to screen and keyboard; so far, it just seems like a simpler and more efficient way of using a word processor. As if the software is working for me, rather than struggling against me. So, no, I don't think it'll have much influence what I actually produce; but it might make the whole process of production a little bit smoother and quicker.