Saturday, 12 February 2011

Scrivener 2 - Josh Lacey

A month ago, I wrote here about jettisoning my trusty old word processor - Microsoft Word, if you must know - which I’ve been using since I first bought a computer, many years ago, and trying out a new piece of software instead, Scrivener, which is specifically aimed at writers. Novelists, screenwriters, journalists, academics - all of them, the publicity promises, will benefit.

I downloaded Scrivener and took advantage of the free trial, which allowed me to use the software for a month without paying a penny. If I wanted to keep using it, I’d have to pay 45 dollars. (Although Scrivener is based in Truro, it’s priced in dollars. I’d actually have to pay just over 30 quid.)

After about a week, I was enjoying using Scrivener - it looked nice and felt like a more pleasant working environment than Word - but but I couldn’t quite see the point. Then I came across this article written by Antony Johnston on his own use of Scrivener in which he says:
I enthuse about Scrivener to all of my friends. Some of them even listen to me, and download it. This is often swiftly followed by an email complaining that it's all very confusing and they'll stick to Microsoft Word, thanks.
Yes. I could understand that. Why did I need all these fiddly menus? Do I really have to read the manual? Isn’t Word easier and more straightforward?

Johnston provides a lengthy, detailed and mostly bewildering tutorial on using Scrivener, which I read several times. It’s a fascinating description of the way that a particular writer uses and adapts the tools of his trade. It made me see how Scrivener can be used; not as a revolutionary new advance which will change the way that you write, but as a neat, clever and well-designed tool that will allow you to work in the way that you already work, but rather more efficiently.

Some writers simply sit down at a piece of paper, write the first sentence of their novel and continue until they reach the end. They won’t have much use for Scrivener. But if your working habits are more chaotic, filled with scribbled notes, discarded ideas, half-forgotten thoughts, unused bits of research and all kinds of bits and pieces which you’ll consider, ponder, reject and forget while writing your actual book, Scrivener offers a very useful place to hold and order them all.

My favourite feature is one that probably exists in all kinds of other word processors too (although, if it’s in Word, I’ve never managed to find it). Press a couple of keys and everything disappears apart from the page that you’re writing.

I’ve spent a month playing with Scrivener, trying out different settings, slowly progressing with some notes and jottings towards a draft of the book that I was writing, and finally decided to buy it. I’m still not convinced that I’ll end up using it all the time, but I was sufficiently impressed to want to carry on exploring and experimenting.

Josh Lacey


Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

I agree that it helps you do what you do more efficiently (and have you discovered the name generator function? I love it even more now).

Neezes said...

I got Scriv (version 1) a year or two ago and I'm big covert. One thing I love is how easy it makes to navigate a big document. So chapters of a novel, for example, are all separate sections within the same 'binder' (rather than lots of fiddly word files or one massive one). You can then 'edit scrivenings' to look at them all together, or keep it separate. I really like the way it saves your cursor position on each and every section.

I never bother with all that split screen stuff. The tutorial was tedious but worth taking half an hour to go through.

I'd almost forgotten about the fade-all-the-other-crap option, it is excellent.

name generator? I'm excited!