Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scrivener for Windows Update

I wrote about some tools I've found for writing, for both the PC and the iPad, in a previous post. This post is a brief update on the writing program Scrivener.

I'd like to get a MacBook Pro, but it's not in the budget. Scrivener is in version 2.0 (I believe) for the Mac but is still in beta for Windows. The current beta version is .26. The finished product is set to be released in August, if they stay on schedule. I believe it's only $35. I've had no problems with the beta but many features are still missing.

Scrivener is a feature-laden program; there's a steep learning curve if you want to use it all. I was drawn to it because it lets you organize your work into chapters and/or scenes.

I wrote both my novels in Word 97, with each chapter as a separate document. That worked well for about the first half of the book, but when I wrote the last half I had a hard time remembering some character names and who did what to whom. To dig the info out I had to first remember which chapter it was in so I could open the correct document and run searches until I found what I was looking for. Sometimes I found it quickly, sometimes it took a while.

After the first draft was written I combined all the chapter documents into one big file. That worked better for searches but was a large cumbersome file to handle.

I've been writing my next Grant Starr novel scene-by-scene, with each scene in a separate tab in Scrivener. It's been so much easier to go back and find something or someone. In addition, Scrivener has easy-to-use summary features. There's a box on the right side of the screen—when you're not in full-screen writing mode, which I usually am—where you can jot down notes about what happens in the scene. You can also organize chapters and scenes with file cards and a character-based flow chart.

Another thing I've done differently is write scenes out of chronological order. I'd stick with one character and write what they do, say, throughout the week. Then I'd go back and break that document up so it fits chronologically. It's helped with character consistency because I could focus on what one person was doing. I didn't do this with my first two books; they were written straight through from scene one to the final scene.

The problem with jumping around in time is it's easy to lose the continuity of the work. Because you're jumping around in time, it's difficult at times to picture the plot chronologically. The fix is to edit the scenes and chapters as one continuous document, which Scrivener lets you do. It's not as smooth as editing one document in Word, but it still allows you to keep your story organized into scenes and chapters, if you choose to do so.

I place my Scrivener file in my DropBox directory so it's automatically backed up on the "cloud" and it's backed up via my portable hard drive. Scrivener also lets you make a zipped back up file at any time.

I do a lot of writing on my iPad, with either OmnWriter or iA Writer. Both programs save files in simple .txt file formats so they're easy to import into Scrivener. If you want to edit part of a Scrivener file, you have to export it to a .txt file, then place it in the DropBox directory. Once done, you can access the file from your iPad. iWriter links directly with DropBox through their menu.

I plan on buying Scrivener when it becomes available. If and when I get a Mac, I'll have to buy the Mac version. I won't mind because I'll finally have a Mac and it's only $35 (maybe $45, I forget).


  1. Hi, Ev. I'm learning Scrivener myself, and I've found that the tutorials found online don't always help because the interface shown looks nothing like mine. Would you be willing to post some of what you do with some graphics? I have to see it to understand. Or, do you know some links with some graphics?

  2. I've been using the beta and haven't had any issues with it, other than the "learning curve". Once you get the hang of the note cards and arranging chapters and scenes, it's not bad. I can't wait for the full release.