Thursday, 5 September 2013

My Love For Scrivener Continues...

I mentioned awhile ago, I'm sure I did, that I had moved over to using Scrivener for my writing. At first it was just because Word does its weird auto-formatting thing that makes e-books unpredictable. As you have to use Word to upload to Smashwords (though, I think they do now take epub, but you still need to get your word document to epub somehow), I wanted a more reliable way than writing the whole thing and then spending hours removing all the formatting and redoing the whole thing. 

I had heard a bit about Scrivener, and one friend had tried to tell me that if I was serious about writing I should really test it out. So I finally took the plunge and signed up for their 30 day trial (which, by the way is awesome because it counts the number of days you use it for, not 30 calendar days from when you sign up.) 

I'm in love. I don't think I've taken up a new piece of software as quickly as I've accepted Scrivener. I can't imagine working on any of my drafts not using it now. It does take some getting used to, but its benefits are so useful straight away that it's worth it.

I highly recommend watching at least the 10 minute video tutorial, because it is so packed with features that it is hard to work out everything it can do. I must admit, there is a 30 minute walk through tutorial which I've never done, but maybe one day I will. 

I'm still discovering a lot of the features, and there are a few things which I find annoying and am sure there must be a way around, I just haven't worked them out yet. However, I just wanted to highlight one way that it has totally changed my writing. 

Scrivener works in scenes and chapters, and when you are finished you 'compile' it altogether into whatever document type you need. So I've been going through importing the previous stories I've written in Word, and breaking them up into scenes so I can see how it is all fitting together. This has highlighted a serious problem in my previous writing: my chapter and scene lengths were all over the place!

Scrivener automatically displays the word count for that section down the bottom. So as I've been dividing these long documents into their scenes, I've suddenly realised that my chapters vary between 1,000 and 4,000+ words! This might be okay if I were doing it on purpose to make certain points. But I wasn't, I just wasn't writing very well.

I'm currently going through my 50,000 word draft of After The Winter. It is really illuminating to see it all broken up into scenes, because I can see where I need to expand, and other areas that are too long. Using Scrivener's outline form (which looks like cue cards on a corkboard, see below) I can type up short summaries of each scene and what I need to add to make the story work. It is giving me a clear path on what needs to be done and taken away a lot of the fear I had about it last night (to the point where I didn't start editing at all, because I was just overwhelmed with what needed to be done). 

It also helps that I can easily jump around the entire document, because the scenes outlined on the left hand side. When you are editing and/or planning, this is invaluable because I keep getting ideas like 'oh, I need to explain that when they first meet', and can skip back, put a note on the card, and be back to where I was in less than 20 seconds. Much easier than scrolling to where you think that scene was, trying to find somewhere you can leave a note, then scrolling back to where you were. 

So hopefully I will have a much more evenly written book by the time I'm finished, and more fun while I'm doing the actual writing (which is not to be underestimated).

Anyone else have great tips or features they have found with Scrivener?

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