Scrivener App for Writers, Part 1


New Year, new writing tool?

I’ve been staunchly refraining from getting Scrivener for several reasons:

  1. It’s a writing app, and I think of myself as a writing “purist”; my writing idols — Bradbury, Flannery O’Connor, Hemingway, Stephen King, Angelou, Butler — didn’t have “apps,” they had ink/typewriter and paper. Therefore, I don’t need electronic bells and whistles to get my ideas across.
  2. A lot of writers I work with or edit for use it, and they’ve told me it’s a “game changer.” I’m a contrarian, and when enough people rave about a movie/book/product I *have* to check out, I’m more disinclined to do so.
  3. Also, I’m more disinclined to try something described as a “game changer.” That phrase belongs in the dated handbook for socializing that also contains such gems as: Why wear one polo shirt when you can layer the awesomeness? and Get with a girl who’s beautiful but doesn’t know it.
  4. I’ve edited some stories that have been done in Scrivener and, compared to the writers’ previous output, the Scrivener stories are now bloated with too much irrelevant information. For example: focus on the main character(s) has/have been diluted because now there’s a cast of half a dozen points of view that appear for one or two short chapters and contribute nothing more than a glance into an unnecessary plot twist or plot device. Another example: things that belong on an index card or character notes are now creeping into the story; show me how a character’s turbulent childhood makes him distrust people in power through his interactions — let me figure it out on my own, or trickle it in so it builds tension. This is usually better than telling me about it and wasting story real estate on backstory when I’d much rather see how the character intends to save the world, plans to save the world, tries to save the world, succeeds in saving/fails to save the world.
  5. I’d been waiting for the company to make an iPad app for Scrivener. When they finally did, I’d already gotten a laptop and didn’t need a mobile app as badly as I did before. What sucks is that the iOS version costs about $50, AND I’d have to spend about another $20 for the mobile app. I could just buy one or the other, but they’re both on the expensive side.

But I finally caved and downloaded the trial version because:

  1. Sure, my writing idols never needed bells and whistles, but they were using bells and whistles appropriate for their times. Writing stories is, at its core, attempting to communicate complex ideas and emotions. In order to do so in the digital age, I should probably take advantage of digital resources. (And stop pretentiously thinking of myself as a writing “purist.”)
  2. A lot of people have recommended it to me, and people who recommend movies/books/products usually believe in what they’re recommending, and there’s usually a good reason or several good reasons for that belief.
  3. Sometimes “game changers” really do change the game.
  4. Yes, it’s $20-$50, but people who create good products deserve to get paid.

New year, new writing tool…maybe. Trying it out:

Thoughts so far:

  1. Once you download it, there’s an operating manual. READ IT. Oh my god, READ THE MANUAL. If there’s one major criticism I have from my first interaction with Scrivener, it’s that it’s not very intuitive (mostly because it has an incredible array of features and has to be compatible with other writing programs and must be useful to people coming from different platforms). If you’re eager to import an existing project or start a new one, you can just read the Quick Start version. If you’re a masochist an editor like me, read the whole thing. It took me a weekend of stop-starts to get through. (I read it in between diaper changes, breastfeeding, cooking meals, doing laundry, shopping, hanging out with the Fam, and running errands.)
  2. Once you’re done reading the manual, focus on what you need it to do, and review those sections in the manual/experiment on fake or old files. For example, I need Scrivener to compose a story, import/export editing comments and changes, and ultimately upload a novel to Kindle. I reviewed and experimented to make sure it could do what I needed it to do before sinking any more time into learning how to use it. Good news: it can do all that.
  3. The bells and whistles are really tempting to play with. I’ll need discipline to focus on what I need to get done by the deadlines.

I’ll post more as I continue trying it out…

Other Writing articles:

Uploading a table of contents to Kindle from Mac Pages.
Writing: Sorry About Being a Woman.

Have questions?

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