Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Is Scrivener really awesome or am I a Luddite?

showcase-scrivener_headerMany writers now are using the “powerful content-generation tool” called Scrivener to generate their powerful content. I don’t, but hearing about it has made me feel like I’m missing out in some unknown way, even though I’m generating plenty of content just typing away on my Mac. I guess I don’t quite appreciate the innovative features the program offers, like the “binder” and “corkboard,” which must be something like a binder and a corkboard, only purer, with more binderness and corkboardness than the genuine articles. With Scrivener you can use “index cards” that look like old-fashioned index cards, with virtual “pushpins” in some modes, if you like. You can “shuffle” these cards “around” and put them in different “order,” just like in real life. And you can write snippets of powerful content and “insert” them into your document and rearrange “them” at will.

Here’s some powerful content that the Scrivener web site uses as an example of the kinds of things you can do with this software:

Emma saw the giant tentacle quivering outside the window. Her knowledge of marine biology being light, at first she mistook its tentative exploratory movements for the gentle concessions of a willow to the wind; it was only when the glass shattered and she found herself in the cephalopod’s clammy embrace that she thought to pull the Uzi from her garter.*

I’m being facetious, of course. I can actually see the benefits of this kind of tool, and I might even give it a shot in a free 30-day trial. Truth is, I’m old enough to remember being a little skeptical of this thing called the “word processor” back in the eighties, though I broke down and bought an Apple II in ‘86, along with clunky software called PFS Write. It really helped.

Before that I typed on a typewriter. Or, in practice, I’d write in longhand and then type a draft, mark it up, then retype it. There was a time, in college, when I didn’t have access to a copy machine and had to resort to carbon paper, for chrissakes, which is something you kids want no part of. Be glad you were born when you were! I also went through a period of cutting and pasting — literal cutting and pasting, not “cutting” and “pasting” like nowadays on Word. I’d scissor out passages from one page and tape them onto another, then retype the whole thing again. Talk about tedious. And don’t get me started on the stuff called Wite-Out…

So things are getting better and more efficient, and I might have to become a late adapter in this case and pop for a copy of Scrivener one day. The only problem is, I’ve been doing things the way I’ve been doing them for so long that I’m afraid I’ll spend too much time futzing with my “corkboard” and “index cards” and not enough actually writing.

*Real quote. No kidding.

9 comments on “Is Scrivener really awesome or am I a Luddite?

  1. Jonathan Humphreys
    May 31, 2013

    I’ll admit that I didn’t really see much in the way of the point of Scrivener myself, when I heard about it, until I somehow bought a similar app on the iPad (IndexCard, to be specific). Looked into it a little bit more, made a note to maybe buy it when I could afford it, and then did so after earning a discount on it (Yay for NaNoWriMo \o/). Wondering why I didn’t get it sooner, to be honest.

    It’s been a big help in writing the narrative of a small murder mystery game I made for a college assignment (which would otherwise have been a massive headache juggling multiple Notepad windows). I had the descriptions of each room in the game written on a single “card”, which in turn acted as a folder to hold further cards with descriptions of each clue within that room, and the split-screen feature allowed to go back to another card to double-check something without losing my place in the card I was working in at the time.

    If I had one complaint about it, though, it would be that when you buy it, you can only buy it for one OS, as far as I know. Buying the Mac version won’t allow you to use the Windows version and vice versa, which might suck if you have both Windows PCs and Macs about the house that you might switch between. On the plus side, though, Windows users do get access to the beta Linux version, I think.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 31, 2013

      Sounds like you found just the right use for it, Jonathan. There is a confusion-averting side to these applications.

      As for the OS problem, that is pretty much the industry way, as far as I can see. They want two purchases from you.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Samira Aveline
    May 31, 2013

    I loved reading this. I can *so* relate.

    I started using Scrivener a couple of years ago when I “won” a 50% off coupon through Nanowrimo. The truth is, I spend way too much time futzing with my “corkboard” and “index cards” and I am afraid that I am not properly utilizing even half of the tools available. Having said that, I love love love it.

    I can not tell you the number of times that I have needed to do something (like remember the name of that secondary character I mentioned briefly 50 pages ago) and Scrivener has made it a thousand times easier than it used to be to do it. My poor husband has endured countless ravings as I have a tendency to run into the room he is in and declare enthusiastically “I love Scrivener!”.

    Yeah, the old ways work … and in some cases work well enough. Still, even with the learning curve and all the futzing – I am positive that using Scrivener has saved me time and tears.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 31, 2013

      Sounds like a thumbs-up! I’ve had just that problem before myself and have spent too much time trying to guess what I named so-and-so (and can’t recall what color eyes I gave her!).

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Samira Aveline
        May 31, 2013

        *grin* Well, I don’t know you well enough to comment on the Luddite question, so I had to stick to what I know. 😉 Thanks for the post.

  3. L. Marie
    June 1, 2013

    I have to laugh, because I had this same conversation with my friends who use Scrivener and swear by it. I took the 30-day trial, and enjoyed it, but was already too deep in my novel and didn’t see the sense of transferring all of my files from Word to Scrivener and then back to Word. The jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll try it again.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 1, 2013

      I worry about that with the trial as well. I’d hate to get knee-deep into something and then realize that going back to the old WP was going to be a fiasco.

      I wonder if Scrivener would help with blogging, though… 😉

  4. Phillip McCollum
    June 1, 2013

    As of about a year ago, Scrivener became my go-to choice. I moved over from Word and Google Docs.

    Worried about futzing around with the corkboard and all the other unique features? You should be. 🙂

    In all honesty, you probably need to spend a couple of days just going through the tutorial and experimenting with the software before you begin to actually “use” it for your writing. Otherwise, it can be very daunting. Another thing to remember is that you don’t have to use ALL of the features. The beauty of the program is that it’s very flexible and you can use it in whatever manner makes sense for you. I personally don’t like the corkboard, but the outline view is fantastic.

    Anyway, I’d say if you’re not near a deadline for a project, give it a try. I think if you learn the ins and outs, like any powerful system, you’ll find it to be so much better than what you’re used to.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 1, 2013

      Good advice. Thank you. I haven’t looked at the tutorial yet, but you’re absolutely right about not having to use all the features. It usually takes me quite a while to find a use for everything an app can do.

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2013 by in Et alia, Writing and tagged , , , , .
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