Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Scrivener - a quick appraisal

I’ve been using Scrivener now for a few months and must say that I really like it. Sometimes I feel that it’s like using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut, but learning which bits are useful is an ongoing process. So much so, that, on Paul’s advice, I now devote one morning a week to learning something new and then spend the rest of the week working it into my daily writing.

Basically, for those who have not come across it, Scrivener is a multi-tasking piece of software whereby you can collect all your research, import relevant files and pictures, write scenes as stand-alones and then rearrange them in the order you want, have a ‘corkboard’ of cards for synopses for each scene/chapter etc. etc. all in one file or project. The left hand side of the screen – the “binder” – is a one-look overview of what you have in that file. You can work with split screens. The other week, I was writing an account of my fictional queen’s coronation for the third Luke Ballard book. I needed to check back on a contemporary account of Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533. So I worked with a split screen, one side was my chapter and the other side was the account. I was able to scroll down the research document, find what I needed and immediately begin to relate the events in my fictional account. When you have finished, you can compile the scenes/chapters and export them as a Word document in a format that most editors will accept for submissions.

There is a lot of support on the net, including video tutorials, an instruction manual – huge – which I did print out and interactive tutorials. And, one of the best things, the package is very affordable. I tried it out free for about a week and then bought it. It has helped my writing in several ways. The most useful so far is the ease with which I can write scenes out of order and then play about with where I want them to be in the finished document.

So, there has to be a downside, doesn’t there? Yes, there is. I still can’t find a formatting method whereby after a double space denoting the end of one section and the beginning of the next, the first line of the new part will be blocked and not indented. As this is a basic requirement of fiction editors, I can't work out why I can't find out how to do it.

The other downside is that I am the kind of person who works better with a tutor and a course, so I just wish that somebody somewhere in the north of England would run a ‘Scrivener for Writers’ workshop for a couple of days, purely so that they could show me – s l o w l y – how to use the various components that I need for me. The videos are good, but the instructions are too fast and by the time I've assimilated them, the instructor is on the next but one bit.

That said, it’s still a cracking piece of software and one with which I will persevere.

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