Saturday, 1 October 2011

Scrivener. Discipline needed

In the good old (bad old?) days, I used to write with Word. Used it happily in the main, but it did have a few issues. What software doesn’t? But I wrote, on average between 2000-4000 words a day with music softly going on in the background. Some books, like the Sherlock Holmes “Murder at Oakwood Grange” come back to me whenever I hear certain pieces of music. I had a system. It worked. I switched on the computer, loaded Word and started writing.

Then I discovered Scrivener and my entire writing life changed. It can almost claim to do everything except make coffee. I have had to learn a whole new way of working. Writing scenes instead of chapters. Scrivener can store all your research, your manuscript, character studies, location details et al in the one project file. You can shift your scenes around at the click of a few buttons to give your story more tension or conflict. You can analyse the text to see if you have too many repeating words, you can set a novel wordcount and a session wordcount and keep abreast of your progress. When you are finished, you can compile your book, formatting it as you wish, including what you want to include and export it as a “ready for agent” manuscript or in epub format if it is an e-book, or as a pdf, a paperback novel, etc.

One drawback to all this ability is that using Scrivener requires quite a bit of discipline. As David Hewson says in his excellent e-book “Writing A Novel with Scrivener”, you don’t want to spend hours learning the software, you want to get on and write. And that is the one difficulty I have. Why? It is partly a need to write differently to the way I have for years. I've always written chapters in the correct sequence, not "scenes". In my chapters as in most novelists', there is usually more than one scene in a chapter.

It is also partly that when I open up the project file, I can see everything, and I mean everything, at a glance in the binder. Research, character information etc. I get distracted so easily, especially when, as now, outside influences are hindering me from focussing as much as I am used to and I find the story not flowing as it should.

There is a nifty way round this, of course. You can use Scrivener in full-screen mode so nothing appears on the screen except your words. So all I have to do really is discipline myself to use that before I allow the distractions to hold sway. That’s an easy one. A given.

The other thing about the software that I find completely incomprehensible at the moment is how to get the compile function programmed so that my scenes become chapters. I normally pick up software so very easily, but this bit has me completely bamboozled. I’ve read Hewson’s section on compiling several times. I know it’s in English but it might as well be Martian because I just don’t understand. Just at the moment, the tail is wagging the dog for me on this subject.

So, today, I am taking part in the amazing Jurgen Wolff’s Massive Action Day and one of my goals is to finally get to grips with ‘compile’. If I can’t, I shall admit defeat and ask the support team at Literature & Latte for help. But, one way or the other, I must fettle this one, because Scrivener is such a fantastic piece of software for writers of all kinds and there is no way on this planet that I will go back to using Word. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, 'compile'. Yes, I keep getting stuck on that one. I've been known to copy it all and paste it into Pages. (I used Pages rather than Word.) I do love Scrivener though. I spend most of my time in full screen mode and it's wonderful.

    I hope you've mastered 'compile'!