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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Scrivener: Writing Heaven, Procrastination Hell–or Vice Versa?


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By Olga Palma
Scrivener is a piece of software designed specifically for writers and it’s the newest, sharpest tool in my writing kit. I’ve only been using it for a couple of days, but it’s already revolutionised my working process. I’m neither related to, nor paid by, Scrivener’s developers, Literature and Latte, by the way. I just thought the application has already done so much for me, you might benefit from it, too.

I told you about my trip to the RNA Conference here. During Ian Skillicorn’s Going Solo talk on self-publishing and promotion at the conference, he spoke about the expense and variable results associated with using untried formatters from small ads to produce copy for Amazon and other ebook publishers. Someone from the audience championed Scrivener’s “Compile” feature. I, and a lot of other people there, were intrigued so I checked out the Literature and Latte website as soon as I got home. 

Computers are a complete and total mystery to me. OH sets them up.  All I do is switch them on at the mains, type, and control-save occasionally. That’s it. That's the full extent of my technical know-how, and yet within minutes I’d managed to download Scrivener, and dive in to the 30-day free trial. 

I was hooked straight away. At first sight it’s a bit overwhelming, but asking a question on Twitter brought me loads of encouragement and news of  the invaluable tips produced by Gwen Hernandez. Scrivener’s own tutorials walk you through from stage to stage, and Scrivener for Dummies (naturally!) fills in any gaps.  

I’m fully immersed in a new Scrivener-based work-in-progress now, complete with project targets, typewriter scrolling (no distractions, apart from a backdrop photo of the novel’s setting) and my fully developed and organised outline only a click away whenever I need to call it up.

Is there any downside to Scrivener? Yes, and it’s an enormous one. It’s the very fact this application brings so many brilliant features, wrinkles, devices and downright blessings to your fingertips. It would be the easiest thing in the world to spend so long setting up your perfect template, devising metadata, collections and all the other tweaks and refinements you can make to your workspace paradise, you never get around to doing any actual writing

At the start of this blog I called Scrivener the sharpest tool in my writing kit, and like my favourite kitchen knife, there’s one big risk attached. In my experience, the risks in both cases are far outweighed by their advantages. 

My advice is, go for the free Scrivener trial but make sure the first features you nail are the ones under the tab marked "Project". Set up your "session" and "project" targets, then this app will calculate how much you need to do, and by when. It re-calculates automatically, so you're faced with a new objective every day. During your writing sessions, the sliders move from the orange danger zone into your green target area. Then (and only then!) you can go wandering off-piste on the Scrivener trail by watching one of the many YouTube tutorials, or by visiting Scrivener on Facebook and Twitter.

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on!