megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
[personal profile] megwrites
If you'll remember way back in this post, I asked about writing software for a Mac computer, and got a fair amount of very helpful responses.

Scrivener was a very popular software recommended to me, so I decided to do the 30 day trial.




Over all, I really did like Scrivener and I see why it got a lot of +1's and recommendations in the post I put out. It is a good program, and while no one feature that it has is something you can't find somewhere else for free (as-you-type word count, full screen display, outliner, etc), it's got them all together in one place and in such a way that it's easier to organize.

I took some screenshots so that you can see what I'm talking about, using my current project (which I've partially written in the Scrivener program)

I think the most helpful part of the program, as far as my writing process and my organizational style goes, is this:




[Image: screenshot of drafting and synopsis view of Scrivener writing program with the synopsis box circled in red.]

This is where, basically, you write the various parts, chapters, sections or what have you of your project (novel, thesis, article, etc). And in this particular view the synopsis that you write for your chapter is visible in the little box in the upper right hand corner.

The synopsis feature can be generated either by typing it into the box, as seen on the screen or filling in an index card for that item (chapter, section, etc) or you can even have an auto generated synopsis that is taken from the first few lines of the text in that item.

I found this extremely useful. When writing, I tend to come up with an outline, then get to the nitty-gritty of writing and lose track of that outline. I forget where a chapter should stop or start or when things are supposed to happen. I'm sort of an "out of sight, out of mind" writer. When I'm working with the actual text of the story, I go where the scene takes me. That can lead to getting things out of order, having Event 3 happen before Events 1 and 2, for instance.

So this synopsis window helps me keep track of what the purpose of that individual chapter is. By having it, I can easily look up and see that chapter three is just supposed to introduce Character A and have her get into a swordfight, and that it's, and that the Big Reveal doesn't come until two chapters later.

That was the feature I liked the best.

My (close) second favorite feature was being able to see each chapter individually. I write from beginning to end, straight through most times. Being able to easily click through them individually rather than scrolling through a single, long manuscript is very convenient for me.

Another helpful feature is there's a little word count doohickey (why yes that is the technical term) at the bottom of your screen that actually counts the words as you write them.




[Image: Screenshot of the wordcount bar at the bottom of the drafting window of Scrivener.]

There are a lot of other programs that will do this, either software or even free online word counters. I know that the Write or Die site does this for you. This one, however, lets you see the word count and set a wordcount goal all in one place.

This is extremely useful to me as a writer. It allows me to set goals and see the progress made graphically represented in the bar. This way I don't have to constantly do the arithmetic just to see if I'm close to half or 3/4th done with something. There's even a little target that starts out red when you're under goal and turns green when you reach the word count.

You may think this is good for those who need to get word counts up (ie, in NaNoWriMo), but for me it's the opposite. It lets me know when a chapter is getting excessively large or might need to be broken up. This can help with the overall flow of a story.

I also really enjoyed the full screen feature. One problem I have is that I am badly, badly attention starved even when I really want to concentrate on something. I've never been sure if this is actually something non-neurotypical about myself or simply a personality quirk, but paying attention and concentrating are things I either can't do or I do so well that I forget to do everything else.

Thus, a full screen feature allows me to block out distractions on my screen. This is why I keep my dock so tiny, btw, so the shiny icons for Safari and iTunes and other fun programs don't lure me away from whatever task I'm doing. When distractions are blocked out, I can get into the writing groove much easier.

Plus, I plain old liked the aesthetics of the fullscreen. I liked that it looks, in some ways, like a kind of e-reader.



[Image: Full screen mode in Scrivener, a page in the center of the screen on a black background, with text.]


To access the wordcount feature in this view, simply mouse over the bottom of your screen and voila! I liked this. I could do a quick check of my word count and then keep going with a simple mouse over.



[Image: Full screen mode in Scrivener, black background with white page of text, and bottom row of features at the bottom of the screen.]


This feature also lets you control what the fullscreen mode looks like. How wide or narrow the page is, how transparent or opaque the background is (in case, for instance, you want to be able to see a window pop up or something else going on in the background or if the black background just doesn't do it for you).




[Image: Close up of bottom row of features and selections in Scrivener full screen mode. Options and icons for Text Scale, Paper Position, Paper Width, Keywords, the "Inspector" feature, Text Type, Background fade and icon to get out of Full screen mode appear, in that order, left to right.]

These are the features I liked most and got the most benefit from when I was using Scrivener.

There are other features that I think are quite nifty, but seemed overrated or that I didn't get as much use from. For instance, the corkboard view.



[Image: Corkboard view in Scrivener. A window of a corkboard texture background with graphics of index cards pinned to it with text on those cards.]

The feature does look very neat. In Scrivener's defense, a writer with a different process or project might find it to be the absolute best thing. I didn't. Partly due to the way I outline, and partly due to it feeling clumsy getting back and forth between items.

Scrivener automatically opens up in the blank screen draft view rather than the corkboard view. When you want to switch between corkboards (for instance, to go between your character index cards and your plot to spot any inconsistencies) that gets difficult and doesn't flow well.

Sometimes it was hard to keep up with what was written inside the main text box and what was written on an index card in the corkboard view. When I was first learning the software, I ended up duplicating text and ideas that way and that made things messy. The point of this software, for me, was not so much to aid creativity (give me the back of an envelope or a napkin or the margin of a newpaper and something that leaves marks and I can be creative), but to organize my creative thoughts and outlines and ideas so that they could form a more cohesive, easier to track whole that would make editing and seeing higher level problems easier for me in the revision process.

I wanted to, for instance, put pictures on the index cards but couldn't.

I also didn't use the outline view as much, but it might something that would become a lot more useful during the revision of a novel rather than the writing of the first draft.



[Image: Outline view in Scrivener, chapter synopsis, labels, and categories and text in columns across a white background.]


This view is a bit more comprehensive and easier to follow if you're someone who likes columns, or if reading the synopses of your chapters top to bottom and being able to connect them that way in your mind.

I could see which chapters were done (the fifth column, labeled status lets you select whether the item in question is First Draft, Second Draft, Revision, Done, To-Do, etc), and appreciated that for the drafting phase.

This definitely would be a great tool during revision to check the flow of the novel from a high-level standpoint. Meaning: seeing which chapters have too much action, which chapters are just some characters talking, which chapters have lots of things going on, which chapters are filler and how well they flow into each other.

So, overall, I really liked using this program and I see exactly what the fuss is about. I definitely would recommend at least trying it to a friend or acquaintance. So why am I not talking about how I bought it?

It comes down to price for me, basically.

As some of you may know, I was laid off from my job two weeks ago, which means we're down to my husband's income. Which is fine, he has a good (and thank our lucky stars, secure) job, but it also means that the money I brought in is no longer in the budget. I feel sort of like that man at the end of the Twilight Zone episode who finally has the peace and quiet to read books and smashes his only pair of glasses.

I have an abundance of writing time now, just not, you know, an abundance of money to spend on writing software.

Now? I just can't justify it at $45.00. If it were $10-15 bucks cheaper, it might be a different story, but $45.00 is more or less the price of one of my medications for a month. And yes, I did just hear all you people out there going, "$45, pfft, one of my medications costs $200 out of pocket a month!" and that makes me really sad about the state of healthcare in general.

And the thing about unemployment? You usually don't get to choose when it ends, under what circumstances, or what you'll be making when it does. That $45.00 bucks, if saved, might buy me another month of relative good health with my meds, and that's a month in which to find a job or at least not get very, very sick.

So, my quest for writing software or other methods continues.
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