Scrivener Follow-Up

I promised that I’d do another post about Scrivener after I finished NaNoWriMo. This is that post! Overall, I really like the program and I’m happy with it. I can see why it’s so popular. The amount of time that it saves me in organization alone made it worth my money.

Positives:

The major organizations features of Scrivener were a huge reason why I could write a whole book in a single month (well, three when you count planning and outlining). The ability to have my outline, or character sheet, or whatever else I needed, along side my drafting area without having to muck around in multiple Word windows was very helpful and kept me focused.  The cross-linking was also very handy.

The second best part was being able to import my sketches. My maps, diagrams, and concept sketches were all right at my fingertips when I needed them.

Easily moving around my chapters and scenes is also fabulous. I don’t always write things in chronological order, or the order I’ll want them to be in by the end. This is mostly coming in handy as I do my post-beta edit of the plague novel.

I like assigning chapters qualities, like first draft/to do/etc., as well. It has also been a good organizing tool for the redraft.

Downsides:

I use tables to organize things like character lists and timelines. Tables in Scrivener are not very easy to use or intuitive. It took me a while to get them set up, and they still aren’t quite how I like them.

It took forever to figure out how to make my then-present setup into a template that I could use for future projects. I don’t think that was mentioned in the tutorial and I wasn’t even sure I could do it until I was randomly clicking around.

Finally, the program does not seem to remember which part of a document I’m looking at when I use the forward and back features. I’m not exactly sure why it goes where it does, but it is almost never on the place I left it.

I feel like it has so many features that I’m not using them all, or using the ones I am using effectively. I’m not sure this is a downside, per se, but sometimes it makes me feel bad.

Side note:

My husband has started using Scrivener and he keeps saying that I was totally right about it. He uses some fancy tech term about it being a total environment, which apparently pleases him greatly.

To give credit where credit is due, I got my own recommendation from my friend Casey (@CaseyDownUnder if you’re on Twitter). I may owe her an acknowledgement or something in a book someday.

Writing v. Typing

As I’m revising my manuscript, I’ve noticed a huge difference between portions that I initially hand-wrote and portions that I initially typed.  The things that I wrote by hand tend to flow a little more smoothly and definitely are more polished and cohesive.  I think it is because writing by hand is slower, and while I hand-write my mind explores other possibilities than just how to bang out the most recent sentence.

Unfortunately, writing by hand has its drawbacks.  First, it’s comparatively slow.  It often takes me an hour to hand-write a scene that I would be able to type up in fifteen minutes if I had my tablet with me.  Second, it hurts.  Literally.  I hold my pen in a death-grip, and my hand starts to cramp after about an hour of straight writing.  Third, I apparently sometimes forget to type up the things that I’ve hand-written.

The third problem is the most frustrating one.  For instance, I know I wrote chapter 16.  I don’t know where chapter 16 went.  It’s a distinct possibility that I wrote chapter 16 on lunch breaks before I abducted and adapted my husband’s tablet, and just never got around to typing it up.  It may very well be in the giant pile of loose notebook and legal pad pages of things that I hand-wrote.  How unfortunate that I have absolutely no desire to comb through all of that crap to find a few pages with a short chapter on it.  It will be easier to just rewrite it… typing, of course.

I think I’m going to stick with typing and only hand-write things when I have no other choice.  The benefits of writing by hand are all things that get corrected on the first major revision anyway, and the drawbacks of writing by hand aren’t as easily replicated.

Dropbox

Dropbox has been great tool for me.  It’s a very simple, intuitive program that allows you to save your stories into an online server and pull them up from anywhere.  It allows me to share my stories between my writing tablet and my home computer.  My writing tablet is a great tool for reasons I won’t go into again, but my home computer is superior in some ways.

For instance, the word processor on my tablet doesn’t have a spell check, and my home computer runs Microsoft Office Word, which does have a spell check.  When I’m writing on my writing tablet, I’m usually doing first drafts.  But the tablet has a very small screen, a small keyboard, and a built-in mouse on the keyboard pad that I sometimes accidentally touch and end up writing sentences where I don’t necessarily want to write them.  In comparison, it’s easier for me to revise and edit on my home computer, because the main monitor is about three times as large and having a second monitor means that I can do research without having to tab away from the page I’m currently on.

Dropbox has allowed me to change the same version of my document between my writing tablet and my home PC.  One of the reasons I was hesitant about writing on a tablet is because they’re very portable, which means easily stolen, and the thought of losing all of my writing was just terrifying to me.  I’m also really bad when it comes to taking manual backups.  But it’s very easy to just upload a copy of something into Dropbox, and then download the copy onto my home PC and save over whatever version I have.  This means that the same version of my story is in at least three locations, two physical and one server, which is comforting to me.

I also discovered another nice feature of Dropbox the other day.  When I was writing a chapter on my tablet, I had accidentally opened up the Dropbox version rather than the version saved to my tablet’s SD card.  I’m a compulsive saver, so I had been hitting “save” every few minutes.  But when I uploaded the version of the story from my tablet’s SD card into Dropbox, I accidentally replaced the new version that I had been working with the old version that I had been working on yesterday.

Panic.  I had written an entire chapter and then saved over it with an older version of my story that didn’t have that chapter.

As I was sitting in my PC on despair, I discovered that Dropbox has a nifty feature where.  When I open my Dropbox folder on my home PC, I can right-click a file and then click “view previous versions.”  It then pulls up a folder called “revisions” on the internet, which has all of the previous versions of my story that I’ve saved to Dropbox.  In this case, it allowed me to load up the version of my story with the new chapter that I had actually been saving into Dropbox all along and had accidentally overwritten.  You can only imagine my relief.

So now I’m even more happy with Dropbox than I was in the first place.  It’s an amazing tool and I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without it.

Keeping Things Straight

I’ve always been the kind of person that takes copious notes.  One of the things that has really improved my writing life is the little wiki program that I use to keep track of my book notes and story ideas.  I use a really simple free app that I found in an android store because the more complicated wiki programs really intimidated me.  I just wanted something that would work, not something I would have to spend valuable time figuring out how to use.

I used to have a little spiral notebook.  It was a huge distraction.  I would get upset at stupid things like not planning enough pages for this character sketch or that piece of worldbuilding, and then I’d have to re-write the whole thing or I’d end up spending time flipping around without being able to find the information that I was looking for.  With the wiki program,  I can add information in the right spot.  And even more importantly, I can very easily go back and edit information (like when I decided to make all the characters in my novel a little older).  I keep character sketches, lists, random thoughts, and my outline all in one convenient place.  And  use.

But like so many technology things, it’s a blessing and a curse.  I have days like today where I catch myself spending more time updating my wiki files than actually writing.  In a way even that is good because it gets me to think more about the plot and characters and the way things are interconnected.  But it’s also bad, because the time I spend doing it is time I spend not writing.  And it’s really bad when I pop into the wiki to figure out one tiny thing like a super minor side character’s hair color… and then spend twenty minutes updating character files and lose the flow of what I was writing completely.