Eating My Words: A Scrivener Review

Confession Time: I can sometimes, maybe, occasionally make snap judgements.  Sincerely, it's not all the time, but when I do it, I generally do it hard.  I don't go full Mister Darcy - My good opinion once lost is lost forever - but I am a fairly stubborn person.  I'll give the people who know me well a chance to catch their breath after that massive shoc--okay, we're moving on now.  So, that being said, I have to rescind some things I've said about writing programs.

For a long, long time now, I've said you don't need a specialized computer program to write, which is technically correct <-- The best kind of correct!  Points to the first person who can name the reference.  Anyhoo, yeah, people have obviously been writing books way, way longer than we've had computer, so, no.  You don't need a specialized computer program for it in the sense that you are incapable of writing a book without one.  It sure does help, though.

From the title of this post you've probably already figured I'm talking about Scrivener.  So here's what happened.  After finishing NaNoWriMo, I was scrolling through the list of prizes, and Scrivener was at the top.  Winners get 50% off, which intrigued me.  So I went to the site to check it out even though I was still thinking this was a waste of money, but 50% is nothing to sneeze at.  Also, I'd heard of Scrivener before.  It's been featured on the app store, and Book Baby touts it in some of their newsletters, so that was to their advantage. <-- I don't know about you, but this has been effective for me in the past.  The Cinder series, I saw it so many times before I finally caved and bought it, and now I love it!  Scrivener almost lost me, though, because a few other writing program discounts were offered to winners.  I had just watched the 10-ish minute introduction video for Scrivener when my eyes began to wander and I started to check out Storyist.  I downloaded the free trial and began toodling around with it.  And here is where Storyist fell down for me: their teaching tools.

Another confession: I have, at times, been known to be an impatient perso--no commentary is needed from people who know me thank you very much!  That being the case, if I have to expend a lot of effort for something that I don't see a great deal of payoff for, I'm probably not going to go for it.  Also, I am a visual/hands-on learner.  Storyist failed me at this first step because their tutorial, while very thorough and well written, is long.  Storyist might be a really great program, but I never found out because there was a wee bit of introduction at the beginning, it wasn't intuitive enough for me to pick up right away (and I'm pretty good with new programs), and I was not about to read through all that text that someone very dedicated and awesome wrote up for Storyist.  Sorry. :-/  And then I headed back over to Scrivener and began to investigate some more.

The videos were what did it for me.  I don't like that you can't play them from Scrivener's website, but they have a YouTube channel here where you can watch them all without downloading them.  After watching a second tutorial video, I downloaded Scrivener's free trial and began to play with it, moving three projects I have in the very early stages over.

My tests used three different templates, as this was a major feature I was interested in. <-- If you've ever had to create multiple formats for books, you know why this is important.  I used the Blank template, Novel, and Novel with Parts.  FYI, you can also create different templates for when you Compile your book.  Compiling in this case means when you export it as a finished product to other formats like Word.  Very helpful for when you have to create multiple versions for, say, Kindle and Print.  All three have different features.  For instance, the Novel template has pre-done-up character sheets that you can fill in.  The jury is still out on whether I prefer those over just a bulleted list of information, which is what makes the Blank template nice because you can build up your stuff however you like.  Both the Novel and the Novel with Parts come with handy, preloaded places for your Front and Back Matter, though.  That way, when you Compile your book, you can choose which Front and Back Matter bits you want to use...instead of having multiple, different documents for the same book like I've always done in the past.

That leads me to another feature I really like: Research and Folders and stuff like that.  Basically, Scrivener provides you with a place, the Research section, to stuff all your research and notes and inspirations and random crap.  It's in the same window, so it's convenient to access, and you can organize it however you like.  That was a big help for me, especially for the Broken Gears series because there's always a lot of science stuff I need to reference, and I actually wasn't able to go back and find some things I wanted to when doing my final edits on Out of the Shadows, so to this day I don't remember why I named certain items what I did (I changed the names of some objects in that series from what they're actually called either because it's a slightly different object or because of historical significance or for other various reasons).

There's still a lot I have to learn about Scrivener.  It's an enormous program with so much to offer, and it only cost me a little over $20 bucks with the NaNoWriMo discount.  What?!  A specialist product that costs less than $100?!  I know!  Y'all remember how much Adobe Photoshop cost before they went to a subscription service?  Yikes!  Yeah, Scrivener is a great deal.  It's an extra $20 on top if you want the iOS version for iPhone and iPad as well, but that's still a really good deal!  Here's the breakdown of all the reasons I ended up buying it (and admitting to myself that a specialized writing program really can make your life easier):

--A Research section to stuff all your crap...erm, I mean, organize all your notes and thoughts and research.  Honestly, this might be my favorite bit.
--Folders for different version pieces like Dedication, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, etc.
--It's really reasonably priced!  The regular price for Scrivener for Mac and Windows is $45, which is a bargain when you compare it to other specialized software.
--The ability to Compile (export) your finished product in various formations using preloaded templates
--Helpful preloaded templates on the front end too!
--A name generator!  I didn't even mention this before, but Scrivener has a snazzy Name Generator tool, and you can upload your own name lists too.  Let's say you're writing a book where every character has a nature-related name.  You can upload a list for the Name Generator to use to create names for you.
--Dictator tool.  So I haven't explored this yet, but if it works well, it basically fulfills a dream of mine.  It's the real life equivalent of a charmed quill like we see in Harry Potter world, but on your computer.  There's a video about it here.
--Word count goals tool.  I also haven't explored this yet, along with a lot of other features, but it'll be mighty useful for anyone who shoots for a daily word count.

It's a shame Scrivener doesn't pay me to promote for them (though I wouldn't say no if they offered) because I have just spent a lot of time talking them up.  They offer a free trial on their website, so you can check them out if you want.  They convinced me anyway.  Thanks for reading!