Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hail, Scrivener! (The Sunday Salon)

On the writing front:
After pulling out the folder and files full of notes for my new manuscript a week ago, I spent last week trying to assemble them in a single, useful, content management system.

About a year ago, I downloaded YWriter and spent some time playing with it. It's quite good, but it still didn't quite do it for me. It has a decent number of bells and whistles, and it's free, but I've written enough manuscripts now that I know my methods, and despite all, I felt hemmed in by it.

So I tried a couple of other tools. They too are quite nice, but each one works for only one piece of the puzzle:

For electronic index cards, I was using Throughline by the Wright Brothers.

For outlining, timelining, and element tracking, I was using Outline 4D, also by the Wright Brothers.

I LOVE Outline 4D, and spent much of last week dumping my notes into it.

But still ... feeling that it was quite nice for what it did, it still didn't do everything that I craved for it to do. I wanted something that could do everything, anticipate all of my needs and methods, and do it in a streamlined fashion. So I went shopping again.

Movie Magic Screenwriter is THE tool for Hollywood script writers. I knew that, but I'd also read that it works well for novel writing. I downloaded a trial version and spent a morning playing with it.

Nope. It may be the Cadillac for script writing, but for novel writing, it hurts.

Soooooo glad I tried before I buyed. ;>)

I'd heard about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat software. His books are great for both screenwriters and novelists, so I downloaded a demo and walked through the tutorial. Again, fabulous software, but it's set up for script writing, not novel writing.

I'd also read of novelists who use the Snowflake method, so I read some reviews about Snowflake Pro software. It doesn't sound like a content management system as much as  something that works with you to help develop your ideas.

There's a big difference between Idea Development and Content Management. With this product, you're no longer comparing apples to apples, but apples to oranges.
What I was looking for was something to manage an already developed, but as yet unwritten, idea.

I use Dramatica Pro for Idea Development, as well as StoryWeaver, both by the Wright Brothers. I adore these products and cannot imagine anything could ever, ever, ever hold a candle to them, so I easily bypassed Snowflake Pro.

Are you getting the idea that I love software? How I love having someone to play with me as I develop my ideas, which is exactly what these two products are designed do. But once the idea is developed, they become useless, null and void. 

I had long heard about the wonders of Scrivener, but was always sad that it was available only for Macs. Last fall, a Beta edition was available for Windows. Or was it a year ago last fall? I downloaded a version, but it didn't come with a tutorial and so--it being a really big, complex program--I was completely lost. Even for me, the former web manager (and children's librarian) for the public library district where I worked. I can generally find my way around in software. Although I will admit, I watch so little TV that I don't know how to turn on our DVD (when the grandkids come) without following written instructions.

Anyway, back to Scrivener, I forgot all about it ... until Thursday of this week, when the lights came on in my brain and I decided to see if the Windows version, no longer in beta, had been released. YES! I bought the software, based on hearing so many writers drooling over it for so long. I knew it must be good. It had to be good. And oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yes.

Scrivener is indeed the King of Content Management. 

It took a few hours to go through the tutorial, but it appears this software does everything YWriter does and oh, maybe ten times more, plus in a more elegant, streamlined way.

I'm a happy camper again, and after exporting half a week's work from Outline 4D, (which had originally, some of it, been in YWriter), I am happily reorganizing it in beautiful, beautiful Scrivener. 

That was my writing week.

On the reading front, I am no longer searching for books to review on NetGalley, as they now know my tastes and are emailing me about books I might want to read, and are even pre-approving me for them. I've now downloaded 25 ARCs, at least 15 of which I still need to read and review. (Hoo Boy.)

I'm also beginning to do more research for my new novel, which takes place in the Edwardian era. I have always loved that era, and with Downton Abbey being so popular, it seems that a lot of others love it as well. Except that I'm combining Edwarian sensibilities with what was still basically The Wild West in Spokane, WA, 1905. Or I might bump that up to 1910--I'm working out a series of books based on this idea and these characters, and one of them needs to take place after Prohibition.

I downloaded several e-books on Edwardian social life and customs, and purchased some used nonfiction about early Spokane.

Besides those things, I spent a considerable amount of time helping hubby move farm machinery this week. The weather improved for a while before getting bad again. He's now been rained or winded out for several days.

You might be wonder what I mean when I say I help move farm machinery. It's only that I'm the lead (and frequently only) flag person. I seriously would never know how to operate a huge, John Deere or Versatile tractor. Or any other kind of tractor, except our riding lawnmower.

However, with over an acre of grass and a runway to mow, we seldom use the riding lawnmower. Here's how hubbie does it instead: This is our smallest tractor, of three, which actually does field work.

What I mean by being the lead flag person is only that. I'm in a pickup complete with a WIDE LOAD sign and blinking lights, that leads a caravan of various lengths ... one tractor, two. A truck here and there. Some farm implements like seeders and harrows. We farm in about seven locations in about a 15-mile radius.

Our biggest tractor, and the seeder, are so wide that they literally take up two lanes as we travel through a town. When we need to cross a two-lane bridge, the lead flag person needs to go on ahead and stop traffic on the other side. One of the times I stopped traffic, I had my 9 & 11 year old grandkids with me. After the tractor crossed the bridge behind me, and I moved out of the center of the road to stop blocking traffic, the nine year old (a little boy) shouted, "Grandma, that was awesome!" (And I released my grip on the steering wheel. I hate having to stop a line of traffic. It's such an In-Your-Face thing to do.)

Please know I read every comment. I love comments! Last week, one of my readers was asking about my scrapbooking. Sometime soon, maybe next Sunday, I hope to do an updated blog post about it. A couple of years ago, I posted some pictures of my scrapbooking room. The post continues to get hits. Right now, just under 2000 people have viewed it. I posted it right after moving my supplies into that room (formerly my husband's office), but I hadn't yet "gotten cozy" in it. It's so much prettier, so much sweeter, now.

Anyhew. How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise? 


  1. I always enjoy stopping in here and learning more about life on the Palouse! And you have such a busy life :-)

    As for all the software for writers out there, I've been interested in Scrivener but never acted on it. I do have Blake's Save the Cat book and dip in and out of it occasionally. But what I've been doing with the latest WIP is...writing it out longhand in a notebook :-) I started the process by freewriting/brainstorming ideas, character sketches, and scenes and decided to keep the flow going by hand in this first draft. Of course I have scraps of notes and research laying all over the place, too, so it doesn't sound too organized, but right now it just feels right. We'll see what the finished product looks like. Thanks, too, for your recent comment over at my place about books on library shelves and how you processed through them as a librarian. That was great information :-)

  2. I have been using Scrviner for my WIP. I don't have a technical gene in my body, but somehow, I'm working my through the software and enjoying it.

  3. Cute post, I was so intent on reading and trying to figure out the "S"
    part that I almost missed Software.

    Oh goodness me!

    M :)

  4. When I completed NaNoWriMo three years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase Scrivener for half price. I, too, had heard so many wonderful testimonies that I figured it was worth the discounted price.

    I have not done much with it, yet... but I have many many plans. And I absolutely ADORE the index card layout - as well as the research functionality.

    I look forward to hearing more of your praises of this software program.

  5. I have tried a few of these software products mostly for the story ideas one. The throughline looks interesting so I'm looking that one up. I'm not sure if I'm ready to jump on scrivners band wagon just yet. I was around when writers were complaining about losing saved work/ word counts...
    Thanks for posting though. very useful post.
    New follower.
    My Blog Post

  6. I really love Scrivener, and I'm so glad you're loving it, too! I haven't used it in quite a while, but I would like to get back to it. It's so nice to be so organized, isn't it?

    I love that you mow your lawn with a tractor!!!

  7. Hi. Thanks for the post about Scrivener. Part of me wonders if the Mac version might be a little an online comment about this. Hmm...this might be the excuse I need to get a Mac. I'm probably going to try yWriter for a while, since I haven't had a chance yet, it's free, and so many still rave about it. Loved the image of you leading the tractor brigade through town and stopping traffic!!


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