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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Writing Craft - Scrivener Love

I am in heart beats a little faster, my breath stops in my throat as I reach out my hand and switch on the computer and there it is waiting for Work in Progress in glorious technicolour. Every nuance, every trashed word, every unused word or scene...all carefully filed away in the writing program that changed my life...Scrivener.

It is only three weeks until the Romance Writers of Australia conference where my partner-in-crime and critiquing, Sasha Cottman and I are presenting a beginners workshop on Scrivener. I do not hold myself out as any sort of great expert on Scrivener- just a simple user - but  I have written my last few books using this amazing product and like all converts I have become a prosletyser. I will preach Scrivener's virtues from the mountain tops...or at least to a room full of writers and computers.

If you want "the expert" then go to the wonderful Gwen Hernandez (who has generously donated a couple of door prizes for our Workshop). Not only has she written the bible ("Scrivener for Dummies") but she runs regular courses. 

This brings me to Scrivener's one big failing... You look at the interface screen and, if you are not technically minded or have a shortage of time, it will send you screaming back to Word. You will see words such as "Inspector", "Binder" and the dreaded (and still to be fully understood by me) "metadata". I think a lot of writers, like me, went to the hands on interactive tutorial given by one of the creators, who knows and loves his product so well. Unfortunately he knows and loves it too well and after the first 5 minutes (and the first mention of the words "meta data" and "scrivening") I had given up on him. So what I know is what I have taught myself (with a little help from Gwen's book) and I thought I would give you the 5 things I love most about using Scrivener.

1. (and this one took me ages to work out) There is no one right way to use Scrivener. It is completely flexible and adapts to your own writing methods. So if you put two Scrivener users  side by side their interfaces may look completely different. It is totally customisable and (almost?) impossible to break.

2.  Project targets. If you are starting a new project you can set the goal number of words and the date on which you would like to complete the draft eg. 80,000 words by 30 September. Scrivener will then give you your daily target and in the Mac version you can watch the little line turn from red to green as you approach your daily target. The daily target then readjusts according to how many words you write (ie a few great days writing and it will come down, a few missed days and it goes up).  It will even send you a message when you have reached target. This was brilliant when I was doing Nanowrimo (50,000 words by 30 November...too easy!)

3. Label Colours. I write my stories in two points of view, hero and heroine. In the helicopter view (called the Binder) where all my scenes are listed, I can label each scene according to the POV (I use red for hero and green for heroine - Sasha uses pink and blue...). In one glance I can instantly see where one POV is predominating.

4.  Research:  With Scrivener you can store all your research (including importing photographs, videos and web pages) directly in the Binder with your story.

5.  Templates.  I am writing what I  hope will be a series. Because I can store all my character and research in the same file, I can create a template for use with the next books in the series to incorporate the research done on the first book - a sort of portable bible.

That's just 5 of my favourite things I love about Scriv (we are on abbreviated name terms now). If you are a Scrivener user, what are a few of your favourite things and if you are not a Scriv user and want to ask a question, try me...

In the meantime if you are coming to the Romance Writers of Australia conference, Sasha and I are running a hands on workshop...bring your own computer. Sadly we only have an hour and it will be a very basic introduction to Scrivener but if it overcomes your fear of the dreaded interface then our work will be done... (and rumours of us getting Scrivener tattoos are quite unfounded!)