I like posting screenshots, and sometimes actual photos, of daily word counts. It keeps me motivated and also scratches that itch of yelling out into the world “I wrote something today!” Of course, I hardly expect the world to yell back, but it seems that almost every other time I do post such a picture, one of my friends writes back asking “What app is that?” Thus the clever title of this post.
Now, we all have our different preferences for writing. For years I used Word, and for years after that I used Pages. Perhaps some will guess which operating system I was using during those times.
But, as I was putting the finishing touches on my first novel, Deadly Troubadours, a friend reached out to me and said “Maybe you should try Scrivener.” I probably gave a non-reply at first. She pressed a little bit, told me some of the features, and told me that they had a pretty decent system of getting a free trial.
Still, I resisted. Then, as I was trying to format that novel mentioned above, I realized that the version of pages I had wasn’t able to set different margin sizes for inner and outer, just and right.
For anyone confused, in a standard book the inner margin (where the pages are joined) tend to be larger than the outer margins (where you hold the book.) This is to both maximize usability. Bigger inner margins lower the chance of words not being able to be seen unless you really open the book as wide as possible. Generally if outer margins are set to a matching size you loose a lot of page space for words with no real benefit. The negative to that is more pages meaning a greater printing cost.
Anyone, I needed to do that and couldn’t with the software I had. I asked the friend in question if Scrivener could do such a thing. She confirmed it could and I caved.
Since then Scrivener has been my main writing app. It is were I type, edit, make digital notes, arrange chapters, etc. For the rest of this post, I’m going to give a few functions that I feel really make Scrivener worth it. And then, for balance, I’ll give a few things that I think it can be better out.
Of course, it will be really important to note, that I am also not using the most current version of Scrivener. I do intend to upgrade, but well, I’m lazy. Maybe I need that same friend to twist my arm again. Any way, here comes a short list of:
- There are an incredible amount of options for formatting your work. This matters a lot to me when I want to try and make my chapter headers look just right. Also, because of how the document works, you basically only have to set up a style guide, and the program does the work for all the chapters. And why don’t I go ahead and mention that it can also export to a large amount of file types (mobi, epub, doc) while maintaining these guides.
- Very easy to change around chapters. When I write I like to feature chapters with wither different viewpoint characters, or in different places. So, sometimes I will decide that the written order of chapters is not the best option to tell the story. When I used Pages or Word, the solution was to copy and paste and delete (because cutting always scares me.What if it disappears for ever?!) With Scrivener, it basically just boils into an incredibly simple drag and drop that takes less than a second.
- Plenty of digital notecards. Need a cork board for character description? Want a place to jot down major points of each chapter? There is a place for all this information, and it is all easy to access and intuitive to use. This is one of those features that I didn’t use for a while, and now that I am in the habit of using it, I love. And it is all in the same “document” so I don’t need to have multiple programs open to switch back and forth for.
- An easy system that lets you design different front matter for a variety of formats/options. For us indie-authors who need a slightly different copyright page for ebooks, paperbacks, ARCs, etc. this is a great feature that keeps me from having to have multiple documents of the same file.
- The word count tracker. I love that it lets me set up a goal word count, that it slowly changes color as I approach that goal, that I can also ask for a weekly or daily target to hit that goal, and that it calculates how much I need to write to stay on track for a deadline. I know some people might hate this feature, but I love it.
But, not all is perfect in the land of Scrivener. Here come the:
- The biggest con has to be the learning curve. It is incredibly steep. This writing application is quite a powerful tool and can give writers a great amount of customization over how the finished product looks. But that means there are a lot of options to figure out and master. The Scrivener Manual weighs in at 439 pages of the main text, with over 100 pages of appendices. And a lot of it can get pretty dense. To do some specific thing I’ve needed to read the manual, google an explanation, and then search for a youtube video. Admittedly this is for nitty gritty formatting tricks, and I am not always the best with tech, but it can still be overwhelming.
- Even though I am not the best with tech, I am still very tech positive. I love that many writing apps are able to sync up over the cloud and keep all versions up to date. The version of Scrivener I have still struggles with this. I have the desktop and tablet versions, but they rarely manage to talk to each other. And when they do, it is often to argue and ask me to choose the version I love. And I can’t always remember which is the most recent version. I’ve read other writers who have had much more ease with Scrivener sharing between desktop and tablet, but for me it has not been as simple and trouble free as I need.
And that’s really it for the cons. To me, the pros win out and I would strongly recommend checking it out to anyone who hasn’t used it. You might find it to be your new favorite writing app.
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