Scrivener: An Initial Overview and Impression

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I don’t sell Scrivener.  I am a newbie.  I said that I would keep you posted about my experience with Scrivener, so here I am.  First, I want to thank everyone for the fantastic and very helpful feedback that I received on Sunday night’s post.  My WordPress friends and family really rock!   Yeah! I mean you!  A special thanks to Ionia Martin for the reblog, which brought on board many that I might not have had contact with.

I was able to get links for more info, connections to other savvier Scrivener users and users of other writing tools, a host of helpful tips, and more support than I could have imagined.  You can access all of these in the post comments.

Also, am using Scrivener with Microsoft Windows on a PC, but a Mac version was its original version and is available.

That said, let’s get on with this: Scrivener is a new to me writing tool.  It is software that enables you to work with your manuscript to organize, edit, research the web and upload content, create outlines, characters, locations and scenes, create parts and chapters, save all of your writing and data in one place or “project” in binder folders that are easily accessed and neatly arranged.

Thanks to a related article link, I was able to connect to Vicki Thompson in Kent England who had included in a post that she was about to embark on a Scrivener online course.  The course was to be offered by WizIQ.com, and was being taught by Gwen Hernandez, the author of “Scrivener for Dummies”.  I jumped at the opportunity to get into this course, knowing my need to be motivated and to have an instructor for guidance, even though the classes started the next morning at 9am. I was signed up before midnight Sunday night.

For starters, Scrivener is inexpensive in consideration of its usefulness.  It is $40.00, and with my husband’s Lockheed Martin discount, he was able to purchase for $20.00.  There are other discount coupons available out there if you take the time to look for them.  Also, you can take the thirty day “Trial Version” (with a few less bells and whistles) and know that the thirty day trial is good for thirty days of actual usage, not simply thirty continuous days.  The online course was $40.00.

Two methods are available for me to get familiar with Scrivener and what it has to offer 1) The Tutorial that comes with the purchase, and 2) The Online Course with Gwen.

First Impressions:

Tutorial:

  • Long – It is supposed to be a 1-2 hour tutorial, and I am still on section 2 of 8, and it is Wednesday.  I have had this thing since last Thursday. Okay, I don’t claim to be all that tech savvy and I am trying to go through this thing slowly so I can absorb and digest, but it seems like a lot to cover.
  • Much detail that I will probably never use, (such as how to make graphs, tables, and spreadsheets) unless I start writing articles for a magazine.  For fiction writing, the purpose that I have this for, the tutorial is probably a tad impractical and wasting a lot of my time.  Seems overwhelming to start with.
  • Sells Pitchy– While a good overview of its many fine features, it seems to be showing them, rather than demonstrating how to put them to practical use.
  • Value– Useful for an overview of the binder (folders panel), editor (where the bulk of text is written, imported or copied, which can be easily spit vertically or horizontially), and inspector (where the index cards brief synopses [scenes, characters, locations, image cards] are created). Also gives a broad overview on the functional capacity of the software.

Online Course:

  • Brief Lessons– So far, in the past three days the lesson have been from 5-10 pages long and include many helpful screenshots so you can rest assured that you are progressing as expected.  The lessons and homework take me less than an hour or two to compete, although they are getting a little more in-depth now.  I am also starting to trash and redo lessons a second time just to make sure I have a clear understanding on how to easily do the work without guidance.
  • There is much practical application explained by Gwen as you go through the lesson plan and the plan is geared toward writing and researching for fiction.  I can really see where this tool would be most useful for someone writing a fantasy novel with many creative characters that have their own unique personalities, associated poems, and illustrations.  All of your character profiles, images, and sketches can be index carded and pinned to a corkboard for reference.  Also, for fiction writers, the Binder is categorized with headings and subheadings as your manuscript develops or requires editing and these are directly related to your editor and inspector where you do the work.  I know that may sound confusing, but trust me, with Gwen’s practical lessons, it is really quite a simple process.  As well as fiction writing, I can also see how this could be extremely useful to the non-fiction writer, maybe even more so.
  • Selling the learning process not the product- Gwen knows that you already have the product and want to know how to get the best use from it.  She is not trying to entice you to go from trial version to licensed ownership because her goal is to help you learn HOW to use it well.
  • Value- Worth every penny!  Gwen’s advice, her humor, her attention to detail and step by step guidance and screenshots are indispensable.  I don’t think I could have respected the software as a very useful tool without the education she has provided.  She is also a good motivator, always available, through email and online chat 9 am -9 pm (not always instantly, she can’t sit by the computer for 12 hours, but she responds to everybody).  The lessons are put up on the site at 9am every morning, and go five days a week for a month. Then there will be two more weeks of questions/answers. The WizIQ program is user friendly, you can download and file all lessons, and other tutorials like “How to take screenshots”, etc… easily.  I printed mine as well, for easy reference.  It is interactive and I never feel like I am alone.  If the instructor is not immediately available, there is always an individual with more experience willing to assist.

In summary, I think this writing tool is going to effectively serve the purpose for which I acquired it and that was to get and keep organized while I write my novels.  The novel (my project) can have parts and chapters arranged in folders, with subfolders of text which can be compiled in the end back into one long manuscript.  The research, whether web pages, images, maps, articles, audio files, notes and comments, other pieces of pertinent data has a nice way of staying organized and easily accessible. I can finally clean off my desk, and not be afraid that I am going to lose or misplace something important.  I will still keep a notebook handy, but most of this crap can go!  I only wish that I had something like this 25 years ago when I was in college!!!

19 thoughts on “Scrivener: An Initial Overview and Impression

  1. Ever the pioneer, technologically speaking, you keep blazing new trails. Glad you found a new writing tool. BTW, on my blog today, you might find a very, very familiar quote from your book. Just sayin’

    • It is…and would be so cool for fantasy writing…there is even a comic book template in there.
      Gwen offers her classes periodically so it might be useful to follow her blog, I think she posts them there and there is a link to her in my post. i am sure that she will do another soon, but maybe not til after the holidays….I don’t know, maybe sooner. I got really lucky to get in under the wire on this one.

    • I am on Windows 7 and had some lag with a larger manuscript today so I will see how that runs in the future. i am expecting to do most of my writing on Word, and use Scrivener primarily for outlining, revisions, editing, research, notes and comments. The fact that files can be imported, spit, edited, compiled, and exported appeals to me. It will have to play nice though 🙂

      • I was using mine for all aspects of work (after importing my manuscripts) and it was beautiful, until it froze up, usually after 3-4 hours of writing/saving/editing. Didn’t just freeze up, would have to hard-shutdown my computer and then do a ‘repair check’ every single time – finally decided to try again when I get an updated OS…
        Thanks for the info!

        • You are welcome. it is all very new to me, but I was reading that they have worked out many of the Windows kinks as it was a Mac preferred product to begin with. I haven’t used it long enough to know, but did get worried when I tried to load a larger manuscript today and the lag was incredible. Finally stopped and I loaded a smaller file to proceed with the course work for today. We shall se how it goes from here.

  2. I’ve been thinking about getting this too, but I’m waiting till I have a new project to start from scratch on it. I thought it might be good for converting mss to the proper formats for KDP and Nook.

    Thanks for this report.

    • Says that it is. Says that you can do epub and mobi with it also. I haven’t gotten that deeply into it though and might need an advanced class for all of that. I am starting small. Next month I plan to put my manuscript chapters on there from Word and use it to revise and edit. We will see if I am feeling competent enough to tackle such.

  3. Pingback: Can You Really Teach An Old Dog New Tricks? | The View Outside

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