Friday, March 18, 2016

Writing: The Scrivener Experiment

The following is one man's opinion. Please take it as such. I've been writing for well over a decade, and have always composed my work on Microsoft Word (for Mac). But for months I kept hearing about all the advantages of the Literature and Latte application, Scrivener. So I gave in and purchased it. While waiting for a decision on my next novel, I decided to write another novella, one I may self-publish. And, I thought, what better time to try out Scrivener?

That was several months ago, and this is a report on my experiences. Scrivener has a bunch of wonderful features (as anyone who frequents authors' loops knows). I was especially enamored of the cork board feature, which allows the writer to shuffle around scenes, add some, subtract some--in other words, play with the plot the way we used to do with 3x5 cards. And people tell me that Scrivener will allow exporting a manuscript in a form that is ready for use in a self-publishing format.  After hearing author after author extol the virtues of the application, I was motivated to keep at it.

There's no question that Scrivener has a lot of great features. Most reviews of it mention these, but also talk about the steep learning curve. Tell me about it! I read through the manual that comes with the application. I paid for a tutorial that was supposed to get me ready to use it quickly. Some of my fellow writers were kind enough to direct me to other sources that would get me using it in no time. But eventually I found myself asking, "Why am I trying to learn yet another application when what I've used for a decade works?"

All the having been said, I've gone back to MS Word for now. Why? Scrivener encourages writing in scenes without the need to delineate chapters. But writing in chapters is the way I've always written, and it has worked well so far. Scrivener has a great segment for character sketches, but I've always written these and just put them in a segment under the main story folder. The same with a timeline. Scrivener will tell you how many words you've written for any scene or project, but so will Word (without having to click anything--just look at the bottom of the page).'s the main problem, I suppose, and I admit it's with me, not the application...I've gotten set in my ways, have figured out how Word works for me, and finally decided that life's too short to try to learn something new to replace what's worked so well for me for years.

In other words, although Scrivener is a great application (and I can give you names of writers who use it and are quite happy with it), for me it solves a problem that doesn't demand a solution at this time.

That having been said, I invite the pro- and con-Scrivener users to chime in. What do you think?

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PS: Drop by the Suspense Sisters blog, read about procrastination in the life of writers (and everyone else), and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of my novel, Miracle Drug.


Patricia Bradley said...

I like having everything I need in one place--I think that's what I like most about Scrivener, that and being able to 'see' my story in the corkboard feature. With Scrivener, if I need to check something about my character, I just click on that character's name without leaving the folder and there it is along with a photo. I like having all my research sites in one place. I like the name generator...I could go on and on. Add all that to the face I hate Word, and you have my reasons for loving Scrivener. :-)

Richard Mabry said...

And I understand. It just didn't work for me, and I guess I wasn't ready to learn to use all the features. But, as we say in Texas, that's why they make Fords and Chevrolets. Thanks for your comment, Patricia.

Carol Garvin said...

You've pretty well described my experience. I've used Word for Mac since the 90s so it was an easy choice when I began my novel writing. I bought Scrivener at a discount following a successful NaNoWriMo year about a decade ago, and much like you I used it to write a short story, but the learning curve WAS steep and I was impatient. It's a 'why fix what isn't broken' thing -- I use Word without a second thought and it does everything I need it to do, including formatting mirrored book pages in PDF. I'd like to learn to use Scrivener with that kind of ease, but given my impatience, I'm not sure if it will ever happen. LOL.

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, I think those of us who don't have a problem with Word and subscribe to the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy may be a silent minority. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.

Janalyn Voigt said...

I just started using Scrivener, so I understand about debating whether the learning curve is worth it. It helps keep me organized, so I'm willing to continue using it.

Richard Mabry said...

Janalyn, it was sort of a Catch-22. I like some of the features of Scrivener, but I was trying to write a novella using it, and kept having to do this or that to correct a mistake I'd made because I was learning. Finally, I asked myself, "Why are you doing this when using MS Word has worked for you for so many years?" Not having a good answer, I exported what I had written to Word, and haven't looked back.