So how did NaNoWriMo go? If you participated, that is. It’s my hope that, if you did, you’re looking at a somewhat complete & coherent manuscript. Maybe you’re still working on writing yours – if so, don’t fret. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say.
The great thing about editing in Scrivener is that your work is divided up into easy-to-manage bits. You can move sections around, take some out, add new ones. And within those sections, remember that Scrivener has all of the tools of a mass-market word processor. Highlight text you’re unsure of, make notes to yourself, do all the things you need to do to make the text work.
This not only eases the editing process but makes rewriting much less of a daunting task. You can go right into the bits that need work, or start a whole new section of text while keeping the old one intact. Being inclusive in your editing helps you see what works and what doesn’t. Like any good tool, Scrivener makes this process easier without getting in the way of the process.
When you’ve finally gotten the text where you want it and are confident in its structure, flow and end result, it’s time to release it into the world. Scrivener puts your text together in a variety of formats and lets you compile the text for many purposes.
Scrivener’s built-in templates, from novel to screenplay, take care of the end-result formatting out of the box. The front page, word count and spacing are all defined for you. You can send the compiled draft directly to the printer, or save the file as a PDF or even an RTF file for portability and sending to test readers or other contacts across the Internet.
I know a new version of the beta is coming in the next few weeks and I’m interest to see what tweaks have been made to it. I’d like to see if I can take one of my early Scrivener experiments and import it into one of the aforementioned templates. I want to make sure my end result looks as good as possible before it starts crossing other peoples’ desks.
If you’ve been trying out the Scrivener beta for Windows or Linux, how’s it gone for you? Are you an old-school Mac user with advice? Got questions on the software? Lay it on me.
And if you participated in NaNoWriMo, I hope you keep up the good work even though November’s behind us.
It’s been a very busy week so far for me, and while my writerly focus is shifting for the time being from Citizen in the Wilds to shorter works both written and unwritten, Scrivener is still a toolbox full of potential. Once you understand the basics of the program and experience it in action, it becomes clear that it can be a boon to endeavours beyond novel or screenplay construction. With a little work and creative thinking, Scrivener can become a hub for activies both productive and entertaining.
For example, a little transcription of notes, or the taking of them directly into Scrivener can transform the program from a writing platform to a study aid. Writing a leading question or key phrase in a note’s synopsis and then going into the Corkboard view is a good way to review for an exam. Rearrange the notecards, review your terms and perpare yourself for the questions ahead. It also can help in the construction of papers, with access not only to notes but also to downloaded or transcribed research, all in one place.
Another possibility has nothing to do with either academia or publication. With it’s division of material, ability to import just about anything and power as a text editor, Scrivener can be used to create new advetures and campaigns for tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. Location notes, creature statistics, NPC dialog and maps can all be brought into Scrivener, divided up and rearranged at the Dungeon Master’s whim, and for those actually writing in the industry, a final product can be exported like the draft of a manuscript, ready to be transformed into a PDF and sold on DriveThruRPG. I imagine it would take a lot of the frustration or confusion out of the process, since you won’t have as hard a time finding a particular encounter, map or statistic.
At this point these permutations of Scrivener seem somewhat theorhetical. What other ways might you think Scrivener can assist the creative mind?
scriv·en·er (skrv-nr, skrvnr)
1. A professional copyist; a scribe: “Gutenberg’s invention of movable type . . . took words out of the sole possession of monastic scriveners and placed them before the wider public” (Irvin Molotsky).
2. A notary.
Last week I gave an introduction to and brief overview of Scrivener. For reasons yet unexplained, I cannot get Scrivener working on my main PC at home. However, a version of the program works rather well on my Xubuntu-powered laptop. So I worked on importing my manuscript of Citizen in the Wilds into the program.
Scrivener can import and manipulate a wide variety of text files. Since the software includes a fully-featured text editor all its own, any formatting in the document will be preserved. It won’t carry over page breaks, and there’s a specific reason for this. Working with your writing in Scrivener has less to do with page length and chapter and really focuses on the organization and manipulation of your ideas.
Importing a file is very straightforward. Under the File menu, pick Import followed by Import Files. Select your text file and presto, it’s in Scrivener.
Once your draft is imported, you can drag it into the “Drafts” folder. From there it’s a matter of slicing it up. To make the ideas, scenes and narratives easier to understand and manipulate, you’ll want to seperate them. Find good places to break in the action, when the scene changes or the characters move on to a new topic, go to the Documents menu, mouse over Split and choose either Split at Selection to create a fresh document or Split With Selection as Title to have that fresh document begin with a particular word or phrase.
The week has been somewhat hectic and this is about as far as I’ve gotten with the manipulation of Citizen in Scrivener. But there will be more to come, specifically how the search option helps me look for repetition, the rearranging and dropping of story points and the power of inclusive editing.
Last week around this time I promised I’d be helping my fellow writers now deeply entrenched in NaNoWriMo by showing them how a little program called Scrivener can make things a bit more organized and smooth for them. I for one am the kind of person who feels the best way to get to know a piece of software is to roll up my sleeves and use the damn thing. Fortunately, even the beta for Windows comes with a tutorial built into it. What I like about this tutorial is, as you work your way through it, you’re learning more about the software just by reading about what it does. It’s extremely intuitive.
So this is what Scrivener can look like. Feeling a little lost? Here’s a short version on what you might be looking at.
The biggest thing Scrivener offers a writer is a means of organizing, sorting and arranging bits of information and research all in one place. It’s like having all the tools you need in one box instead of scattered all over your apartment and your parents’ basement. Not that I’d know anything about that.
The most obvious place to see this is the left-hand column called the Binder. This is where you will find pretty much every document you work on in a given project. You can navigate through them one click at a time, rather than hunting and searching through folders, flash drives and hand-written notes. When you start a new Scrivener project, you have folders for your draft, any research you want to include and trash.
The neat thing about the trash bin in the Binder is that it doesn’t destroy your work automatically. Unless you specifically empty the trash bin, the work is always there for you to reference, restore or copy-paste into a more viable document. The Binder allows you to break what may be a work with hundreds of thousands of words into smaller, more managable chunks that you can edit, reorganize and publish much more easily. I’ll deal with all those things in upcoming posts.
While the Binder lets you physically organize your work, the Inspector provides organizational help from a data perspective. It first and foremost lets you specify a synopsis that will show up in Scrivener’s Corkboard and Outline views. I’ll get to that in a moment.
The Inspector’s additional powers deal with making searching for aspects of your work easier. Say you want to look for scenes from a particular character’s point of view, or focused on a given subject. With the Inspector, you can add labels, notes and keywords that make these searches more comprehensive and easier to understand, rather than drilling through the entire document one search result at a time. You also have the option to add notes to the entire project through the Inspector.
Last but not least, the Inspector lets you specify how a given document will appear in the final product, if it appears at all. You can exclude a passage from your final draft without losing its content, specify when page breaks should happen or set a document’s status as finished, in progress or “a mess.” The status of the document, like its labels, are totally customizable. Making Scrivener your own is about as intuitive as it gets.
This is a matter of personal preference. Scrivener has two views that lets you see what’s in your documents as you shift them around, how they’re labelled and what their status is. None of this info shows up in the Binder. At least it doesn’t in the beta I was working with. Anyway, these views are the Corkboard and the Outliner.
The Outliner lays out the sections and sub-sections of a project in a very linear fashion. Not only do you see status and labels, but you also see when a document was created as well as when it was modified. It’s chock full of information and very handy, but I, being somewhat more of a visual person, perfer the Corkboard.
Maybe it’s the idea of pinning things down to get them where I want them. Maybe it’s the act of moving the cards around to get the right order. Maybe it’s the way labels show up as big red stamps that makes me smile. Whichever view you choose, I hope you’ll find organizing information in a draft as easy as I have. You can even use the Corkboard to navigate if you like. An option in the view allows you to control the document displayed in the portion of the editor not displaying the view you prefer.
“Portion?” I hear you asking. “What do you mean by ‘portion’?”
I’m glad you asked.
Split Views & Scrivenings
Scrivener allows you to split the view in the main window. You can, in essence, have two documents open in the same window at the same time. If you felt you may have repeated yourself unnecessarily, this is a good way to check. Moreover, having the Corkboard or Outliner open in one part of the window while you edit in the other makes it very easy to keep track of where you are even if you have the Binder closed. You can move documents around and get right into editing them afterwards, to make sure your work flows properly from one snippet to the next.
The other direction is the Scrivenings. This overall view lets you view multiple documents as a single, cohesive text. You can also edit it as you view it, which may make you feel like you’re back in Word save for the fact that switching back to one of Scrivener’s other modes takes just a click or two. It’s important to see how the end result may look from time to time, and Scrivenings is a good way to do that without having to make the program spit out a sample “finished draft.”
So that’s how Scrivener looks. But how does it actually work, and how would an author like myself work with it? Join me next week when I take my last coherent draft of Citizen In The Wilds and give it the Scrivener treatment.