January 28th, 2013

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Nonsense & Nescafe

I spent part of my weekend playing with Scrivener, novel-writing software from a company called, wonderfully, Literature and Latte. NaNoWriMo winners get a 50% discount, so I thought I'd download the free trial and see if I fancied the full version.

Sadly it's not novel-writing software in the 1984 sense, in that I can't just input an idea and have it turned into a masterpiece while I get on with playing Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS or baking fairy cakes. But it is a lot of fun, and may even be useful too.

I zoned out towards the end of the tutorial, but managed to pick up the basics. Divide your novel into chapters and your chapters into scenes; lay virtual index cards out on your virtual corkboard, then rearrange them; keep notes, character profiles and references close at hand but not kicking around within your text itself (as is my woeful habit). All pretty neat stuff.

The big carrot is the ability to export documents all nicely formatted for print, ebook or editing. Currently I do all my writing in AppleWorks (formerly ClarisWorks; now, I believe, something else). It does everything I want, is quick to open, close and save documents, and doesn't think it knows more about grammar than I do, which sets it head and shoulders above Word, OpenOffice and LibreOffice in my book. However, its native .cwk format is pretty much useless to everyone else in the world in space, so if I'm submitting something electronically I have to copy and paste the text into TextEdit, redo all the formatting, and save in RTF.

Scrivener will barf out files in both senses of 'suitable format': with a sensible file extension, and looking right for a manuscript, poem or screenplay. No, I've never written a screenplay, but if I ever do it will at least have a superficial air of cluefulness. By some form of wizardry, or possibly witchcraft, the thing even worked out the correct name, address and contact details for my title page.

This brings me, though, to the major drawback. Guess which filetype isn't supported for import? Yup, .cwk (this is Apple being proprietary, rather than L&L being lazy). To get my WIP into Scrivener, I had to do the copy-paste thing. Having done so, however, I immediately discovered that I'd got the chapter numbers out of sequence about a third of the way in. Divided into chapters, and with tags and keywords to indicate which characters are in each chapter and which has the POV, the opus suddenly looks a whole lot more manageable.

Have I done any actual writing within Scrivener? Well, not yet. In fact, it supports exactly the sort of procrastination-disguised-as-work that writers love so well, which I suspect is a large part of its appeal. But appeal it does, and I will be ponying up to make a purchase.
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