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Portrait Illustration Maker

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.


I do know at least one Proper Author who writes using Scrivener and loves it to bits.

Personally, I fear the timesuck and have an irrational attachment to doing all my writing on paper. And, er, transferring to digial using emacs. Then again, I am lightyears away from being a Proper Author :)
My handwriting deteriorated to the point at which writing on paper becomes impractical about a decade ago!
Ooh — I'd not encountered Scrivener before! Thanks for pointing it out, and I'd be interested to find out how you get on with it.

It could make the difference between my ever getting my novel written and not.

I like the fact that your licence floats between however many computers you use, but not the detail that they all have to run the same platform. Ah well. /-8
I won't be completely convinced until I've taken a project from start to finish in it, but I like what I've seen so far!

One day there may be an iPad version. And that day may be the day I get to justify an iPad as writer expenses.
That sounds rather neat all around, the lack of an ability to import .cwk files nonwithstanding (the proprietariness shouldn't make it outright impossible to handle them, I think, although the format may be too niche to cost-justify developing support for). If I were a proper writer, then based on your description, I'd be sorely tempted — at the very least, I'd give it a test-run myself.

Hmm. I do have a friend who's a writer, at least — I wonder what he uses...
I'd love to know!
Bwahaha! That was a blast from the past indeed - thank you!
Does it let you set deadlines, and then make loud whooshing noises when you pass them...

(Oh, and http://thrilling-tales.webomator.com/derange-o-lab/pulp-o-mizer/pulp-o-mizer.html is another way another author-friend is wasting time at the moment...)

Edited at 2013-01-28 09:03 pm (UTC)
You're thinking of Write Or Die :)

Heh, I've seen the pulp title generator - I actually ran across it while looking for inspiration for a pulp-type tale. It didn't help much but was great fun.
I've been using Scrivener a while now and it is really fab. There's a ton of things it's capable of and it's highly customisable too, so really the limit is your imagination. I'm sure I don't use it half as cleverly as I should :)
Ooh, that's good to know! Yes, I suspect it has powers beyond what I can currently think of. But perhaps if I think of anything extra that would be useful, I can work out how to do it.
Scrivener got me through NaNoWriMo 2012, so I "purchased" the full version. By that I mean, the NaNo discount code accidentally gave me 100% off, so I had to contact L&L to get my $20 sent over PayPal. Worth every penny, and even better because the exchange rate was in my favour so $20 hardly cost me anything.

You can also download a NaNo template, which sets all the goals needed for your 50,000 words at 1,666 words a day.
Oh, cool, thank you! I remembered your saying you'd downloaded your prize and wondered how you were getting on with it.
Never heard of this. Don't really see the need. But lovelovelove the molesworth reference. Chiz chiz chiz!
It's definitely not necessary, but it has that new-toy glamour.

(And I've just re-read my own post 3 times looking for the molesworth reference, which is so much part of my subconscious I'd forgotten about it.)

Edited at 2013-01-30 10:14 pm (UTC)
I take it you found it chiz chiz chiz...
On the third pass!