Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scrivener, Anyone?

I always forget how painful it is to start writing a new book ... which is why, for the first time ever, I'm trying out a writer-specific software called Scrivener. Scrivener's focus is supposedly "on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft."

To be honest, I initially regarded the program as yet another form of procrastination. I am not the kind of writer who is so excited to have a new contract that she (or he) can't wait to plunge in. No, I am the kind of writer who subconsciously knows exactly how long it takes me to write a book at-the-last minute-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I'm told by my husband that my creative process is months of faffing about organizing things like spice racks, sorting out the linen cupboard in order of sheet size then color and of course, re-doing every photo album in my possession from 1973. This always culminates in the grim realization that with only four months to my deadline, I have to get up every morning at 4:20 AM to make it. During this time I write from terror and I'm horrible to live with.

Hopefully, all this is about to change.

Scrivener offers a variety of templates from screenwriting to poetry but, by far the biggest draw for me, is the ability to organize my research and photographs; create character lists (the templates are great) and hammer out an outline. All these features can be visible or invisible on the sidebar. There are little buttons for notes, comments and reminders all in one place. One of my biggest challenges has been keeping track of random scenes that suddenly came to me in the shower or little snippets and clues that I want to put in somewhere but don't know where to file it because I'll forget where I did file it!

I love the index card corkboard option which enables you to move chapters or scenes around and, with the click of a button, transform the cards into a continuous document. But by far ... my absolute favorite is the Word Count Target gadget. LOVE IT.

I don't think I'm alone in trying to trick myself into writing a certain number of words a day. I generally write against the clock with a timer but it's not very efficient. With the Scrivener word count I first set my "shitty first draft" of 50,000 words to be completed by August 31. I say 50,000 rather than the 75,000 or 80,000 because I know that the last third or so of the book generally writes itself. It's the first two-thirds that can be so painful. Scrivener suggests I write 870 words a day to meet that deadline. That doesn't sound so bad at all! And ... each time I hit my daily target, a little bubble pops up on my screen to congratulate me. I then turn off my computer and feel all tra-la-la. Of course, if I don't make it, Scrivener recalibrates the word count necessary.

A gimmick? Possibly but who cares. It's my latest fad and frankly, with a vacation planned in September, I would be thrilled if this time I could actually go away and enjoy myself laptop free.

I'll keep you posted.


Happy Dissertating said...

I've just started using Scrivener - I'm an academic writer - and I'm getting used to the organizational tools. Sometimes I think that the program works best for larger projects (books rather than articles), but I'm really liking the functionality of it.

hannah Dennison said...

I'm happy to hear you like it too. Yes - getting used to the organization tools takes a little bit of practice but it's worth it. Thanks for your comments.

Eve said...

Hannah, I think that in time you will love Scrivener. I'm a Linux user, so until very recently Scrivener wasn't available to me, but I found Writer's Cafe Desk which works on all platforms (Linux, Microsoft, Mac). I found that being able to break my story up into reasonable chunks -- scenes, chapters, parts and then knitting the whole together was invaluable. My prose took a serious leap toward better. By the way I love doing first draft. I'm looking forward to having Scrivener help me revise.

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