Mommy, Scrivener Made Me Cry!

A while back I came across a blog post singing the praises to the mountaintop about Scrivener. I don’t remember which blog it was, but if that person wants to come forward in the comments section, I’ll gladly edit this post to include a dandy little shout out.

**Update: Someone has come forward in the mystery that was “Whose blog did I read that led me to Scrivener.” It was Chazz over at Chazz Writes. He thinks. It might still be a tiny bit of a mystery. Anyway, he posts a lot of useful writer stuff, which may or may not have included a post about Scrivener. So check him out.**

For those who went to high school with me, let me assure you this post is not about Mrs Scribner (with a B, but it still sounds similar). She was one of the English teachers and quite a feisty little thing and I wouldn’t put it past her to have the ability to make people cry. Even still, not what this post’s about. No, Scrivener is an award-winning word processing program designed for writers (novelists, scriptwriters, playwrights, etc). You can find the full set of specifics here. That’s what Wikipedia’s for, right? So Scrivener is pretty wonderful…now. But here’s how the first twelve hours went for me:

  • I downloaded the 30-day free trial and was elated to see that it didn’t run out 30 days from when it was downloaded, but rather after 30 individual days of use. I opened the tutorial and a window told me it would take about 2 hours to complete. I hoped I didn’t waste the entire 30 days just navigating the tutorial.
  • Three hours later I completed the tutorial. Given the fact that I’m not computer savvy, coupled with the fact that technology hates my existence (see here and here for examples), it took me a little longer. But I was ready to open up a new “Project” and import my WIP.
  • Even though my WIP was a word doc, I repeatedly ran into a converter error when I tried to import the current progress of my novel. Frick.
  • I realized that I use AbiWord (a free version of Word) to write my novel. Perhaps, even though I saved my work as a Word .doc, Scrivener was a Word snob and didn’t recognize my free version. Perhaps it was even giving me a dirty look like I was flaunting a sidewalk knockoff of Louis Vuitton bag.
  • So I re-saved my work as an HTML document because that was on the list of acceptable, convertible documents. Mind you, I had no idea what that even meant. Somehow my work was accepted that time, but it loaded as one big block of text. No paragraph breaks. No chapter breaks. Nothing. Frick!
  • I deleted the whole Project and opened up a new one. I tried to re-import my WIP as an HTML document. Converter error. **Rinse and Repeat** That’s right, I kept deleting and retrying the import. Several more times, me thinks. <insert definition of insanity here>
  • I finally go back to the tutorial and review the list of convertible documents and compare it against my save options in AbiWord. There’s something called RTF. Again, mind you, still had no clue. Rich Text rings a bell. I don’t know. Anyway, it was on both lists, so I tried it. It worked. Well I’ll be Persian rug’s tassels…
  • So it was six hours since I began the tutorial. My WIP was finally imported. Now what? In the tutorial there was a Draft Folder, a Research Folder, and a Trash Folder. The Draft folder was supposed to contain all the different sub-folders, like, ahem, chapters. But there was no Draft Folder. There was a Manuscript Folder. I went back to the tutorial and figured out that when you open a new Project and select “Novel” as the project type, it replaces the word Draft with the word Manuscript. Makes sense, yes? Ok then.
  • So I stared at the Manuscript Folder wondering why in green heck my imported WIP hadn’t been magically whisked away to it during the importing process. Instead it was a separate folder. And I couldn’t click and drag it to the Manuscript Folder either. Frick!!!
  • For two hours I fruitlessly clicked and dragged in various ways to try to get my novel into the fricking Manuscript Folder. Eight hours in and I literally began to cry a little. Mostly because if I threw anything I would risk damaging our two twin flat screen tvs and I love sports too much to take that risk. So I combined my stifled sniffing with a not-so-stifled expletive that rhymes with “duck” (definitely not “frick”).
  • Now my stomach is grumbling. I’ve had to pee for an hour and a half. And I’m pretty sure my neighbors are calling the nearest priest to report the need for an exorcism over here due to my violent outbursts of the aforementioned word that rhymes with “duck.” I decided to just copy and paste everything into the stupid Manuscript Folder. I click, scroll to start selecting, and somewhere around Chapter 9 the rest of my novel had disappeared. My WIP has 15 chapters.
  • Now ten hours in, I gave up and went to sleep, hoping the rest of my novel would somehow appear in the morning.
  • When I awoke the next morning, my complete WIP still wasn’t there. But I noticed something: the word count in the window’s footer matched my current word count. Hmm. So it’s technically in there. Somewhere. Scrivener is just playing Keep Away.
  • Around midmorning, an idea was conjured up in my technologically dimwitted brain: if I cut and paste the first chapter, maybe more of the text will be visible. Perhaps there’s a word count limit for the folder or something. Who knows. But it worked! Well I’ll be a pilgrim’s feathered hat…
  • I spent the next two hours cutting and pasting my work into the Manuscript Folder. I broke it down into sub folders for each chapter. Then I broke each chapter down further into separate scenes. Next I did scene and chapter summaries on little index cards. This is my favorite feature (besides the split screen) because when you hover the mouse over a chapter’s folder icon, the summary pops up. This is very helpful for when I need to open up a different chapter (using the almighty split screen feature) to check something I had previously written, like a minor character’s last name or something.

You see that last bulleted item there? That’s about the time Scrivener and I started getting along. I adore the program now (Well I’ll be a beaver’s dam…). If you don’t have it, you should get it. It’s about $40. That’s like two coffees and a large muffin at Starbucks. You can skip Starbucks for a day, right? Do it! Do it now! Starbucks be damned!!!

28 thoughts on “Mommy, Scrivener Made Me Cry!

  1. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. I think if I’d gone through all that, I would have pitched the program and moved on to something else. Now that it’s too late, let me tell you a secret. The best way to learn Scrivener is by starting a brand new project. Oh, really paying attention to the tutorial and manual helps, but I’m no better at that than you were. Anyway, welcome to Scrivener. I’ve been using it for almost three years now and would cut off the fingers of anyone who tried to take it away from me. Good for you, for sticking with it.

  2. Confession: It might have been me who recommended it because I definitely did, and do on The learning curve is steep, however, and as I went through the tutorials and then accidentally discovered solutions, I have often thought, why didn’t they think to say X in the tutorial? (Like, select all the folders on the left before you try formatting. When I formatted my WIP, I couldn’t figure out why I got just the first couple of pages again and again. It’s definitely not idiot-proof if I’m the idiot. I can be a *nuclear* idiot when pressed by unfamiliar tech.)

    I love writing in Scrivener, but she and I still have things to work out. I don’t want “Chapter 25” on top of my About the Author Page, for instance. As frustrated as I am (and I am worried about potential formatting problems right now as I’m about to send the WIP to both CreateSpace and Amazon) once I figure out how to ride this dragon, none shall stand against me. I’m not there yet.

  3. I can’t deal with Scrivener or Storyist; they drive me nuts. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m too left brained. The idea of software helping me organize stuff that’s organized in my head makes me think of bats and computer screens. However, given most writers I’ve met are the opposite of me, I’m guessing it’s great for most.

    P.S. The cover photo of you on your home page is so pretty it’s ridiculous.

    • It’s good for me because I think I’m equally right-brained and left-brained (I studied biology and design in college because I couldn’t make up my mind between science and art, haha). When I go to organize stuff in my head, my artsy side distracts my organized side and round and round we go! But everyone’s different.

      PS! Thanks! I took the picture myself. It was difficult to not get my own arm in the shot, haha.

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Scrivener. To be honest I never did the tutorial I just dived right in. And when it comes to importing stuff I’d actually never tried that, I think I just copied and pasted individual chapters into Scrivener because it seemed easier but that’s just me. 😀

  5. You have the most expensive Starbucks I’ve ever heard of, but I’m glad you liked Scrivener. Soon you’ll be tagging scenes and stuff, and wondering how you ever thought it was so complicated 🙂

  6. I started using Scrivener in Windows Beta form and gave up because it wasn’t saving. Then I won NaNoWrio and got the discounted version of the release and thought ‘what the hey’. I had the same importing problems as you.

    I think I ended up copying and pasting the text in and then breaking it up. That has done some interesting things, line breaks or symbols have been converted to a question mark, so I have random ‘?’ throughout the older sections of my MS.

    But stick with it. It is fantastic once you have the project set. The projects I have started straight from word go in Scrivener are just so much easier to navigate than a word document. I even have pictures, links and maps pasted into the project to remind me of the details. Word would hate any of that.

    • Yeah, I’m really loving Scrivener. Even my hubby was impressed when he went to read my most recently completed chapter and asked for a rundown of the previous couple of chapters to jog his memory. I instructed him to just hover the curser over the previous chapters’ folders on the left and the brief description pops up. Love that feature!

      I can’t wait until I start a new project and get to imput all of my research stuff!

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