The Verdict on Scrivener

11-8-2011 9-02-28 PMI’ve been using Scrivener for a while now, to outline my newest novel, to write something which is under wraps for a while with my buddy Bryce, and just to piddle. I imported some of my old stuff just to see what it could do. And better still, what it can’t do.

The list of cans outstretches the can’ts by a long way, but I’m completely sold on this software for a few reasons.

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More on OneNote

imageLast time I told you a little bit about OneNote, the virtual notebook system from Microsoft and how AWESOME it is. Today I’m going to continue running down some of the features of the system for you.

My wife is the resident expert on this one, but I got some sound information from her.

Specifically for writing, however, this system is incredibly versatile and wonderfully constructed to ensure you can add anything you need to the notebook so you have it right at your disposal.

 

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Software for Writing

I’ve experimented with just about every piece of writing software out there I could find. If I could get it free or cheap, odds are, I used it. RoughDraft, Page Four, yWriter, Liquid Story Binder XE, Text Box Writer, Write Monkey, Dark Room and JDark Room, Q10, Momentum Writer, Word, OpenOffice Writer, WordPerfect, and a plethora of others – I’ve used ‘em and have loved ‘em all.

But honestly, only Liquid Story Binder XE, yWriter and Page Four were software packages you could say were designed with writers in mind. They’re able to piece together a novel how ever you, the writer, want to work with them. yWriter has discreet scenes you can edit and move around, and LSBXE has undergone changes to make it scene-oriented too. It also includes story sequencing, mind mapping abilities, music to set the mood for you, and more. Page Four is a series of notebooks with pages, and while that’s pretty amazing to work with, it’s a little cumbersome if you like to plan and then write, like I do.

I’m not an outliner. I tried that and it promptly got in my way. I need a looser guide to writing, and that is where today’s awesome software package comes in:

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Indecision

Expertoys 1/6 Scale Hand Tools Set (Colour)

I think I mentioned last week I have a hard time deciding what tool to use when I sit down to write.  This isn’t always the case, but lately, more and more often I find myself staring at the screen, wondering what the heck software application to open and write in.  You know, when I actually do the writing.

For features, it’s really hard to beat Liquid Story Binder XE.  It does everything you can imagine, from mind maps to planners to sequences to note cards to construction of the manuscript.  Amazing bit of software, designed for writers to immerse themselves in the writing.  It even allows you to make playlists and download images and wallpaper to help set the tone and mood of your writing.

It can be used in a scene-based way, but it’s true nature is chapter-based.  I don’t have a problem with that, but it really throws some people off, and some folks asked the developer to incorporate a method for easier scene writing processes (which he did, and there’s tutorial for it on their website, too).  It’s really amazing, and sometimes it overwhelms me just a teeny bit.  So I don’t always use it.

Next favorite is yWriter.  It’s similar to LSBXE, but it’s actually scene-based.  You have to have an initial chapter and then you can create as many scenes as you like in that chapter, but it’s mostly scene-based.  It’s also very complex in how it provides details of the project.  Is the scene action or reaction?  There’s a place to set up almost every aspect of the scene you can imagine, including time elapsed, location, characters and items involved, etc.  I ignore most of those powerful features – I’m not that smart.  So I just use it as a lightweight word processor, include chapter- and scene-descriptions as appropriate, and then do the writing.  Very cool.

But again, overwhelming sometimes.  So I don’t always reach for it.

I also have one called Page Four, which is a tabbed software with the ability to keep “notebooks” and “pages” within the notebook.  In this way, you can construct the project however you like.  You can make each page a scene, or each page a chapter of multiple scenes, or whatever.  But it’s all in a hierarchy of pages and notebooks.  Not as feature rich as the aforementioned packages, but very cool and easy to use.  Easy on the eyes, too.  This was the first “writing” software I used, and I love it to this day.  But it’s got a different way of outputting files, so I don’t have a lot in it, and nothing’s in it that resides in other software.  It’s just not as easy to get to it as some of the others, I found.

And I use a myriad array of text editors and full-screen text editors, just to get things done.  My preference is for those which allow font selection and reduction into a windowed mode.  I don’t always like full-screen mode.  So, I like Write Monkey and Dark Room best, but Q10’s pretty cool too.

In the end, though, the one I find I reach for more often than any other when I just want to crank something out and not fuss with it too much is Rough Draft 3.0.  It’s a lightweight word processor with four different modes: screen writing, prose writing, stage/radio play writing, and normal mode.  These have to do with how it handles the enter key and tabbing.  I just use normal mode, personally.  And it lets me just flow.  If I want it, there’s a spell checker, but no grammar checking utilities.  Nothing to get in the way of your words, your way, and no annoying green underline or red squiggles if you muck up something.

Once in a while I’ll use Word because of it’s more powerful spelling and grammar check utilities.  But Rough Draft also runs from a thumb drive, and if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I love me some thumb drive apps.

But man!  I gotta find a way to just … decide and stick with one of them.  The choice of tool takes longer than the writing, and sometimes stops me from getting to the writing.

What special tools, if any, do you ply in your hobby, craft or trade?  Do you have a favorite thing you reach for before anything else to make the magic happen?

-JDT-