I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

 

Okay, this one is for all of my fellow authors out there. And fair warning – this is a generalistic overview of this remarkable application. I’ll dig deeper if others seem interested in the offering.

No judgements on anything that you all are doing but just putting out there what my journey has been and the things I’ve discovered. Maybe, just maybe, there is another author out there struggling with Word or some other writing app not knowing that this little gem might be the answer to their problems like it was for me.

I should emphasize that I’ve bought nearly all of the other writing programs (including Microsoft Office, so yeah, Word was in the mix as well – personally Word is about the crappiest program to write documents in long form (such as a novel)), but i understand its ubiquity within the authoring world so yeah, I get why some authors stick to it. I did for a while too. But then it just became unwieldy (I have to use it at work so yeah, I am a power user but word is just bloatware – I wanted more from my writing program).

So my search began: Dramatica, Storyist, Write, etc., I paid and tried them all. None of them had the one-stop shop that I wanted in a writing program, until I found Scrivener. And at roughly $45 (US) it was a STEAL of a program!

If you’re not happy with your current writing environment, might I suggest you take a look at this little screencast and see if it doesn’t appeal to how you’d like to work while creating your next masterpiece.

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I know the video is a bit long but the things this baby can do are astounding. The greatest part – it is TOTALLY one stop shop for authors (no matter whatever your genre or type of writings you do).

DISCLAIMER: In no way am I getting anything by way of a kickback from Literature and Latte (the publishers of Scrivener) for doing this. This is all my own doing. My way of putting out there what I do, and how I do it.

 

Of Note: while all the screenshots I show are from my Mac, the Windows implementation is virtually identical and the files can be used interchangeably between the two platform versions.

 


 

PART I – The Project

 

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

As you can see the application is pre-configured with templates to assist you with whatever type of writing you do in your personal/professional life. For the purposes of my own journey, I will be focusing this blog entry on the fictional template.  Bear in mind that this is how I am using Scrivener. The application has many options that can accommodate just about any workflow. This is just how I am using it.

So from the Project Template window select Fiction and then Novel.

The new project template.

The new project template.

When you first open a new project you get the picture I show above. This is the new project window and your authoring environment. There are places for index cards to keep ideas flowing, and targeted word counts (if you’re into that sort of thing) to be set. All in all, the interface takes a bit to get used to where everything is. But I will tell you that, in the long run, it is well worth the effort.

The sidebar along the left side has become my “home” base. Everything I do, I do from there. It contains the MANUSCRIPT as well as the RESEARCH binder (in fact the whole sidebar is called the Binder – think of it as your author library, of sorts).

The one BIG takeaway from the sidebar is that anything in the Manuscript area can ONLY be included in the final compilation of your manuscript (be it in any format that Scrivener can compile – which is fairly extensive).

For the purposes of my novel I was able to compile my .mobi Kindle file and the epub standard used by Nook and other readers (including iBooks) as well as a printed manuscript (if required) straight from the application itself. How I set up the structure only made the creation of my final product that much easier. A little foresight goes a long way with this application.

To keep things tidy I moved everything BUT the manuscript files (the sample chapter folder and the subsequent text file that makes up a scene within a chapter). Everything else I dragged down into the Research binder. This way I was sure that the only thing that would compile was just the manuscript.

 

The Binder in Scrivener

The Binder in Scrivener

 

The structure of the manuscript can be what you want it to be but for me I wanted just the title page, my dedication, quotes (if any), preface, and anything else you want to include beside standard TOC which the application will build based upon your chapter/scene structure in the Manuscript Binder.

 

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

 

Okay, I guess I should pause a bit on this and explain the two terms I’ve been using over and over here. There are two main sections:

Manuscript:  The body of your work, the novel itself. (Area to be compiled into a final published product)

 

Research: Where you will keep your research. (ONLY research – cannot be part of the compiled project)

I realize that seems like it should be obvious but when you look at the interface for the first time it might be a bit confusing on how to read that sidebar.

Here’s what I consider to be one of the most powerful elements of Scrivener that puts it far and above the competition: The Research binder. This binder is a drag-n-drop binder that can hold just about anything you throw at it. Find something on the web? Drag it’s contents to the binder, or copy the link (whichever you wish). It can even hold audio and movie files if you wish (though that will grow the file size exponentially). But the beauty of this Research binder is that it becomes your repository as you write. You can organize it any way you want. It’s your personal research lab to support all of the things you’ve collected about your world. It’s like your story has its own personal Pinterest.

So back to the story construction in Scrivener. The proverbial and mythic cork board:

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The nice part about the cork board is that you can see your storyboard in the traditional story building fashion that many authors and screenwriters employ when building your story structure. A birds-eye view of the whole thing.

NOW, FOR THE NITTY GRITTY – 

Here’s how I applied all of this to my own novel:

I set up my chapters by creating folders for each – in the beginning they were just Chapter One, Chapter Two (etc) as I just was looking for structure. Later on when I had names for them I just retitled the folders with the name of the chapter and Scrivener created the HTML links in the kindle or epub file for me concatenating the chapter number (1, 2, 3, etc) with my chapter title (e.g.: Chapter One – For the Love of the Q)  with the latter part of that title being the folder title in my Scrivener file. Handy, huh?

If your chapters have scenes or sequences that make up the entire chapter than you just create a text doc for each. The way I handled it was to name the subsequent chapter documents with the chapter and scene number (Scene 01-02 was Chapter 1, Scene 2 and so forth). Like the example I show below:

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn't contain the actual chapter numbers. There's a reason for that - Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn’t contain the actual chapter numbers. There’s a reason for that – Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How does all this play out when you are ready to compile? Like this…

 

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

 

So now you do what you want to do – write. Right-clicking on the chapter folder or the previous scene document and adding as necessary to flesh out your great novel.

 

Sidebar: In a future post (not to far off from now, I promise) I’ll reveal one of the wonderful things about Scrivener – Snapshots! They are a writers dream! Look for it…

 

While your writing you can always check on the project status and can set target marks while you write to keep you on track.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

So we’ll jump ahead several months or so (if you’re like me it takes a few months to get things going to where you’re ready to publish (even if its just to beta readers as a preview or pre-flight test of your ebook offering).

 


 

Part Two: The Compiling

Once you’ve got it to where it needs to be then it’s time for compiling it into a final product (either as an e-book offering or a printed manuscript). Here are the offerings when it comes to compiling in Scrivener.

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

This is where the magic truly is within Scrivener. This dialog allows you to customize and publish to various epub and printed formats. The example I am showing above is for my current forthcoming novel “Angels of Mercy.” But the options are pretty far reaching:

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

One caveat to this whole epub thing: you will need to get the kindle gen (generator) installation file from Amazon and install them onto your PC/Mac to enable the Kindle publishing/compiling option. But once you’ve done that, then you’re all set with regards to publishing the Kindle edition of your novel. Cover art work? Covered with Scrivener. Build of the chapters and how you handle it is entirely under your control. What you include, how you include it, all managed by the compilation dialog.

The best part though was that all of this was at a remarkable price of $45 (US). That’s the part that I still can’t get over for me. Having poured through them all and trying my best to work with other vendors offerings (at a much steeper price for the software) I was really taken with how much power this program wields for the author’s buck.

Is it right for everyone? I can’t answer that. Some writers are just too entrenched. But if you’re not entirely happy with your writing solution, I say give this little writing gem a gander. What I’ve written here is merely the tip of the iceberg (as they say) on what this program can do. In the coming weeks I’ll try to lift the lid on various aspects of how Scrivener works (where my exposure and usage of it has taken me thus far). I am still trying to discover new ways to use it and I’m finding at each turn the application as risen to the challenge and then some.

I hope you find this write up helpful and as always, I am free to any comments or questions regarding the app.

Again it is available from the folks at Literature and Latte in the UK.

$45 US (Mac version)

$40 US (Windows version (v 8.1 ready))

Word has it they’re working on a linux version but I don’t know where they are in the process of releasing that version to the masses. Demo versions are available for downloads to try before you buy.

Lastly, their tech support is very responsive as I’ve never had to wait more than a day to get some traction on whatever I was dealing with. In addition, they have a very active and prolific forum/support board that is also of use. When you couple all of that with the video’s posted online you get quite a lot for your $40-45 (US).

Leave any areas you’d like me to post about in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Until next time… PEACE!

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