How “scrib-something” in a podcast changed my writing life.

Rising action (of a mild, reflective kind)

My wall awaited. My stockpile of comic-novel timeline raw materials awaited. I will get to that, I told myself. And told myself. Then one day, tired of the self-harangue, I went on a walk and listened to a podcast interview of author Gail Carriger by a certain Evan Christopher. (I think, Evan; English accent, American ears.) The Christopher fellow briefly waxed gushingly about scib-something writing software. Carriger said she would check it out. Me, too, I thought. Why? Because when I listen to a podcast, I eschew saying things out loud.

Scrivener’s neat yin-and-yang ripoff logo with commas appeals to my aesthetic sensibilities; and that literatureandlatte.com is their website appeals to my “that makes no sense whatsoever but I like it” sensibilities.

Back in the office, I discovered that scrib-something was in fact Scrivener. (Google! Is there a better spellchecker for the severely spelling challenged?) I went to the website. I read. The progression of my comprehension went as follows:

1.) After reading, “Scrivener knows nothing of pages until it comes to exporting or printing and therefore does not have the page layout viewing features of modern word processor applications,” I thought, “What? No page layout view! These guys must be absolute idiots!”

2.) I watched two Scrivener instructional videos and thought, “Actually, it appears these people are pretty smart idiots.”

3.) I watched more videos – “Snapshots” and “Statistics” to be precise – and thought, “My god, they’re fucking brilliant idiots.” (As this blog’s author and editor, yes, I’m allowed to use the f-word as well as many other letter-hyphen-”word” words.)

4.) After the “Outliner & Synopses” videos, I dropped “idiot” altogether and wanted to have the developer’s child.

And so it was that I assumed the full risk of Scrivener’s 30-day free trial offer. This brave decision was helped by the fact I had sent the developer, Keith Blount, an email with whiny questions to which he had responded with a short story of explanations. (As someone adept at testing patience, I especially appreciate it in others.) Or perhaps it had been a slow day in Truro, Cornwall, population 15, 310 (World Book Encyclopedia, 1975) where Blount lives and writing me had been a diversion from boredom.

Falling action (of dubious narrative relevance)

(I was excited to communicate with someone who lived in Cornwall. I’d seen firsthand the striking Cornish coastline on “Coastlines of Europe.” [If you find that amusing, know this: it was in high def.] Add every episode of that Masterpiece Theatre, 18th Century Cornwall-set, soap-opera classic “Poldark” to my body of knowledge and it’s easy to see why I’m considered something of a [modest] expert on things Cornish, especially in the subject areas of game hens and clotted cream.)

Climax (in a narrative sense, a narrative sense!)

Scrivener puts everything before the writer’s eyes and at the writer’s fingertips. It ignores other parts of the writer’s body, but that’s OK.

Scrivener was a revelation. Here was a program designed around the needs of crafting a book-length manuscript without the 18,628 superfluous features that MS Word inflicts (That’s a rough count.) I could, were I of a mind, bore you to tears with how Scrivener has this amazingly simple yet efficient interface, how it breaks writing into manageable chunks, how it enables you to rearrange chapters or scenes in endless ways, how it can isolate a subplot or part of the story from start to finish for viewing, how it creates an index card for each piece of writing and thus an outline as you go, how it takes snapshots of each draft of a scene and then reveals how you changed it from one revision to the next, how the screen splits into two vertically or horizontally so that a picture or website or PDF or some other file can then be viewed in one of the halves, how all the research related to any part of the writing appears with that part for easy reference. But as I say, getting into all of that, even in summary form, would most likely be more than you’d care to hear about. And dear reader, I like you.

Dénouement (for purposes of a blog post anyway)

You’re probably thinking, “But George, was Scrivener easy to learn how to use?” Yes! Indeed it was! Mastering it (more or less) didn’t begin to approach the difficulty of the first time I took Calculus 101 in college. (Or the second time I took it. Or, for that matter, the third.)

Epilogue (of sorts)

Scrivener is all things to a writer wrestling with a novel, non-fiction book, film script, poems, song lyrics, lecture, or any other chunk of writing. Kudos to Keith Blount for realizing the need for such a program and developing it. I love that guy. But we’re both already married.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip–we’re always looking for new tools for helping students write–I’ll check this out. Cornwall–doesn’t your PBS station show Doc Martin?

  2. Mike, I can’t say enough good things about Scrivener. It is truly a writer’s app in that it puts so many useful organizational tools at the writer’s disposal without the silliness of programs that purport to help you develop characters and stories. As for Doc Martin, our PBS station does not show commercials. Even if they did, I don’t care for the thick soles and yellow stitching of those shoes. Frankly, I’m shocked to learn that they suit your tastes. I’ve always thought of you as a more refined person, but perhaps I’ve been wrong. Do you follow grunge bands, too?

  3. I have been using Scrivener since last autumn and have found it to be a wonderful program for writing. I’d say it’s superior to MS Word, but that credits MS Word too much as a worthy of comparison.

  4. I am dubious, sir, but I shall check it out! Not sure I totally understand what it does that I can’t just do in Word, but… we’ll see. FYI your drawings are REALLy good.

    • Dear Amy KidFree – I kid you not, Scrivener will change your writing life if you’re doing a book, play, screenplay, in short, anything you’d refer to as a manuscript. It puts you in a writing environment that manages the writing process to whatever extent you wish. To wax poetic, Scrivener puts me in an ineffable state of writing that improves writing. Actually, that wasn’t poetic. Look, just try the app, okay? Okay. In my day-to-day advertising-slash-marketing writing (ad agency/Paxil background), which includes biz pieces and white papers up to 2,000 words, I use the latest version of Word for Mac, despite its 2,482 features (rough count) I’ll never use and the disappearance of several, beloved features from the 2008 version. I can only assume Microsoft removed them to spite me, personally. Thank you for the “nice drawings” compliment. I recently rediscovered McSweeney’s. At the moment, firing synapses suggest I read you there, but I can’t be sure as firing and misfiring sound too alike. I scanned your tweets; it was obvious you were follow-worthy. I gave your blog my highest honor: I recommended it to one of the Daughters Tisdale who appreciates blogs funny and unusual. I should write another blog post. But first She Who Must Be Let Out is mewing.

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