What We Talk About When We Talk About Writing Software

So I have discovered that I love Scrivener, that I can figure out how to make it work for me, and that it makes life so much easier to write a short story. Now, let's see if I can finish adapting the method for novelling.

So. Details.

I finished an almost 7000 word Christmas short story in the nick of time for Christmas reading, then finished editing it in 20 minutes. The formatting was a pain, due to one serious frustration: it is literally impossible to merge text items or compile them without separators. I'm a controlling type when it comes to my formatting. I was using a different glyph for every scene separator and had several scenes split up into several text files. Needless to say, manually batting cleanup after Scrivener was. not. fun.

I tried reorganizing The Rothnen Cycle and Vardin project into the same format I had done the Christmas short story (and related stories) and immediately saw an improvement in my workflow. I label the draft "Current" and keep separate folders for Imported Files, Sketches, Working Files, and Compiled Stories. Within "Working Files," I keep a file folder for each story and treat those as my draft documents. It gets messy. Under "Sketches," I put the original story sketch that I duplicate and split to get working files. This allows me to keep a record of how my muse works and stories I'm not ready to flesh out yet. When I'm done with a story, I duplicate the working file folder, merge it all into a single text, and drop it under compiled. If I ever want to go back and plunk in more edits (like newly discovered typos), I update the working files and remerge. The current is where I plunk any compiled doc I want to compile to print or pdf. Works beautifully.

How goes your writing process?

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2 Responses to What We Talk About When We Talk About Writing Software

  1. Kira Butler says:

    My "rig" in Scrivener is broken down into a few chunks: a blackboard that mimics the physical white board in my room, which is reflected in my Evernote account (used for all sorts of notetaking, chunks, segments, inspiration, research etc. BEFORE it gets sorted) that goes beyond the immediate story into spinoffs and the other major books in the sequence, the manuscript for compile (which breaks down into chapters and then into scenes: active and alternates - which get excluded on compile - and revision snapshots within each scene where I've reworked things or provided alternate solutions to move along the action -- invaluable), then the research binder for characters, notes, photos, and articles that usually get linked to from the active document so I can use the QuickReference. The major plot document sits in a Sort folder, right at the top, but is also replicated on the chapter "index cards", and in the scene "index cards" so it's visible in outliner. (Trying to keep that sorted is a bit of a pain, and will be especially when I do the first round of edits digitally. I'm doing my best to keep it organized before it gets unruly.)

    I write in fullscreen to reduce distraction, keeping a quick reference window of plot points open so I can make sure things are moving along, and sometimes I'll QuickRef a photo if I'm working out something atmospheric or that has a specific time/place reference. It's easier for me to lock a photo into my brain and blast off into something that grows from it when the words hit the page.

    There's also the physical whiteboard and a little moleskine I keep handy for chunks (words, turns of phrase, little bits that usually fall out of nowhere and I try to work into the story.) If I ever lose that book, I will be in trouble.

    Have not tried compiling the manuscript yet, because there are too many variant chapters right now. No idea what my scene breaks are going to look like. :/ I imagine it will need some finessing. God knows what'll happen if I try to turn this thing into an ebook directly from Scrivener. I always figured I'd have to extract everything to InDesign to make it look the way I want.

    • Liana says:

      I haven't tried fullscreen yet because I write insanely faster on a tiny screen or paper (think index cards vs. letter size). Go figure. But I like your blackboard idea. I find myself alternating between corkboard and scrivenings mode almost the entire timeā€”the first for rearranging, big picture stuff and the latter for actual drafting. I pretty much dump out clips immediately upon deciding on switching up plot points, something I've always done. It might be interesting to start keeping those on hand. Hmm...

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