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.

Ease of Use

As software goes, this one’s interface isn’t as intuitive as it might be if they conformed to the Microsoft look and feel. But this was born in MacWorld’s OS environment, and so it doesn’t have the familiar Windows program appearance. Even so, it’s not confusing. There are a couple of “getting started” kind of videos, and if you spend ten minutes with those videos, you’re going to be familiar enough with the program to accomplish anything you’d like.

The features, when you see them demonstrated in the videos, are simple, easy to use, easy to understand, and writers won’t be bogged down in them. That’s awesome.

Affordability

This is the best money I’ve ever spent on writing software, bar none, and that’s saying something. Sometimes, Microsoft Word and Text Tree are all I want, but this package combines many of the features of both. At a paltry $45, this is money well spent in my book. I’ve tried using everything from Word to WriteWay Pro to PowerWriter. And while PW has a lot of really cool features which are close to what I need, Scrivener packs them all in and does it with simplicity and ease. And it’s cheap. I’ve paid more for keyboards.

Powerful Versatility

Scrivener TemplatesScrivener has capability to be generic, specific, and even has templates for non-fiction (where were you when I needed you in 2009/2010?!). You can Google online for templates and find them out there, free of charge, from a variety of sources. I’ve downloaded one for my Hero’s Journey method (I’d already started the project with the generic novel with parts template before I thought to look for the HJ template), another for my 4-part structure, and there are others out there, I’m sure. If you want to write it, you can write it in Scrivener, and if you want to write it, someone may have a template for it.

It also does some fantastic things in ebook creation, and since I’m an indie publisher of my works on Kindle Direct Publishing, this caught my attention. The only other software I’ve seen which came close to doing this was WriteWay Pro. It’s able to export, but only to a .doc or .docx file (Word formats), which KDP allows you to upload for publication.

The problem with uploading your .doc manuscript directly, however, is the formatting may or may not come out the way you think. If it does, bonus! You win! But more Kindle authors than not don’t recommend this method. Eventually, the technology to do this will be available and we can do away with conversion software altogether. But for me, the safest way is still to convert from Word to HTML and then clean up the proprietary formatting, put it into MobiPocket Creator when I’ve done that, and then upload that .prc file, which is one of Kindle’s native formats.

Scrivener Compile EbookBut Scrivener takes care of all of that. I can import the cover image. I can insert the front matter as it’s own page. I can add any images I want to use directly into the text portions of the chapters or scenes (mostly with non-fiction, though, where illustrations and figures are common), and then I can compile the document as a .mobi (another native Kindle format) or .epub file. And the conversion, while not absolutely perfect, is so good, I uploaded one of my novellas to Kindle this way just yesterday.

As a reference point, doing it my standard way took me hours. Several. And Lord help me if I found a mistake, typo, bad formatting, or anything else. I had to do the whole upload and conversion again. But with Scrivener, I correct the typo, formatting, whatever, I save the project, I open the compile window again and everything is still there, and then I click the “Compile” button and wait. A few seconds later, my document, in .mobi format, is ready in the designated folder. I upload with confidence to Kindle.

Now that’s worth $45 to me. I’d have paid a lot more for software which can do that.

In Closing

I can’t see myself going back to anything else but good ol’ Word for writing after this. I love Word. I love how powerful it’s become. But a long document of tens of thousands of words gets unwieldy, and finding something in an earlier part is a pain. The headings and outlining structure help a lot, but Scrivener allows you to have each scene in a discreet and locatable text chunk. I love how fast it is to move around.

I love that it’s cheap. I love the videos which explain everything. I sat through a 36-minute introduction videocast which gave a more thorough explanation of the basic features, which is all a writer needs to complete a book. I did it on my cheap, crappy tablet, laying in bed, on a Sunday night. It was awesome. And when you show me how to do something, I do a lot better than someone telling me how to do it. Or making me read it.

I love that it can export to .mobi and .epub. I love that. This is my purpose anyway, and Scrivener makes it just flat-out simple to do.

With all that going for it, I can’t recommend Scrivener highly enough to writers, especially those who want to e-publish on Kindle or in other formats (the .epub is fairly universal).

-JDT-

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