Milestones help me write and one goal I’d set for myself was to post at the 50% point in draft 2 of my current project. Monday I was tooling along, wondering why the halfway point seemed so far away so I counted my chapters again and… I was already past it 🙂 Turns out in addition to counting chapters I had counted a layer of hierarchy I had added above chapters (it’s a non-printing layer but tracks turning points). So a good oops, since I was farther along than I thought.
As part of the half-way pause, I’d thought I’d share my own-going adventures with Scrivener. That makes it sound negative but actually, I love the tool. They came out a few months ago with an update that added some of the features missing from the windows version (hurrah for outline export!) I’ve also gotten used to the Scrivener way and come to enjoy it but most importantly, the level of abstraction it provides has proved to be just right for me.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for those on a tight deadline, for me, being able to manage the novel as a series of scenes has been a big win. While I plot at the turning point (or pier) level and structure things at the chapter level, when it comes to massaging a novel, I found being able move scenes and, just as important, add scene placeholders a huge win. For this draft, I took a MS Word version and converted it to Scrivener. Converting it by chapter is trivial and takes just a few minutes but I wanted to try the scene level organization with appropriate tags. That took me about a month, although I did some re-writing as I worked along.
What I really like about the scene level is that I can attach notes at a natural level of granularity. In my MS Word days, I’d have to either keep a separate list of notes or mark up the copy (paper or electronic). The problem with the latter was that I’d have to hunt for the right spot to place the note when all I really needed in most cases was a way to say “when I’m explaining the childhood of this dragon, be sure to mention he ate all his siblings.” That sort of note isn’t really a comment for a specific sentence but when marking up copies, I’d typically have to find some sentence to stick this onto. Now, with Scrivener and my manuscript organized by scenes, I can just use the handy note field of each scene and stick it there. As I get to each scene, I check the notes. Before marking the scene as “final draft”, I make sure I’ve addressed all the notes. With this level of abstraction, instead of looking for a page or sentence where I append the note, I look for one of a hundred or so scenes: much more manageable. Another benefit for me of the scene structuring is that it is easy to check scene and chapter length for balance.
In-line annotation and comments are also available but I find those of limited use for the most part, just a way to mark where I stopped editing, for instance.
If you start your story in Scrivener with scenes in mind, it isn’t a big one month hit like it was for me but it isn’t for free either. Managing a story in this way probably will add noticeably to the project time, especially if you make use of keywords (so you can easily find an object, person, place, theme, magic effect, whatever you want to make a tag for). But for me, being able to look at the story at different levels of abstraction, from the level of a few turning points to chapters all the way down to scenes is a huge boon.
Color me more excited about Scrivener than my earlier posts indicated.
To keep this somewhat balanced, Scrivener is not without its nuisances. As far as I can tell, you can’t get chapter numbers and total chapter count without compiling (thus my earlier miscount). And it is a lot less portable than MS Word or one of the cloud word processors. The Scrivener license does allow multiple copies but so far it’s something I haven’t installed on my work laptop because I don’t like adding personal software to a work machine. That means, no Scrivener on business trips 😦