How Scrivener won me and (almost) lost me

When it comes to writing, I have rituals and such that get me through the process of a writing session. Generally certain things have to be true for it to work. It shouldn’t be that way, but it helps that those rules are almost always satisfied, so writing gets done. I usually need a drink. I need something to block out the sounds. A cafe generally satisfies most my ritual demands, but at a pinch I can write almost anywhere else too.

When it comes to the tools of my trade I’ve come across plenty of things to record and save the words of my imagination. End of the day, though, I typically come back to OpenOffice. It’s cross platform. It displays the words on the screen. It saves the words into a document. It tells me how many words the document is. Anything more than that is superfluous as far as I’m concerned.

So if someone tells me to check out something more than a white sheet on the screen with a save button, I’m skeptical. Scrivener at first glance is all sorts of complex. It’s got bits on the right and left. It’s got categories and such. So many buttons. Complications that are lost on me. Something I’d never want to engage.

During the recent Camp Nanowrimo I decided to check it out, under the warm recommendations of a few people. Furthermore, it would be 50% off if I ‘won’ my Camp target. Easy. I’d write my Nano-efforts in this thing, and I’d explore it with the planning and plotting of my new teen novel.

Ah, how seductive. If there’s one thing that OpenOffice or the simple solutions don’t give you, it’s a place to put all your details. I’ve taken many different approaches. Directories filled with draft versions and note files and character files, but none of my solutions come close to the all-in-one-place beauty of Scrivener. A month with Scrivener warmed me to the possibilities. And my new novel is damn well plotted in the thing.

Congratulations, Scrivener. You won me over. I’ll pay the purchase price to continue using you after Camp Nano. Thanks for 50% off.

But then the most horrible thing happened that no author ever wants to see. I opened up my Scrivener to continue where I left off, hacking and slashing my main character through his challenges, and my progress was gone. You don’t have to be a writer to experience this total panic. Being a student whose working on an essay will do. There one moment, gut wrenching fear gone the next.

Thankfully Scrivener has a solution to this problem. Backups every time you leave the application. So it was just a matter of restoring a prior backup. But it still happened in the first place. To be fair, it might not actually have been Scriveners fault that my writing progress went on a curious sojourn. The fact that I save all my writing directly into Google Drive, that then updates it all to the cloud might have confused Scrivener. Or Scrivener might have confused Google Drive.

Fault not withstanding, it’s a sudden fear enough to scare a writer away.

Getting over this horrible fear and considering I’ve plotted a novel using this system, it gets a reprieve and I’ll probably buy it tonight. The 50% off price tag goes a long way towards taking a further chance on something like this. I’m a creature of habit. I have to be. It’s how I sit down and write every day. I don’t move easily from my processes.


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