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Scrivener 2

Scrivener 2

The last organizational software test on my list is finally here: Scrivener. I’m not sure why I saved it for last – maybe because it looked like there was more to it than the previous two programs I tried and I was being lazy, or maybe because I just happened to look it up last when I was researching all of the tools you all mentioned in your comments to my original post. Either way, it’s last, and the time is nigh!

The first thing I had to do was download the free trial of Scrivener from their website, which is pretty cool. They have a trial period that equals thirty days of use, which can last however long it takes you to use the program on thirty different days. If you use it every day, that’s a month. If you use it twice a week, that’s quite a bit longer.

When I opened the program after it installed I was brought to this home screen, which gave me a sense of what I was in for. There are three forms of tutorials: interactive, written, and YouTube videos. I won’t go into the details of use, because the tutorials are all very thorough. For the sake of diving in, let’s look at the fiction interface!

Once you choose the type of writing (for me, fiction), you get sub-types. I went with novel. I want to pause here and point out that if you choose non-fiction, you get everything from research proposals to “undergraduate humanities essay”. Where has this been all my life!?

Each template has it’s own introduction page to show you what you’re in for, which is great. On the left you have a navigation pane, on the right is a spot for your synopsis, and at the bottom right is a post-it colored writing spot to make notes to yourself. When you open the “manuscript” window, you get this really excellent interface that looks like a corkboard with index cards stuck to it (this is already calling to me).  Each moment within the chapter is called a scene, but all of the text on the card is editable, so you can re-name it whatever works for your brain. If you right-click on the corkboard you can open another menu of options, including the ability to add character and setting sketches!

Any of these choices opens another corkboard screen for you, where you can basically make virtual post-its, but organized and not falling off your walls all the time. Within each chapter you can then select the scene you made notes about and be taken to a basic word processing page, where you can get to writing!

As someone who helps people make books, I really liked the “front matter” category, which gives authors little cards for each page they’ll need that they often don’t think about, like a dedication, copyright page, and title page. Not sure why there wasn’t any back matter, but I bet I could add it!

The program has a bunch more fun little features, but not as many as WriteItNow has, as far as organizational detail. I didn’t mind that, because WriteItNow was sort of overwhelming to me. Scrivener does have a few templates for character and setting organization, but for the most part it allows Post-it people to take their madness and make it digital, which is not only more practical but creates less waste!

You can probably already tell, but I’m drinking the Scrivener Kool-Aid over here. Something about that corkboard background….

One big negative for me is that, again, there was no cross-device functionality here. You can’t sink Scrivener to your tablet or phone, and you can’t access it online if you’re on the move. So I do suggest, if you’re using it, to have a supplemental web-compatible note jotting program happening as well, like Evernote or Google Docs.

But what do you all think? Also, as a teacher, I wonder if any of you ever use this as a tool for getting your students organized for paper writing? Let me know in the comments below!

WriteItNow

WriteItNow

This week I’m continuing to forage my way through the world of organization software with a program I had never heard of before: WriteItNow. It’s produced by a company called Ravens Head Services, and to be honest, the website looks a little bit sketchy. But I trust you all, so onward!

The first thing I had to do was download the demo version of the software for Mac (remember, I’m using a MacBook Pro). That just took a few minutes. When I opened the program, it took me to an example page that looked like this:

There’s a navigation panel on the side that gives you a peek at what you’re in for here:

You can see that they have tools for chapters (content), characters, events, locations, notes, ideas, references, and submissions. I can’t stress enough how seriously streamlined this program is – if you need to really organize yourself into compartments, like I sometimes do, this is the thing for you. You can file away everything, from the smallest of characters to the largest of ideas, and then not worry about remembering all of that good stuff.

The first thing I noticed when exploring the interface was all these funky symbols mixed in with the text. If you click them, you’ll get little menus with options to go a few different places. If you click on a character, for example, you can go to the character page for that person. Here, you will have, theoretically, filled out the details about this person. Let me tell you, they’ve really thought of everything here:

I mean, you can craft a person’s personality from scratch, giving each characteristic a weight and ordering them by importance. It’s pretty thorough. The organizational nerd in me was salivating over this. As someone who likes to write character-driven narratives, I could probably spend hours in here filling this out. I felt like George RR Martin should use this software, because he has so many characters that are intertwined in so many different ways.

The event and location tabs are less thorough, but they have some cool features. Events, for example, let’s you create an important moment and make note of what happens:

It lets you specify who was there and when it was, as well as make any notes to yourself you might need. The location tab is similar:

Notice the little people icons at the top of the description. If I go to “Links”, I can add information to any of these entries, such as who was there, what scenes take place there, or even references from the web for that location:

And they’ve really thought of everything, from idea to publication. I went to the “submission” tab to see what it might be for, and it’s actually a place to keep track of who you submit the manuscript to for publication:

There’s a place to keep track of when you sent it, when and if the agent or publisher replied, when and if it was published, and for how much.

There are more menu options along the top of the page, and I was intrigued by the “graphs” option. There are three kinds of graphs to be found here: relationships, events, and story conflict.

The visual learner in me LOVES these, seriously. If you timestamp every event in the story, as the software allows you to do, it will literally make a bar graph for you with the story arc, broken into scenes and chapters. That’s pretty cool, and my writing professor who said a good story should look like a roller coaster would probably agree with me.

As far as cons go, I have a few. First, the interface just looks outdated to me (I’m thinking AOL circa 2003, know what I mean?).

 

Remember me? I’m your dashboard from 1998!

 

There’s no app, either, for any kind of tablet or phone, which means you’re restricted to working on the laptop or desktop machine that has the software. God forbid you spill your tea on it and fry the thing mid-chapter (not that I spill beverages on my computer. I’m responsible!). Because of the lack of compatibility with other devices, there’s no live-update or automatic saving and syncing happening. If you have an idea while you’re out and about in the world, you’ll need another app for your phone to record your ideas in, and then you’ll have to transfer those ideas once you’re back at the computer.

But the ultimate question, I guess, is would I use it? I’m sorely tempted, I’ll admit. I have post-its on my walls that say things like “location” and “what Grace has”, with lists underneath. These lists would be organized very nicely by this software, and to see what Grace has I could just click “Grace” and see all of my notes about her. Not bad. But the aesthetic of the interface is a huge draw back for me, because you have to figure you’ll be spending a lot of time looking at it, and if I’m going to pay $70 for writing software, it should at least look nice, am I right?

I know that some of you swear by this thing, so let me know your thoughts! Do you find it frustrating to be unable to access your story from other devices? Do you supplement with something else for note-taking that’s sync-able, like Evernote?

For me, this is something I would consider getting if I had a desktop computer that I always worked from. I’d have to figure out what to do when I wanted to work on the go from a laptop or tablet, but I haven’t seen a program that comes close to the organizational capacity of WriteItNow.

 

Experimenting with Evernote

Experimenting with Evernote

On Monday I got some great responses to my post about getting organized. There are a lot of different tools that we all use, some of which I have never heard of before! I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I thought it might be a good idea to go through and check out these different programs that several of you mentioned. First up: Evernote.

Before I get started, let me give you some background on the technology I have at my disposal. I work on a Mac, though at heart I’m a PC gal. I don’t have any tablets, so it’s purely laptop/desktop or pencil and paper for me. I also have an Android phone, and an old school iPod nano (without a touch screen, like the Dark Ages!).

I happened to have the Evernote software on my computer, which was a nice start! When I opened it, I was prompted to sign up for an account. It took my email and a password I created, and I was off! The interface is pretty straightforward and not cluttered, which I liked a lot.

What you get with Evernote is pretty simple: Much like Microsoft OneNote, you have a basic word processing program. Unlike OneNote, which allows you to click anywhere on the page and start writing, Evernote is a bit less free, confining you to starting at the top and working your way down.

The program gives you the ability to organize your thoughts into notebooks, and then to give each page within that notebook a header. It also timestamps all of your entries, which could be helpful when revising and trying to sort through which ideas are the most recent. It also has a GPS stamp, which I’m sure has a purpose for some people (?), but it’s cool either way!

It also has an audio recording function, so for those of us who like to dictate our thoughts, they’ve got you covered!

The most useful part about Evernote, though, is the ability to sync everything live and keep your notes up to date across devices. If you own the whole Apple product family, this means that your information is updated live across your devices, effortlessly.

You can also log in to the program with any web browser, which means you can still access it even if you don’t own a Mac, or any Apple product, for that matter. The interface is not as comprehensive as the actual desktop software, but it definitely gets the job done and includes nearly all of the features that you can get from the download.

Overall, I have to say I like Evernote a lot, though I’m not sure I’ll make a point of using it for organizing myself. It reminds me a lot of what the Google Drive programs can offer, as far as live updating and desktop vs. web browser capability. But like I said, I’m a newbie to Evernote! If you feel strongly for (or against!) the program, let me know in the comments below!

Did You Get My Text?

Posted on

I used to own this phone in grey!

Now that I’m over halfway done with the revisions of my draft, I’m starting to think about some of the smaller nuances in the novel that might need some fine-tuning. One of the biggest issues with my story was that the main character needed a way to stay in touch with her old life after she moved away. The only way I could see to accomplish this was by having her reach out to her old friends via technology – texts, e-mails, and so on. The answer seemed simple enough, but when I sat down to start writing those moments I found myself fumbling for a way to write in the use of technology without being clunky or obnoxious.

I’ve seen this done a lot of different ways with a lot of different results. I could just insert something that looks just like an email looks on your computer screen, with e-mail addresses and time stamps and the whole deal. Or I could just have the text of the e-mail in italics. Or I could do a multitude of other things.

Meg Cabot has a few books (Every Boy’s Got One, The Boy Next Door) where she does technology to the extreme. These books are essentially compiled email and/or text exchanges. I enjoy them a lot, but I find myself a little frustrated whenever I read them because I want more. Whenever the characters step away from the their computers and actually interact with each other, Cabot’s readers are left in the dark. Her commitment to telling the entire story via technology-based interaction means that every other form of narrative in her story gets left out. I still love those novels – they’re great beach reads if you’re ever looking for something funny and light – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say they felt like they were missing something.

There are television shows today that are representing technology really well. Sherlock, for example, uses texting in a really brilliant way – it’s both relevant and essential to the story, and only serves to further the narrative. In a totally different genre, The Mindy Project also uses technology in a way that isn’t distracting and adds to the story, and the characters use it in a very realistic way. Replicating that without the visual of a television screen may be impossible, but I think there’s something there.

This week, my question for all of you is a little more complicated. How do you represent the use of technology in your writing? Or, what have you read that integrates technology in a really helpful way? Let me know in the comments below!