photo (45)Months ago I downloaded a trial version of Scrivener—author software—yet never did anything with it. Scrivener’s free 30-day trial is a little different from other free trials I’ve seen. With Scrivener, if you download the software and never get around to trying it, your test drive doesn’t end after a month. It ends after you actually use the software for 30 days—not while it sits unused on your computer for 30 days. Rather clever of those people at Scrivener.

Several months ago I purchased Scrivener’s Index Cards app for my iPad. I loved the way it helped me organize my chapters. It got me to take another look at Scrivener software for my laptop. The software had some nifty tools which could make my life easier—providing learning the software didn’t make me crazy.

I finally got around to giving it a test drive. If you’ve been considering giving Scrivener a try, here’s few of my tips and impressions thus far.

First let me say that while I had one frustrating day with the program—which I confess was probably my own fault—after I finally figured it out on day two, I was pretty excited with the possibilities, and understood why so many authors praise the software.

Why did I waste one day?

Computer or Software Glitch – I spent an entire day fussing with the trial version, only to have it continually freeze and behave in ways contrary to instruction videos I watched online. I almost gave up, but decided to first free up some of my hard drive (I really had way too many image files bogging down the machine) and I removed the Scrivener software, and reloaded it from their site. After all, I initially downloaded the software over a year ago.

Don’t try to short cut learning the program.

Walk Away from the Videos – I tend to be one of those people who avoids reading directions, and I typically grab instruction videos from YouTube. May I suggest, DO NOT DO THIS. I’m not sure if some of the videos were just outdated, or if the people making them didn’t really know what they were doing, or if I was just watching the wrong video.

An example of where a video led me astray—according to one, when transferring my manuscript into Scrivener I would need to manually break it into chapter chunks by cut and pasting, because I was on a PC not an Apple. WRONG – it was ridiculously easy to import my file and then break it into chapters. I simply had to follow the tutorial’s instructions.

I know this is hard—especially if you are like me—but take a few hours out of your day and sit down with the program and follow the tutorial that comes with the software. No, it is not a video, and you will have to read it—but it will walk you through the program as you try out the various features. It seriously made all the difference in the world.

My takeaway?

Today is the first day I actually used the program—going through my rough draft of Haunting Danielle, Book 2. What do I think of the software now?

It makes me look at my manuscript in an entirely new way. Scenes can be easily reordered and managed. I suppose you might say—it’s more visual. I have a better grasp on where I’m going with the story and what needs to be changed.

Locating scenes are a breeze and I can easily move around between chapters, and if necessary split the screen to view two documents at once.

Characters and settings are easily managed through templates—a breeze to add or retrieved. No longer do I have to jot down character info to add later to some other character sheet kept in another file on my computer or notepad, nor do I have a problem recalling a character’s name. I’m also able to store all my research and notes on a project in one place–a place I can easily view while working on the manuscript.

After finishing the tutorial and realizing the program was relatively easy, I was awed and excited at all the cool features that would make my life easier and keep my manuscript organized. But then I sat down this morning and started to write and was startled at how different it felt from Microsoft Word.

The people at Scrivener had reminded me in their tutorial that the program was not a word processor. It wasn’t until I started writing did I understand what they were saying. While the program lacks many of the bells and whistles of Word, it offers other features more valuable. Fact is, I don’t really need those bells and whistles of Word until after I write my book—and in some way they are probably a distraction.

For example, formatting options are limited, which some may see as a negative, yet I see it as a good thing, because then I spend my time on the story, not on the formatting. I can do formatting when I finish the book and convert the manuscript to a Word file.

Grammar check isn’t looking over your shoulder, which some people might miss, yet others might see as liberating.

Their spell check’s dictionary is limited. For example, it thought the word blonde was misspelled.

I missed the Thesaurus feature of Word. It offers a link to a Thesaurus website, but that is hardly the same thing. My work around was to keep a Word document open and use their Thesaurus.

My take away from the last few days—I believe the tools in Scrivener will help me better craft a story by making it easier to manage my document and organize my work, whereas a word processor’s job begins after the story is written.

For now, I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying the software before the trial ends.

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