05/02/2011 ecmyers

Many of the writers I know are vocal supporters of the writing software Scrivener. Until fairly recently, it was only available for Macs, which was a big deterrent to me because I prefer PCs. (Many of the writers I know are also vocal Apple supporters, but that’s a whole separate matter; I know could adapt to the Mac operating system easily with practice, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to their keyboards.)

Over the years, I’ve briefly sampled some of the other writing software programs out there that were supposed to mimic Scrivener on PCs, but they were all lacking. So when the Windows beta version of Scrivener was finally released last November, there was much celebration. I was still curious about the program, but suddenly hesitant to try it out. Some fans of Scrivener border on a cultlike devotion, and I didn’t want to become dependent on one piece of software to write my novels. I also needed to make sure that my work is fully compatible between different computers, more or less. At the time, I was primarily drafting on my 7″ Asus Eee PC netbook in Open Office, and writing and editing on my larger laptop at home in Word, so if I were to use Scrivener, it had to run on both Windows and Linux platforms–or I would face the joys of manually syncing up my files with Scrivener every day, which seemed to defeat the point.

However, I was open to change, so I downloaded the beta and installed it on my then-new Windows 7 laptop, and soon discovered that my concerns were moot because… It didn’t work. I tried to create a new Scrivener project and was promptly informed that it was incompatible with the current version. Huh? I tried it with a new install with the same result, and kind of gave up on it after that.

But I kept hearing about other happy Windows users, not to mention Mac users, creating bestselling novels on an hourly basis thanks to Scrivener–and by the way, did you know that it does dishes too?–so I figured it warranted another shot. This is that shot: I plan to use the process of revising my YA novel Quantum Coin as an opportunity to see what Scrivener can do for me and my book, and I’ll blog the results for other people who are thinking of taking the plunge and investing time (and eventually money) in the software.

A teaser for my next post in this series: We’re off to a good start, because this time the program at least works on my computer!

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I'm a YA author who spends too much time on the internet.

Comments (10)

  1. I look forward to reading about your Scrivener adventures. I downloaded the Windows beta when it was first released and, unlike you, I was able to successfully start a new project. After a couple days I wasn’t a convert, and went back to my old software. Watching someone else go through the process, though, might help me see why everyone’s so crazy about the program.

    • ecmyers

      What software are you using now? Just a word processor?

      • If I’m somewhere with internet, I use Google Docs. No worries about version control! Others have raised privacy/rights concerns about Google, but I’m satisfied with their terms (for now. If I ever become a super-famous writer [ha!] I’d probably rethink this), and it’s just so convenient. I’m hooked. (I also keep RTF back-ups of most WIPs on my desktop.)

        Otherwise, I use Word 2003 on my desktop and NotePad on my laptop, and copy whatever I’ve written into my working files as soon as I’m able.

        • ecmyers

          I sometmies find Google Docs frustrating to work with, though mostly because my netbook is stuck with an old version of Firefox which Google stopped supporting, making it very buggy. Are their privacy rights that scary?

          I also think it’s better for me to be offline as much as possible while writing. I always backup my day’s work to my USB drive before shutting off my laptop, and periodically back things up to external HD and/or sync with my main computer as needed. Is there a chance of you losing anything if your internet connection cuts out suddenly?

          I love Word 2003. I think it’s the last good version of the software and I’ll keep using it as long as Windows can run it.

          • No, their privacy policies aren’t that scary, but there has been at least one incident where a small number of documents on Google Docs were accidentally shared with other people, for example. Right now I’m not concerned about this; if I were, say, George R. R. Martin finishing A Dance with Dragons, I can imagine that I might be more cautious.

            When my internet cuts out suddenly, I just need to be sure that I don’t close the window until it’s come back up and I’ve saved again. It doesn’t delete anything in the meantime. (A couple of times, I’ve copied the full doc into NotePad until I could get back online.)

  2. I, like you, was excited to hear about Scrivener for Windows, and after five months using the beta(s), I am a believer. I do all of my long fiction within Scrivener’s intuitive, yet powerful bounds. For short fiction, I still use Word 07, but anything over 10k goes into Scriv.

    • ecmyers

      I’m curious: do you feel you could still write longer pieces as well if you suddenly couldn’t use Scrivener anymore? Or have you grown too attached?

  3. KB

    Hi, I’m the designer of Scrivener (and the Mac developer) – thanks for trying out Scrivener and covering it on your blog (whether you ultimately decide it’s for you or not). I didn’t know we had cult-like devotion out there among some writers, I quite like that! I’m sorry you had problems with Scrivener for Windows initially – it is still in beta so there are a fair few glitches lurking compared to the Mac version, although we hope to have it a lot more polished by next month (Lee, the Windows developer, is working like crazy to get it to a release stage). Drop us a line if you have any problems, though – although we’re a very small team (a couple of years ago the team consisted of only me), Scrivener is a labour of love and the software we use for our own writing efforts, so we’re always do our best to help. Thanks again, Keith

    • ecmyers

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m really impressed with how hard you all have been working to make Scrivener available, and how responsive you are to the community and your users. Whether the program ends up being suitable for me or not, it’s remarkable software and has clearly become an indispensable tool for many writers. I will definitely forward any bugs or issues I find to you and your team.

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