Scrivener Software: The Ongoing Review – Part 2

Craig's Opinion

A few weeks ago, I began an ongoing review of the Scrivener Software tools for writers. I began with an initial look at the software by watching a few of their tutorial videos then diving into draft mode. I decided it would be helpful to write an entire project, novella length at least, in Scrivener and post my notes about Scrivener along the way.

I am working on a novella entitled Poison Nickels Across the Universe. This novella will dovetail with Funk Toast and the Pan-galactic Prom Show, along with 2 other stories to make up a new novel. I am writing the Poison Nickels story in Scrivener.

The Good
I am impressed with Scrivener’s outlining tools. They make it intuitive and flexible, which means everything to me as a writer. I am now about 6,000 words into my first draft copy. I find myself using the outlining tools along the way. As I write, nuances come out in the story, side characters, pieces of equipment, settings, and other aspects. I can easily put these into the outlining software and reference them at will as I write. I can jump into this reference material and add notes and details about these items at will, fleshing them out on the fly. I find this extremely helpful.

The Bad
I still see the lack of project portability in Scrivener as a huge problem. I write on a few different workstations. Microsoft and Google Docs make it simple to work on the same documents from different locations. Scrivener does not.

Scrivener claims portability using their sync function, which allows you to work on your document and sync it to another folder, such as a dropbox folder. Sync is available on the MAC side of Scrivener. But I do not see sync on the PC side. PC side has a back up option that, I guess, acts like the sync option.

On a PC, I tried to back up my Scrivener outline, which encompassed hours of work, to a dropbox folder. When I opened the document at another location on a MAC, the file names were present, but all of the detailed information I had written under those file names was gone.

Much to my chagrin, when I got back to the PC, Scrivener had somehow wiped out the information altogether. At first I thought it might be a linking problem. I searched my PC for Scrivener documents. But I could not find them. In desperation, I jumped online looking for help. I discovered that Scrivener automatically backs up your information often. I finally found a backup that had perhaps 15% of my written information. But I had lost most of it. I had to spend hours redrafting my outline, which infuriated me. This was almost a deal breaker for Scrivener. It still might be if I can’t figure out a better way. Currently, I have constrained my writing to only one work station, which sucks.

I’m sure the Scrivener people will claim user error. I’m sure they are more than happy to point out what I did wrong. But I am not an idiot. I work on computers all day long. Scrivener needs to realize that the words we writers put down are sacred. We don’t want them to disappear. We don’t want to lose our work. They need to work harder to stabilize portability.

On the same note, the portability of Scrivener documents is so clunky that I found myself not writing at all until I figured it out. This cost me a couple of weeks of writing. I simply didn’t dare put my words down. The first rule of writers is to WRITE. Scrivener’s job is to make it easy for writers to write. Writers need to be able to adopt their software without disrupting their writing routines.

There you have it, the good and the bad. As I continue to write Poison Nickels Across the Universe, I will post more information about Scrivener along the way.

Comments: 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Scrivener Software: The Ongoing Review – Part 2”

  1. Hello Craig,

    Well, that bad section is much longer than we’d have liked! As writers we realise that words are sacred, and we do our upmost to ensure that none are ever lost. Automated saving and backups within Scrivener being two safeguards. We appreciate that you’re comfortable with computers, but please ensure you’re following these guidelines when using Scrivener with Dropbox http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11725. We have many users that are entirely comfortable with this workflow, switching from a Windows computer at work, back to a Scrivener project when they get home on their Mac. We naturally trust you’ll never have an issue again, but support is available here windows.support@literatureandlatte.com.

    Thank you for giving Scrivener a go!

    All the best,
    David
    (Scrivener, Literature & Latte)

  2. Craig… David is part of Lit&Latte, so of course he’ll say good things (and how impressive that he responded so quickly!!!!)… I have nothing to do with L&L, except that I’m a Scrivener user, and I LOVE it.
    David’s given you some links, let me give you some actual experience info. First, I’m a Windows user. I also have an iPad, but both my desktop and laptop are Windows. I’ve had a number of conversations with a number of Mac users, and I’m quite jealous of the sync feature, which does not exist in the windows version. But don’t think of the backup option as a sync feature.. it’s not. It creates backups… manually when you tell it to, otherwise automatically. And unless you’ve overridden the automatic backup, it’s something ridiculous like… every time you close a file, AND every time you go for 20 seconds or something, without entering new info. I know many people change this time period, I do not. After all, if those default settings had been left in place, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for you to lose 85% of what you wrote.
    I won’t go into the details, but I work on the same Scrivener projects both on the desktop at work, and the laptop at home.. and I also export the project to Dropbox and then open it on the iPad and write using Textilus.. then save it back to Dropbox and import it back in to Scrivener. Not only have I never lost anything.. but the aggravating thing is I end up with both the old and the new when I reopen Scrivener, and I have to delete the duplicate stuff. (and if that’s as aggravating as things get, I can live with that).
    My sympathies on your lost work, and I’m sorry your experience was bad, but I encourage you to try that process again. I’m not a computer genius, I’m a divorce lawyer, and if I can figure out this computer stuff, anyone can!!
    Good luck.

  3. Rod Burns says:

    Thanks for posting your experience. I always enjoy reading how real authors work with the tools I am trying to learn :)

    For what it’s worth, I have been using Scrivener pretty heavily between 3 Win7 machines (don’t have a Mac) for about a month, with my project stored in DropBox. The only time I had a problem was when I was testing the setup at first to make sure it worked but DropBox hadn’t fully synced to the other machine yet.

    As long as DropBox has time to fully sync, I’ve had no problems at all.

    But I keep backup on just in case :)

    Looking forward to hearing more of your experience!

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