Writing Tools: My Love-Hate Relationship With Scrivener

Scrivener Program's Interface Margaret Mayo McGlynn

What is Scrivener?

For those who are saying, “what the heck is ‘Scrivener?'” here’s what it is, in brief.

For those of you who are saying “Isn’t that what Bartelby was?” your English Lit teacher is smiling in heaven, or in the teacher’s lounge with the burned coffee and permanently stained carpet.

Scrivener is a program, very reasonably priced, I might add, that helps writers of all kinds organize their files however they like.

What’s Cool About Scrivener?

It has various kind of templates, for instance, one for novels. It has a template tailor-made for NaNoWriMo.

What’s NaNoWriMo?

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, then click any one of my links herein. NaNoWriMo is a magical internet land that encourages anyone and everyone to buckle down and write the novel that is aching to be born straight from the head of Zeus and begin slouching toward Jerusalem. It is, in short, a wonder of the modern age.

What’s Cool About Scrivener: Take 2

But back to Scrivener. The program has all kinds of useful templates for writing projects, for research papers, for scripts of various stripes and flavors.

The beauty of it is that it helps you organize your book the way you probably think about your book, that is, in scenes, chapters, and parts. And it’s wildly customizable. You can put all kinds of metadata in there. You can tag chapters and scenes with neat codes, notes to self about them, the which you can search later, when your buzz has worn off. You can import entire webpage contents to your research folders. You can color code the crap out of your text with custom highlighting colors. There’s a template for characters, for places, and you can design your own templates.

I love being able to drag scenes from chapter to chapter, willy nilly. I love that each chapter gets its own little index card on which you can put its synopsis. Love, love, love all of this.

Here’s a picture of the interface:

Scrivener Interface, and yes, that is the prologue of my novel Guardian of the Chalice, as it stands today

What’s Sucky About Scrivener?

But the hate starts when I try to sync it with my iPad. It doesn’t yet have its own iPad app, and the folks at Literature and Latte, who designed scrivener, have been promising and promising that the app will be here, any second.

But it’s not here yet. Oh, this novelist is getting so tired of waiting for it. When they finally deliver said app, they might do well to name it ‘Godot.’ Because, damn!

Compile This!

And don’t get me started on the Compile feature. I don’t understand why it’s even in there. Too customizable, and in a way that makes no sense to little ole me. Say I just want to export my Scrivener file of my novel just to a simple Word doc. Oh, the bewildering options that come up when I click ‘Compile,’ none of which work the way I would anticipate. To me, it seems somehow easier to have Scrivener translate my novel into Sanskrit than just to output it with some simple formatting, a page break in between chapters, sequentially numbered chapters, a header with, oh, I don’t know, my name and my book’s title upon it. Woe, woe to Compile. Fie upon it!

I got started, but now I’m stopping. Because I’ve decided to do a fast on complaining to clear my psychic space, if you know what I mean. And this sister from New Jersey, she can do her some complaining! Oh it is a major vice of mine.

There’s the Rub

In any event, I love Scrivener’s computer self so much that I can’t give it up, even though I want open a can o whup ass on its mobile “features” and its “Compile” excrementiness. Am I in a shame spiral? Possibly. Send your dollars today.

Any-hoo, below is a post I placed upon the Literature and Latte forum in which they innocently asked for feedback on the Mac version. I don’t think they saw me coming, do you?

Do you use Scrivener to work on your writerly stuff? If not, what do you use?

Please do scroll down and tell me all about your travails, and the little moments of your process, won’t you?

Thanks for visiting my blog. Comments more than welcome, if that’s possible in this space-time continuum.

:)Margaret

I have a love-hate with Scrivener, and here’s why:

Nothing else helps me organize and update my novel so well while I’m working on my laptop. But when I want to go mobile, oh then, dear reader, do I end up in a spot of difficulty.

Syncing with Simplenote doesn’t do it for me. The sorting files alphabetically thing would be great except I don’t want to inject extraneous chapter numbers in my chapter titles which I will then have to delete by hand in my final draft. And update manually when I change my order of chapters or add a new one. Over and over again.

I don’t like that when I rename a chapter or add a new one, I then have to go through the long checklist and make sure that I check the box for that new item when I sync. My world moves fast, and again, I wish there were a simple idiot-proof way to sync without all the time-consuming customizable stuff.

And I know this isn’t Scrivener’s fault, but I find that when I make changes to a Simplenote file in a browser, it doesn’t always transfer over to the same Simplenote file on my iPad.

Last night I was at my weekly writing class, and not once but twice I was not able to read the proper file, the most recent version, to my teacher, to whom I am paying a certain degree of cash in exchange for time. I found it to be an untenable situation.

My ideal scene is that the fine men and women of Literature and Latte really buckle down and get that gosh darned iPad app up and rocking. This year.

Or I may be looking for other options. Just sayin.’

And if you, lovely reader, have a bit of advice, an easy fix or even a medium difficult fix, which might solve my woes and result in smiles and relaxation on my part, oh, please do chime in!

Many thanks!



Margaret Mayo McGlynn
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Book of the Day: The Little Prince

Notre Dame, Paris, France, Margaret Mayo McGlynn

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves and it is rather tedious for children to have to explain things to them time and again.”

The Little Prince
The Little Prince

It is the rare book that breathes loving kindness from its pages. The Little Prince is such a book.

I didn’t read it as a child. I read it, or rather, heard it, as a twelve year old at summer camp in the Adirondacks, at a Girl Scout Camp called Eagle Island, which occupied the grounds of an old hunting compound built by one of those wealthy adventurers who fancied himself another Teddy Roosevelt. The main building had a lodge with a high pointed roof and criss-crossing beams cut rustically, the walls packed with mounted antlered heads of dead animals that had moldered there for half a century.

I was in the Sailing unit, with the older girls. We slept in canvas tents attached to wooden platforms on metal beds with a mesh of springs. My sleeping bag at night was either too hot or too cold, and bugs landed on my face, making sleep scarce. I remember the coolest most popular girl in our unit had actual boobs, wore high-waisted jeans, and somehow, even though we had no electrical appliances, was able to make her hair look like Farrah Fawcett’s every single day. To me, she was another species.

We learned the parts of the boat, how to capsize safely, how to come about, trim the sails, and jibe, all in Sunfish and Lasers. After working hard to memorize the names of all three corners and edges of the sails, tie complex knots, to sail along all of the reaches, after passing a written test, and undergoing a live sailing examination, we were ready. The counselors jerked us awake in the middle of the night, tied around our necks turk’s head necklaces each one made of a single marble and string dyed navy blue. They told us we must never take them off. They chanted and dubbed us Sisters of the Sea, aka, S.O.S. This was my first actual initiation rite, and it retains in my memory the solemnity, terror, and glee of a Secret Society ritual.

But on normal nights, the C.I.T.s read books to us. No television for miles around, and so we engaged in the petty intrigues that girls get up to during the day, and at night, the unsullied pleasure of hearing a book read aloud. Some volumes they read were more grown up—this was around the time that Jaws was published, and I think I first heard it read aloud at Eagle Island. But one counselor, the sweet chubby one who wore her wiry black hair tucked under a red bandana like Baba Yaga, decided to read us The Little Prince.

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for… 

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.” 

Even then, just a few paragraphs in, it made the tears well up in my eyes. Every sentence conveys what it feels like to be a child of around three or four, when all you can do is ask about everything you see and hear, “Why?” That sense of wonder, of hope, possibility, and joy, of everything being new and sacred and so clear it almost hurts. How did Saint-Exupéry do this? It is a bonafide magic trick. I will never forget it—this book that made me nostalgic for childhood when I was still only twelve.

If you haven’t read this book, it’s time. Get a copy and go somewhere nice, perhaps where you can look at water, or flowers, but nowhere too far from a patch of open sky. Leave your phone behind.

Read it.

Please let me know what it does for you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Be bold and add your comment below! Comments are welcome!

Book of the Day: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The way it looked when I read it

I don’t think it was one book, but many, that saved my life as a child. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was surely one of them. It made me want to be a writer.

I was quiet, sensitive and imaginative. We moved to a new town where the houses were bigger, the families richer and more status conscious, and the kids more cruel. By second grade all of the kids in my class already had friends, or at least other kids they traveled with that could protect them from the truly sadistic kids at the top of the heap. I walked into class on that first day with no armor and no allies. I dreaded the unstructured time of recess and walking between school and home. I never knew what kind of mean things the kids I passed would say, but I knew they would say something. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, it didn’t get better until seventh grade. That year I started junior high, a new school with a new group of kids who didn’t know I should be treated as an untouchable.

But in second grade, the picture books gave way to longer books with characters I could spend hours with all on my own. Book by book, I built a safe space inside myself where I could journey and be free.

Meg Murry, the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, was awkward, wore glasses, and felt like a disaster just like I did. And her faults, it turned out, were her strengths. She was like me, which helped make it okay to be me. She had my name, too, a name I’d come to hate for all the ways other kids used it against me. Meg helped me take it back. She traveled to other planets, met magical beings, and found courage she never knew she had in order to save her family. I am pretty sure the minute I finished this book, I went back and read it again.

If anything I write does for one person what A Wrinkle in Time did for me, I would be happy.

Here’s how it starts:

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground.

The house shook.

Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

She wasn’t usually afraid of weather. —It’s not just the weather, she thought. —It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong. 

This book was probably my first science fiction book ever. I still remember trying to wrap my mind around the idea that you could somehow fold space and time into pleats. I’ve loved time travel stories ever since.

Thanks for reading my post! Were there books that saved you as a young person? Which ones? Comment below!