KB’s Atlantic pieces (1)

Here it is:


Remarkable quote:

(Months ago, I had dedicated an entire blog post to this special »achievement« of Keith’s – http://www.serendipity-suite.de/?p=9187 (sorry, it’s in German))

Btw, Keith: Fallows isn’t using Scrivener just »for his new book«. He has used it for years, and is using it for everything, including his journalistic work at the Atlantic and writing his blog…

Looking forward to your next post

Christian Aichner

Thanks Christian! I know James has been using Scrivener for a while, as he mentioned Scrivener 1.x on his blog a few times and has reported bugs in the past - I was very honoured by him asking me on as one of the guest bloggers, though (and slightly intimidated given the quality of the other guest bloggers and James himself).

All the best,

Here is the second installment:

theatlantic.com/technology/a … use/72206/

Remarkable quote:

What Keith forgot to mention, of course, is that in the end she even turned out to be male… Maybe the delusion was too deep. :wink:

(He also doesn’t tell that in the very first days, he actively tried to turn away potential users by warning them not to expect any further development of his software, which he claimed to have written exclusively for his own personal use, and now that it was ready he wanted to use and not to improve it. Took me quite a bit of faith to try and then to adopt it.)

Christian Aichner


Just wanted to say the posts are very good, and I’m glad to see both your forms of writing, prose and software, get attention and appreciation. At the Atlantic site, you’re in good company and you fit right in.

David (another non-fiction type also uses Scrivener for everything)

Thanks for the very kind words, much appreciated!

Just read the third entry from Keith: Removing the Stigma From ‘Writing Software’

Interesting read and it’s very reminiscent of my own field as an Artist. I’ve often said that the tool an Artist uses is the least important part involved in creating a piece of work but the better quality the tool, the easier it will make it for the Artist.

Michelangelo could have used a blunt chisel to create his statue of David but a sharp one would have made the creation easier and quicker and allowed him to concentrate on the end result more than wrestling with the process. The same goes for Scrivener, I think.

I’m reading this stuff, in gleeful anticipation of you losing the plot completely, and having a, ‘Grumpy’ interlude. I hope I’m not wasting my time. :frowning:


writing your own writing software in order not to write your novel may have been the pinnacle of procrastination – but look at how much you’ve written since, and I’m not speaking of innumerable lines of code. Between blog posts, tutorials, contributions to the forum et al your collected writings would amount to a multi-volume work, I guess. Not bad for such a young author… :slight_smile:

So no, creating Scrivener wasn’t procrastination at all. It has made you the writer you are. Sure, you dreamed of a different kind of writing, but so what. There are so many novels in the world. But only one Scrivener…

No reason to be »gruff and quirky«, I’d say… And no need to hit Cmd-z, as you put it in your Atlantic post :wink:

Christian Aichner

Thanks for the kind words!

Splutter - young! I like it! I suppose in the novel-writing world I would still qualify as “young”, being under 40 for a couple more years. :slight_smile:

Heh, the “gruff and quirky” is actually a quote - the way a rather obtuse person described me in the comments of a review once - he spent about a year slagging us off everywhere he could after the members of this forum pretty much chased him off with pitchforks for his rudeness. But I liked the description, because I don’t think I’m ever likely to be called “gruff” again (“grumpy”, yes…).

Anyway, thanks again, glad you liked the pieces!

All the best,

Ah … you should come to the Land of the Great Firewall … here you are officially young up to the age of 45 or so! A scientist of 45 is eligible for national awards for “young scientists”, for instance.



There’s hope for us yet!

Keith, what software did you use to write the column?
Ok, don’t mind…


I used HowToWriteAColumn 1.0. :slight_smile:

And, I’m young, woohoo!

Mr Kevin.
“Beware Greeks bearing gifts.” They’ll be after free copies of Scriv 2.+

OT: To quote the screenwriter of The King’s Speech, a man in his 70s: “My father always said I’d be a late bloomer.”

P.S. I think KB deserves to try his hand at writing something longer… :wink:

What, exactly, do you mean by „something longer“? :smiley: I’d say Keith’ posts in the Atlantic are already on the long side, longer than most, at least. And some of the posts in his own blog are even longer… :wink:

I’d love to see one more post by him in Fallows’ column, though. E.g. about the challenges you face once you realize that from a wannabe-writer you’ve morphed into a „serious“ software developer. It’s not you anymore you’re programming for, after all. And with that comes the problem of keeping the application as simple and transparent as possible (for beginners as well as for the sake of an efficient working routine), and at the same time powerful enough to meet even the most sophisticated demands of users with very different needs.

That’s one of the problems of Tinderbox, I suppose. Sometimes I find that there are way to many options for accomplishing what I want to do; on other occasions I wish for even more power (couldn’t there be a better spreadsheet-like view?!). With Scrivener, I haven’t reached that point, yet. But with all the power (and, therefore, complexity) of 2.0’s Compile Draft feature it’s coming near. (And I haven’t even tried MMD so far, as tempting as it is.)

What do you mean, Keith: wouldn’t something like that make for a nice final piece and rounding up of your posts? Kind of a look into the crystal ball…

Christian Aichner

As you note, the pieces were already long so I didn’t get time to write any more than three, and my guest stint is now over.

As for managing features (and I disagree about Compile - it has the complexity it needs), I think that still comes down to creating the software for yourself. Users help you make it better and can see things you can’t always see yourself, but you can’t spend weeks adding features you don’t believe in or don’t think will be useful or an organic part of your program yourself.

I think Hugh was talking about me getting on with my novel, by the way.


Just read all three of your Atlantic pieces, and they are so, so good. Especially “Removing The Stigma”, which I thought was just about the best piece I’ve read on that topic. Every time I read something about software for writing, I always feel like the author didn’t quite scratch the itch — even the best ones had worked out the premise, but didn’t work through it. (Hard, I guess, to craft a bright thread straight through to “but, y’know, whatever works for you.”) I think you nailed it.

All three were nice, long articles, and I wish they’d been even longer. Well done.


P.S. I understand you not wanting to hawk Scrivener in The Atlantic. I wouldn’t have been able to resist one more “Here’s My Take On The Whole Thing” paragraph, but I guess there are about a million words on the topic in this forum. Still, you were on a roll!

I agree with you – for the moment. And maybe one day in the future I’ll find its not even complex enough to handle cross references or running headers the way I want. Just to make that clear: my words weren’t meant as criticism, but as a remark about the growing difficulty to find the right balance between simplicity and complexity. The more a software (or a text) evolves, the more daunting a task this becomes… I can only admire how well you’ve mastered it so far (and yes: better than Mark Bernstein with Tinderbox, imo).

Well, I won’t ask you how often you use screen writing mode yourself. Or MMD. Or how urgently you need the tight integration between Scrivener and the iPad… :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m quite sure he was. And that’s just what I’m afraid of as well: that one morning, instead of answering forum posts or working on the next iteration of Scrivener, you’ll sit down to write a few pages of your novel first. And then another few pages. And then the next… you know well enough where this kind of procrastination can lead you. One day you’ll tell us that you’re no software developer at all. You’re a writer… :wink:

Never mind. As the song goes: whatever will be, will be…

Christian Aichner

Sean - That’s very kind of you, thank you. As many have noted, I do somewhat lack in pithiness, so I’m glad the posts weren’t too rambling and managed to find a point somewhere along the way. Even though it was only a blog, I found it rather daunting, what with it being the Atlantic and with the quality of the other guest bloggers.

othello -

Thanks for the kind words!

Heh, fair enough, you’ve got me on MMD as I don’t use that myself, although I’m not sure you can count export formats as adding features. That was a bit of work but most of the work is done by Fletcher Penney’s perl script, and nothing in Scrivener’s interface was affected by the MMD addition except at the Compile stage. As for scriptwriting - I do actually like and use the scriptwriting mode, even if not for scriptwriting. Because it can be mixed in with regular mode, I sometimes use it for getting dialogue down, and that was one of the reasons I liked the idea all those years ago when I let scriptwriters twist my arm a little. As for iPad integration - well, folder sync also allows using files externally on other machines, so that’s more useful than just for the iPad (although the other syncing modes, fair enough). Maybe I should add then that it primarily still comes down to creating it for yourself. Second to that come features that I think will be generally useful even though they might not be top of my own list, but which I think I’ll enjoy coding for whatever reason - features that I think belong in my own perfect writing software even if they aren’t features I might use so often. If that makes any sense!

I used to manage the whole forum and support part-time while working as a teacher; now we have many more users but there’s also David and Ioa on board, and I spend between 10am and 1pm every morning doing just what you fear - tinkering at not-very-good novel, and not working on Scriv. :slight_smile: I don’t think that is a bad thing for Scrivener users, though - would you really want to use tools created by people who don’t use them themselves? At this stage it would be very easy for me to sit back and just add this or that feature based on requests, just to please people, regardless of whether they integrate well with the whole, but by being a user of Scrivener for three hours a day myself, I’m still always critically evaluating it from an end-user standpoint, working out ways things can be done better. (I also use Scrivener to maintain my development list.) Lots of tweaks to Scrivener have grown out of my own use of it.

All the best,