Rantings of a NaNo Scriv newbie

For what it’s worth, here is a brief account of my experience using Scrivener for this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNo, to the initiated). For those who aren’t familiar with it, NaNo is a crazy idea - everyone who takes part undertakes to write a 50,000-word novel between 1st and 30th November. Everyone who achieves that total is counted as a winner. The word count is the sole criterion, nothing whatsoever about quality.

I finished my contribution (50,133 words) late on Saturday evening. It was my first experience of using Scrivener for a substantial piece of writing. Up to then I had only used the program for short writing exercises. I might add that NaNo was my first experience of writing more than a few hundred words of fiction.

I have to say that the program performed superbly. It was rock-stable and did everything I wanted it to. The only blip was when it refused to export my draft once it reached a few thousand words. That turned out to be a bug in the program, which Keith fixed and issued an updated beta on the same night. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I had two slight niggles with Scrivener. One was that it isn’t possible to display the total word count for the entire draft on-screen as I type, excluding annotations. I understand that this would be difficult to achieve in the programming, and I don’t think that would be an issue outside of NaNo, where word count is everything.

Annotations again, I would prefer a system of margin notes (a la Jers Novel Writer, or Word’s comments), keeping the notes well clear of the text, but that’s nit picking. I’m quite happy to settle for the present system. Maybe in version 2 in a year or two’s time?

My only other complaint was with this forum. It’s so interesting that it makes the perfect distraction from writing. Maybe next time I should shut down my newsfeed reader when I’m writing.

I tended to write in the binder, but occasionally would go into full screen mode. It was helpful to set the background fade reasonably low, so that I could still see my lists of character, etc. in the binder. I did find at one stage that inputting text in full screen mode was pitifully slow (on my 1Ghz iBook), but that was to do with other programs I had running at the same time.

I used the binder extensively. I started numbering chapters consecutively but then, as I discovered gaps which needed filling, I went back and inserted new chapters (1.5, 2.5, etc.). Eventually I started a new folder for each of the later chapters, and used a separate document for each scene. About three quarters of the way through, I jumped to the ending, and then worked back from there. That was easy to do in Scrivener, just inserting new chapters/documents as needed. The ‘edit scrivenings’ feature was really helpful in looking at selected parts of the draft.

I also kept lists of characters, places, etc. in the binder. It was useful to be able to refer to them as needed. I put some key information about some of the settings used in the novel into the research section of the binder and that was helpful to refer to also.

As I progressed, I found the corkboard to be useful, mapping out chapters and the major scenes within them. I haven’t yet used the outliner at all. I haven’t yet been able to fathom out any uses, but that may come in the future.

I’m still trying to work out how much information to keep in Scrivener itself. I use DevonThink and Yojimbo for assembling bits of information. I started a DevonThink database for this project and in the future I think I would look to moving key bits of information from DT to Scriv. I appreciate your efforts, Keith, in smoothing that transition.

I feel I’ve been able to give Scrivener a thorough road test, and it performed superbly. I look forward to getting to know the more subtle aspects of the program better, now that I have time to read the tutorial and forthcoming help files.

All in all, a great experience. Thanks for a superb program. I look forward to becoming a regular user. Now if only you could build in a little feature which would improve the quality of what I actually type! :unamused:

Oh, one thing that you might know by this point: If you are going to manually number your chapters, you might as well use Scrivener’s built in counter tags. For example, just type in “Chapter <$n>” and when you export those will all be automatically generated for you.

Wonderful! Thank you. There are probably a whole load more features that I might uncover now that I have time to read the tutorial in more depth.

Hey Scriveners,

Since Roger wrote a summary of his NaNo experience, I will add a couple of comments on that as well…

  • I too completed the NaNo challenge this month and passed the 50k word mark on Nov. 23, finished the novel at 56k words two night ago. As I posted in some other spot on this site, I discovered Scrivener just AFTER the month began and imported a few hundred words and used Scriv the whole rest of the time.

Scrivener performed flawlessly and its features made writing fun and relatively easy. I had never written more than a short story or two, so this was my first time working with a dozen characters, 7 settings, and 30 chapters.

For total word count, I just kept my “completed” sections in the top Group (folder) of the Binder and selected Statistics… for the Project. This gave me total word count.

I occasionally used full screen mode too and it worked great and I too kept my characters, past chapters, settings, etc visible through the partial fade feature. On a 1.3 gigaherz G4 PowerBook it ran flawlessly, even with tons of other apps running.

I stopped numbering the chapters as soon as I realized things would move around.

I used the corkboard in horizontal split screen mode to view photos that I needed to refer to (it was a historical setting) while writing. I used the synopses in the cards to keep track of overall content for a chapter (“This is where the blimp crashes - make sure James witnesses Lucius trying to escape the wreckage…”).

I am now using Scrivener to write a ~40 page research paper for grad school, and considering what a hateful project that has become, I am so glad it is happening in an app that I love to use. Makes it manageable, really.

Roger, congrats on “winning at literature.”

Keith, congrats on “winning at software.”


Congratulations Roger & B1225!

I also NaNo’d for the first time this year and passed the 50K mark late Sunday night. Although, I think once I’ve edited, I’ll be lucky to have maybe 15K left. The way I NaNo’d reminds me of that old aphorism by Dorothy Parker (??) about the difference between ‘writing’ and ‘typing’. :slight_smile:

I’m delighted to report how much easier Scrivener made the task. Not having to use Word really made a difference to me (with Word, I seem to spend 25% of my time trying to find parts of the story).

Anyway, now that the pressure is off, I’m hoping to explore more of Scrivener’s features. I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the surface.

I’ll also add my congratulations to Keith. Well done, sir!

Well, i verified my nano yesterday and i am still going. My mum bought me a macbook mid November so i could keep writing while traveling. It’s been a godsend, but i had to find a new piece of software to write with.

I have to say i really love Scrivener. I have used to to just push through the words in fullscreen moe, but now that the pressure is off it is nice to be able to seamlessly add in annotations as i am writing, to make notes on scenes and characters, and to be able to have all the random research handy. I have enough programs open without having a gazilion notes and pics to dig through.

What i found really helpful is the split feature. Sound like a new scne? split it. Sound like a new chaptr? make a new foder for it. Wonderfully easy to use, and i am going to be using it for my university work as well now.

I moved my nano to Scrivener towards the end of the month, because the tool I was using previously wasn’t cutting it. I’ve obviously only been using the software for a few days therefore, but my first impressions of it are fantastic. I was able to import all my work without a hitch, and the interface is just brilliant. I’m looking forward to delving deeper now I’ve got the word count monkey off my back.

As for my nano… well, I threw a sickie from work today and spent the next 12 hours Scrivening in order to get the thing finished. I just had it verified earlier this evening. It’s rubbish, but it was fun to write, and I reckon it’s marginally less rubbish than last years effort, so that’s good.