Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Snapshot Review of Scrivener

A month or so ago I purchased and downloaded the software program Scrivener for Windows. (Scrivener was previously only available for the MAC.) It is a writing tool for novelists, journalists, academics, and screenwriters. I figured for only $40 I couldn't go too wrong. As it turns out, it's a very useful program. I can't vouch for the MAC version, which may have more features than the Windows version, but the Windows version is quite impressive so far.

Writers need a flexible work environment where we can write and edit, maintain our research, and experiment. Over the years, I've used a number of expensive software programs for technical writing that do not have the intuitive support for writing tasks that this program has. As I novelist, I have relied on Microsoft Word and, with a little gerry-rigging, managed to make it less clunky. Nevertheless, there are a lot of tasks that are just plain manual. Keeping track of research, graphics, and project notes are tasks that are ordinarily maintained outside of your writing program. With Scrivener you can quickly access all this related information from your project binder. Using the Inspector, you can create meta-data, a synopsis, references, keywords, footnotes and comments for each document in your organizational binder. You can also create snapshots of a document so you can revert to an older version if you wish. You have different options for viewing your project: standard document view, cork board, or outline.

Bottom line--there are a lot of writerly features built into this program, many of which you may not even need to use. The software includes plenty of tutorials. It helps just to sit down with Scrivener's interactive tutorial and get a feel for how the program works and all the features that are available before you jump in and start writing.

After playing around with the software, I am willing to try a project with it. The creative flexibility and ability to quickly reorganize documents within a binder intrigues me. I like the incorporation of research and graphics so you don't have to go searching on your hard drive for all the nooks and crannies where you have squirreled away important information. I also like the fact that you import a variety of file types, compile, and export to formats such as MOBI, ePUB, PDF, etc. I have not tried these out yet, but I have not heard anyone complain about the quality of these outputs. One thing about Scrivener--you will eventually probably have to export your binder of documents to Microsoft Word or a similar program and combine them into a single document. This may involve a little manual labor. Obviously, you probably wouldn't do this until you have a solid draft that is ready for layout.

Just saying--Scrivener could be a good thing for that beginning draft where you need a sandbox to try out your ideas and yet remain organized in terms of research, graphics, notes, and so on.

Have you used this program? If so, share your insights and tips. What problems have you encountered?


  1. Hi Linda. I've tried Scrivener, but didn't have the patience. I have a writing friend who swears by it and is going to give a presentation at our writing group soon. Maybe I'll try again. I'm quite a fan of Word. Having to move everything back to Word when you've finished your document seems a bit of a time waster. I know my friend got a shock when she realised this, but she did it and loves the program.

    1. I think its advantages are in the draft stage when you are doing research, playing with plot and characters. It's much harder to do this in Word. You can set up a template and use the Document Map feature to do this but it is not as flexible as Scrivener when it comes to reorganizing, etc. and playing with ideas. Yes, it's a big temptation to just keep everything in Word.