Why Scrivener is every indie author’s very best friend

Two words – dynamic text.

Scrivener app by Literature & Latte. Buy on iTunes now.
Scrivener app by Literature & Latte. Buy on iTunes now.

We’ll get back to what that means.

Planning for the publication of his debut novel, Two Crows, with my friend David Dakan Allison, one question came up again and again. How do we make the ebook?

The answer, of course, is Scrivener by an app makers Literature & Latte that, if you are a writer and don’t use yet, you should purchase and start using immediately.

The first reason to use Scrivener is that it’s hierarchical “ringbinder” approach to organising a text channels you, as a writer, in to a number of useful habits. All writing is fractal in nature, and none more so than stories. Every scene in a story is itself a mini story, with it’s own beginning, middle and end. And every beat in every scene is an even more miniature story in its own right. Scrivener’s structural tools encourage you to think this way, and make organising your text easy.

“Plain text is your friend when moving your writing from one app to another.”

Scrivener’s “ringbinder” tools also make it the perfect word processor for this era of digital writing. Take a moment to think about how text works. I’ll bet good money that unless you have some experience in web design, blogging, or other areas of digital writing, you’ll be thinking in the PRINT PARADIGM.

In the days of print, the publisher determined how the reader saw the text. The publisher controled every element of typesetting, layout, fonts, titles, illustrations. The printed page of a book, magazine or newspaper means you can control exactly how the text appears. You’re working with a structural approach to text, where you determine the structure.

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The DIGITAL PARADIGM flips this over on it’s head. the person determining how a text looks is the reader, and crucially, the device the reader is reading on. Your ebook will look different on a Kindle than it does on an iPhone, than it does on an Android tablet, than it does on a laptop. And on each of these devices, the reader can choose to change elements like the size and style of font at their own whims.

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Digital publishing means thinking about text dynamically. It’s no longer vital how the text is formatted. Much more important is how the text flows on all the different devices it will be viewed upon. And Scrivener is the perfect tool for working with text in this way. Scrivener encourages you to forget about formatting, focus on writing the raw text, and determine how it will look when you actually compile your ebook.

Scrivener’s compilation tools are immensely powerful. A standard novel manuscript of some 100,000 words in 30 or so chapters, dived into a number of parts, can be exported for any digital format and to work on any device you might wish. Ebook formatting is relatively simple, but a single mistake can leave your text in chaos, as chapters collide in to one another. Scrivener’s tools allow you to make simple but strong formatting choices that will degrade gracefully, even if viewed on wildly disparate devices. And all without knowing a single formatting tag.

The idea of ‘workflow’ gets mentioned a lot in digital publishing, what does this mean?
You can simply your life immensely as a self publisher by doing things in the most efficient order. Have your text fully edited before compiling your ebook. Keep a master version of your Scrivener file, that you tweek for different ebook formats. Check your formatting is perfect before uploading to ebook stores. This sounds like common sense, but in the fear and excitement of publishing deadlines, common sense often goes right out the window. Know your workflow, and stick to it.

Do you have to work directly in Scrivener?
Not necessarily. I do much of my writing in Evernote for simple convenience, and then once I have a chunk of text I move it in to that project’s Scrivener file. The thing to be wary of is carrying formatting over from a word-processor like Microsoft Word on Pages for Mac. These apps use arcane formatting systems that can completely screw up your ebook formatting and waste a lot of time while you track down the bugs. Plain text is your friend when moving your writing from one app to another.

Can Scrivener make an illustrated book or even a comic book?
The basic answer is no. Scrivener can only deal with simple images and image formatting, but then this is true of most ebook formats, which are focused purely on text. What Scrivener can do is give you a structured text fill which you can then import to another programme, for instance iBooks Author, and create image and multimedia driven designs. But, it’s worth noting, these books will be specific to those platforms, and you’ll have to do a new design job for every platform you want to reach. If you’re looking to do graphic intensive publishing on many platforms, you’ll need Adobe InDesign, a far more expensive and time consuming option, and also total overkill for most indie authors.

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2 thoughts on “Why Scrivener is every indie author’s very best friend”

  1. I love Scrivener, I use it for everything, including drafting blog posts. Admittedly it took a while to learn and I know I have a long way to go before I’m using its full potential, producing ebooks etc, but so far so good. A wonderful programme.

    Liked by 1 person

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