Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creative Projects/Scrivener Review

Home for the holidays means lots of relaxing time for me. I've been in a comfortable sleepy haze which has mostly been spent playing Mario Kart with my brother and visiting friends. Still, I've made room for ocarina practice and finished an ongoing art project. Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an artist. Interestingly, both these prospective professions were sparked by excellent teachers.

Now I have professors, and though I admire many of them, I'm largely on my own to decide what to do with my career. I'm supposed to be an adult now, after all. I love practicing music. I love drawing. And I love writing. Though I don't doubt that I want to be a writer, I'm starting to worry that my other creative projects might be taking my attention away from writing. It's something I need to practice more than music. It's something for which I need to make long-term goals.

Over my extended family Christmas, I talked to my NaNoWriMo-loving cousin about my novel. It made me realize just how much I love the ideas in my story. Since then, I've been thinking "Hm. I really need to start working on revision." But thinking isn't doing.

Last month, I downloaded the free trial of Scrivener, writing software aimed at breaking down big projects into small pieces. Since the tutorial takes about two hours, I didn't manage to get through it until we started the long drive back to Iowa. Scrivener is a major sponsor of NaNoWriMo, and one of the "winner goodies," at least in past years, is a discount on the software, which is already cheaper for students. My conclusion after going through it was that I'm not ready for Scrivener yet. I'm not at the point in revising where I can start writing scene-by-scene. But once I am ready, I'm getting it.

Scrivener has a ton of features useful for different styles of writing. One writer probably won't use all of them, but there's something for everybody. You can tag different sections by topic or character and then pull out only those sections. You can outline. You can attach different documents to notecards that contain summaries or to-do lists and see what work you have left to do at a glance. You can have documents inside folders which themselves contain text. If you're creative, you can use any number of the tools to work for you. For me, I'd probably have separate documents for all the major scenes in the outline view and then have to-do lists for each of the scenes in the notecard view. I'm particularly intrigued by the ability to track different sections by topics, keywords, or characters -- beasically, whatever you want to tag.

Or you can keep it simple. Outline, write scene-by-scene. Breaking it down is really what it's all about. It appears flexible enough to work not just for novels, but research papers, nonfiction, and other lengthy writing projects.

The only thing I was disappointed in was that the feature for taking notes on different documents just wasn't big or flexible enough for me, which is why I take written notes anyway when typing a story. I need the freedom to write all over the page, draw arrows to things and underline things without having to think about dragging boxes around or formatting. Having to do this by hand is okay by me, though.

If you're interested, I recommend getting the free trial and running the tutorial; after going through it, you'll know what features are good for you and whether or not you want to give it a try for real.

But like I said, I'm not there yet. Today is the day I start revising. I'm reading my novel through for the first time and taking notes on what needs to be done. I'll see what I need to do from there.

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