I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing with Technology (Scrivener, Evernote, iPads, oh my!)

(Scrivener - source)
I've turned into a bit of a techno-geek lately, I must admit. It all started when my iPad arrived a couple of months ago; since then I've been researching the best ways to do my writing, and programs that will make things easier. And not just writing my novels, but also blog posts, information-gathering, administrative tasks, and general organization. Different considerations apply, of course, most notably whether I'm working at my desk at home or on my iPad offline (unfortunately I don't have full-time internet support when I'm away from my home wi-fi setup). I thought I'd share a few of my discoveries with you, and see whether you know of different ways of doing things that I can yoink borrow and use myself.

I'm writing my current manuscript with Scrivener on my laptop, and have been for a while now. At this stage, I don't think I could live without it! It's got so many useful functionalities, and I particularly like the corkboard, the ability to take snapshots to save previous versions, the full-screen composition mode, and the collections (ah, the collections!). I don't know about you, but I love how I can gather scenes that deal with one particular thingmy love story, for exampleand list them all in a "love scene" collection so I can find them easily, while at the same time not changing the order of my actual drafting and scenes.

Only problem is, Scrivener isn't out for iPad yet, and is unlikely to be out for a few more years yet, according to the Literature and Latte guys (who developed Scrivener). Until that day, I'm having to use other programs in order to write on my iPad.

I bought Pages, for approx. $10, and that is a pretty good word processing toolsome say it's the best word-processing tool that there is among the current apps. My difficulty with Pages, however, is that every time I amend my manuscript on my iPad, I have to email myself a copy of the document and copy it back into Scrivener. Forget to do that, and I'm working with incorrect versions, and it becomes a headache waiting to happen.

So I've been trying to find something that will allow me to sync between my home computer and my iPad. Scrivener for Mac gives you the ability to sync to Simplenote, using Dropbox I believe, but I use Windows so I don't even have the "Sync" button on my version of Scrivener :( And I haven't found any other way of automatically syncing between Scrivener and another program.

Instead, what I've been doing is manually copying and pasting my Scrivener scenes into Evernote once each is completed (each in one document/note). I could use Simplenote to do this as well, and many prefer Simplenote for its "pure text-based" fuctionality. But I like how I can use Evernote for so many thingskeeping photographs, to do notes, reminders, links and articles I've copied in from the web, etc etc. Plus, Evernote keeps my formatting from Scrivener, including highlightingwhich I use extensivelywhereas I lose much of that when using Simplenote.

And there are all sorts of companion apps to Evernote that are making my life so much easier, including Skitch, Clip to Evernote, and Clearly. I can even save Tweets and tweet links into Evernote, simply by copying a tweet into @myen, or DM'ing Evernote.

Ah, techno-geek heaven *sighs*!!! And that's not even mentioning Write or Die and Freedom, and my NaNoWriMo Report Card which I have open all the time to record my word count progress (even though it's not November)!

How about you: What programs/apps do you use to write when you're away from your computer (and at your computer too)? Is there anything I haven't mentioned above that you think a techno-geek like me would like? :)


Anonymous said...

I save my Scrivner folder right into dropbox and they sync to both computers. Or did before my laptop wifi crapped out on me. Now I have to use a USB stick, but I don't like to write on my desktop much so it's not a huge deal.

Anonymous said...

I use scrivener too.. I love it. Like you, I have to email myself anything I write on my ipad and then copy / paste into scrivener... a bit of a pain.

Unknown said...

I work on a 7-yr-old laptop and MS Office 2003. I could buy new stuff, but why fix what isn't broken? Is it going to make my writing better?

Áine Tierney said...

I've just downloaded the trial of Scriver - at the moment is seems so complicated to me, but I've seen such positive reviews online, I really want to give it ago before I start my next ms.

Anonymous said...

I love evernote - it's on my phone, computer etc. I would love it if Scrivener was the same and I could access it from any computer/device. That would be perfect.

Savannah Chase said...

I've heard of the program but have not had the chance to use it. Is it easy to operate?

Jackie Buxton said...

Thanks Rach, this is a timely post for me as I keep coming back to the idea of Scrivener. I was put off it a while back as people suggested I might have problems converting back to Word when I wanted to send/ submit my writing. Have you any experience of this? If this isn't a problem, I'm definitely going to give it a go. I keep hearing great things about it.
Great post! I hope you manage to work out your i-pad/ Scrivener dilemma.

Synithia said...

Timely post. I just purchased a keyboard for my iPad and now I need to figure out how to work on the iPad and my laptop.. Someone on another list mentioned Storyist, has anyone worked with that?

cleemckenzie said...

Since I switched from PC to Apple, I've really loved Pages. Haven't tried Scrivener, but I've heard great things about it.

I never thought writing novels would lead me into the techi world, but now it's too late. I'm steeped in it.

Julie Hedlund said...

I use both Scrivener and Evernote, but I haven't been able to work around the problems you describe either. I was hoping it was only going to be a year before Scrivener for iPad comes out. Sigh...

C.B. Wentworth said...

I haven't tried Scrivener yet, but the more I hear about it the more I want to give it a shot. The organization features sound so amazing!

Thanks for sharing the pros and cons, in particular regarding Mac.

Rachael Harrie said...

Hey guys, great to hear from you!

@Savannah - email coming :)

@Julie - I know, right *le sigh*

@Synithia - I might have to look that up - haven't heard of it :(

@Jaxbee - the opposite, actually. You can compile your Scrivener writings (even specific scenes that you choose) with one click of a button into Word, and even change the formatting of it before you do so. It's pure amazing how many things you can do with it!

@Lexa - not at all - ultimately you need to do what works for you :)

@Aine - luck with it, hope the trial works well and you grow to love it as much as I do :)



Heather said...

Away from my computer? No, that doesn't happen. LOL! Just kidding, sort of. I take my laptop nearly everywhere with me but I also carry a good old paper notebook and pencil and I hand write everything before I enter it into the computer.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel,
I have The Write Spot app on my iPad and work off line with that and then when I get home I can pull it up online and the copy and past into scrivener. Plus it gives me another back up. Great post.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I use Scrivener on my laptop, take it when I can and if I do write something while I'm out it's usually in my notebook. Must admit I don't use my iPad for much. I like to type up my notes later rather than cut and paste because in the process of retyping I always think of a better way to say it, or a new scene.
Can't wait until Scrivener comes to iPad.

Jarm Del Boccio said...

I understand that when the new OS for Mac comes out, Pages will interface better. I use "Chapters" for iPad, which can keep a novel with individual chapters, or numerous folders for various types of writing (articles, picture books, etc) Simple, but efficient. Here's fhe link: http://slidetorock.com/apps/Chapters-iPad-notebooks.html

D.S.Taylor said...

My fiance is called Rach so I just had to check out a blog called Rach writes!Loving it so far. Am turning into a bit of a techno geek myself despite all my pen and ink ways!

Claire Hennessy said...

I am still using the 'trial' version of Scrivener but am loving it. Good to know you recommend buying it - hmmm my birthday is coming up. Is that too boring to ask for this as a present??

KM Nalle said...

I need to get my hands on Scivener. So many people swear by it. I don't have any tech advice. I write on my ancient laptop with yWriter and MS Word. I use my Amazon Cloud to back up my work so if I need to access it from another computer I can. Not very high tech, but it works for me.

JO said...

So many different points of view!

Does Scrivener make you want to play with it, just to see what happens, rather than write? I'm happy with word (on a Mac), but if it's really wonderful maybe I should look at it.

Gwen Gardner said...

I just started using Scrivener and learned all the in's and out's yet. But I do love the Binder where I can see everything in my MS at a glance and jump around effortlessly between chapters and scenes. I also use "find" a lot to go back and check on stuff I said so I'm not contradicting myself. And I love the corkboard for my notes. I do copy each chapter or scene into Word, though, as a backup cuz I'm afraid I might lose something! You're way ahead of me on geekiness:) Never heard of all that other "stuff"!

Chemist Ken said...

The only editing I do away from the computer is on my Kindle Fire, using HD Office Pro which is designed to link to my Dropbox account. As with any tablet, it's painful to do much more than casual editing without a keyboard, so I usually only use it to edit when I'm laying in bed at night before I fall asleep. Drives my wife crazy unless I turn down the brightness of the screen.

Misha Gerrick said...

Hey! *hugs*

When I write away from my computer, it's exclusively by hand into a notebook kept in my bag for that purpose. In fact, I carry a bag pretty much only because I'd be annoyed if I had to carry my notebooks and pens loose. :-P

Anonymous said...

very informative post. i've really been thinking about using a program for my next novel. right now, i just tweak word to do what i want with its limited revision/editing options and that's been fine, but i'd love to be able to be more creative. thanks for the discussion.

VikLit said...

I don't use Scrivener but I see all this awesome rec of it! I might have to check it out. Am searching for a good way to write on my ipad but nothing quite works (maybe I need a bluetooth keyboard for it!)

Writemotivation sent me here, will friend/follow if that's ok

Adina West said...

You can do WHAT with Scrivener? I've never even heard of any of those functions - I'm just happy it lets me pop in and out of scenes and move them around. I see I've a bit to learn.

I liked the first commenter's suggestion about backing up your entire Scrivener doc onto Dropbox. No reason that wouldn't work to keep files synched (though it doesn't deal with the issue of there being no Scrivener for the iPad)

I think if you're working on a whole new scene, it really isn't too onerous to cut and paste back into Scrivener from email or whatever when it's done. So maybe it's best just to avoid anything like fiddly editing on the iPad and stick to new scene creation, where you'll have nice blocks of text to transfer?

All this reminds me I'm going to have to increase my techno fluency. Things seem to change so fast I can't keep up...

Cecilia Robert said...

Great post! I've been thinking of gifting myself an ipad, so I can type when I'm not at my desk. I have Scrivener, and I've been struggling with it a bit. Probably needs patience :) It's really good to know it has all those functions, one can store everything in one place. Thanks for sharing!

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Rach,
I've been thinking about Scrivener, but haven't done anything about it. I keep buying software that I end up not using. I may download it first and play with it a little.

Deniz Bevan said...

I love love love Scrivener. But ooh! What's this NaNo report card? I'll have to get that!

Donna B. McNicol said...

I am using Scrivener on my laptop and I'm still trying to figure out all what it can do. I pre-ordered the Scrivener for Dummies book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1118312473/iridemyown-20 and I'm considering the Evernote for Dummies, too: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1118107381/iridemyown-20

I recently decided to get a smaller 13" refurb laptop just for writing (no email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook...LOL) and will load Scrivener there. Hopefully I'll be more productive that way as well as learning more on Scrivener.

Great post...now off to read all the comments.

Mary Thurman Yuhas said...

Thanks for all of the info. Your blog was very informative!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, technology for writing! Let's see...

One of my favorite ways to write on the go is still my Alphasmart Dana - I've got it tricked out with a few custom programs, including one that mimics a word count tracking spreadsheet and a file management tool to make it easier to copy my writing to and from the SD card.

I've also got two netbooks - the red Aspire One, which runs Windows, so I can compose in roughDraft, revise in MS word, and also do screenwriting in Celtx. The white eeePC is a little lighter and runs linux - I've also got Celtx running there, and openOffice for writing, light editing, or word counting.

I haven't gotten a tablet yet - I'm looking forward to the new windows 8 hybrid devices - so I can run MS Word newest version on a tablet, or dock it to a keyboard unit when I want to. Of course, whether I should spend the money on another writing gadget is another question... ;)

Anonymous said...

Scrivener sounds awesome. I must look into that. Great post Rach.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Your colour coded Scrivener cards have prompted me. Today I'll write my scene cards in Scrivener for my WIP. Oh Scrivener I couldn't never count the way that I love thee... :)

Amanda Milner said...

Hi! :) I've been wanting to check out Scrivener for a while now. Your post makes it all sound so wonderfully delicious! ;) Lol!

David P. King said...

And to think I'll have to adapt to a pad eventually, or something like it. Well, we're adaptable, right? :)

Super Happy Jen said...

I've always used Microsoft Word and I usually write on a small portable laptop. An HP in pink plaid.

What I would really love is some kind of device that allows me to write outside in the sun. Perhaps something to go over my laptop screen or a new device all together. Ideas?

Unknown said...

You know, I'm still just using basic MS Word! And it still works for me! I tried out a trial of Scrivener, and it was great, but when the trial finished I went back to using Word and ... it was fine :-)
I agree with Super Happy Jen that it would be great to have some kind of anti-glare device we could use outside. It's winter now and I keep wishing I could go outside into the sun to write, but I can barely see anything on my screen!

Brandon Ax said...

I feel like i'm stuck in the stone ages now, lol. I still use word and older program of it too, I feel comfortable with it, but I was thinking of getting a tablet or an ipad so I could move around the house so at least I have some good info now. Anyway joined your blog and good luck with your writing.

Melissa Sugar said...

I also use Scrivener and I love it. I started using it last November, when they offered it at such a reduced rate to NaNo winners. I really don't know how I ever managed before I started using it. I have been wondering if and when it would become available for my iPad. On my phone and my iPad, I use iA Writer, but I have the same problem and I am still copying and pasting everything to Scrivener.

I have heard good things about Writing Kit for the iPad, but I have not tried it. I went through a really bad phase of impulsively purchasing every app that even remotely looked like something I might like or would one day use. I am trying to stay away from new apps unless it is one that I do not already have a an app that will do the same or similar and it is necessary.

Sorry, but I don't know of an easier way. It would be great if Scrivener would just create an iPad app.

Jan Alan McKenzie said...

Try the iPad app, Index Card (4.99). It syncs with Scrivner using Dropbox. It is not a word processing app, but is very good for making and moving notes between the two. The latest version of Scrivner has the Index Card sync in the menu under File > Sync > Index Card. When the pop-up window appears be sure to click on the ? (question mark) for the set-up info.

Anonymous said...

Scrivener for Windows doesn't have the Sync options that the Mac version has. Don't know if/when that's planned for.
ipad version seems to be scheduled for next year now - maybe Q1 2013.
So - for now - I've been using Evernote to compose my Flash Fiction stories, and Scrivener on my PC for editing my two NaNoWriMo novels. I think for this year's NaNoWriMo I'll export my outline to Evernote as a reference, compose individual scenes on the iPad in Evernote, then cut and paste back into Scrivener.

Unknown said...


I don't know if this is already said or you have been made aware, but there's an app for the Ipad, which works pretty much like Pages (just better) and also works with Scriver, called Textilus.

From a mac - from what I understand - you can sync directly between the two programs, but from a pc you need to use Box or something the like. Textilus does describe how it works, and it does work. So if you're still looking for a solution, this might be it:o)

All the best

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