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Scrivener Takes Wordsmiths Beyond Mere Processing

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 13, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Scrivener screenshot.
[Click Image to Enlarge.]
When writers initially discovered word processing, they beamed with delight.

Scrivener Takes Wordsmiths Beyond Mere Processing

Once the blush wore off the technology, though, that delight morphed into distress.

While office workers were perfectly content "processing" words, scribblers writing words needed more from their software. Moreover, they found their needs increasingly ignored by big software houses who catered to the cubicle crowd.

One of those scribblers, Keith Blount, bumped into the problems writing with commercial word processors when he set off to pen a novel.

"I had chapters and research scattered in documents everywhere, not really organized," he told MacNewsWorld, "and if I wanted an overview of my work, I'd have to go back to the documents and summarize what I'd done."

DIY Software

What he needed was a program that collected all the building blocks of a writing project and placed them under the same roof. When he couldn't find one, he wrote his own. It became Scrivener, which has become a hit among creative writers who use a Mac.

"I got the idea for [Scrivener] when I was using Windows," he explained, "but when I moved to a Mac, it became a bit more realistic, because the Mac was a lot nicer to develop on."

Although Scrivener was built for personal use, Blount began to recognize that the software might have some general appeal.

"It's something I wanted," he observed. "Maybe someone else would like it, too."

"I thought it would be a small application on the grand scale of things," he added. "I never thought I'd be able to make a career out of it."

Attracts Raves

Not only has Blount been able to make selling and supporting Scrivener his day job, but he's been able to add an employee, boyhood chum David Johnson. Johnson does sales and marketing for Scrivener's publishing company, Literature & Latte.

"I want to try and get Scrivener known a little bit more," Blount explained. "It's still relatively unknown."

Among those who do know about the program, it has attracted raves.

Word processors like Microsoft Word present a major problem for writers, according to David Hewson, author of the Nic Costa thriller series of novels and former technology columnist for the The Sunday Times of London.

"They see a book as one long chunk of text," he told MacNewsWorld. "That's very, very dangerous."

"The great strength of Scrivener," he maintained, "is that it sees a book as a mosaic of scenes and chapters that you can move around and juggle in very fine detail, or pull back and see the bigger picture of the chapters or the whole book."

Reduces Resistance

Although Scrivener has given Hewson a better handle on a book in progress, it hasn't increased the time-to-market for his novels.

"I don't think it makes you write a book more quickly," he opined. "It just means you can focus more on the book rather than the software. When I'm writing a book, I don't want to think about what the software's doing."

Author Antony Johnston believes that Scrivener has increased his productivity.

"There's no substitute for getting your backside in the chair and actually writing, of course, but what Scrivener does is help eliminate any resistance to the daily grind," MacNewsWorld was told by Johnston, an author of novels, graphic novels and comics including Wasteland, Wolverine: Prodigal Son and Stealing Life.

"I'm not searching around for notes that I made, or having to switch back and forth between three different apps to keep track of my outline, notes, timeline, character details and the script itself," he continued. "It's a big stress-reliever, and that alone increases productivity."

While Scrivener has helped many authors finish their novels, it seems to have waylaid its author from finishing his.

"It's been started and restarted and new chapters done," Blount confessed. "I think it's going to be my eternal quest to never get published."

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