I love Scrivener, or rather, the platonic ideal that Scrivener can represent.
The actual program inspires something less than love in me. I long ago adapted to its complicated, cumbersome interface and learned to ignore the long list of features I would never use. I write simple stories, I don’t need a lot of sophisticated tools for that.
I came to appreciate the Scrivener features I did use–easily dividing chapters into discrete blocks that could be moved around or removed, being able to set goals and see my progress (especially handy for NaNoWriMo), the corkboard for keeping track of scenes, and being able to set up my editing environment and have it complete separate from the compiling of the document. I realized I did not need the WYSIWYG approach of Microsoft Word and it was nice.
I’ve been thinking of doing a proper outline of Road Closed, then going back and properly finishing the first draft. I’d written the novel using WriteMonkey and earlier this year I took the time to convert it over to Scrivener. This is a somewhat time-consuming process as Scrivener would import the novel’s entire text and place it into a single scene, from which I would then copy and paste the different chapters into their own Scrivener folders.
Now, my first mistake was using the Scrivener for Windows 3.0 beta. In November 2017 Scrivener 3.0 for the Mac was released, and at the same time the first beta of Scrivener 3.0 for Windows was made available. A final release date was never offered beyond “2018” and that, too, ended up not coming to pass, though it seems a release in early 2019 is possible.
All the caveats of using a beta apply, of course. And I already had the novel safely backed up and ready to go in WriteMonkey in the case of disaster striking.
Last night I updated to the latest Scrivener 3.0 beta,. with the intention of loading Road Closed so I could export it to the older Scrivener 1.9 format, allowing me to keep writing in a safer, more stable environment.
Except when I loaded Road Closed, all of the text was gone. The chapter and scene structure was preserved in the binder, but the actual story had vanished. I thought about why this might have happened for a minute or two. It’s quite possible–even likely–I had done something wrong. I considered my options.
And then I did nothing. Because I had a current version of the story intact and ready in WriteMonkey. I am not going to spend any time playing my own personal technical support. I’ll just wait until version 3.0 comes out of beta, then consider then if I want to invest in the upgrade.
This is not the first time Scrivener has gone sideways on me, losing or corrupting data, and if I keep using it, I would fully expect it would eventually happen again. And I emphasize once more, this may be my fault entirely. Maybe I just don’t get it.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I can’t trust Scrivener, or perhaps I can’t trust myself to use it, so I won’t. For now, anyway.
This irks me in another way, too, because last year I had what was close to the perfect setup, using Ulysses on my MacBook Pro. There were a few problems, though:
- I came to strongly dislike the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard. Some people (tech writers especially, weirdly) love the shallow, clicky keys, but I ultimately did not. I ended up going to the other extreme on laptop keyboards by getting a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. This has one of the deepest keyboards you can get on a laptop. I very much like it. This is an issue for Ulysses because the program is Mac-only and Apple’s entire line-up of MacBooks now use the butterfly mechanism in their keyboards (my 2016 MacBook Pro is helpfully still eligible for free keyboard repairs for another two years, a testament to the issues that have plagued the design, even if you do love the keyboard).
- The other issue was the decision by the developer to switch to a subscription model, which I have ranted about before. As much as I like the app, I don’t think it’s worth paying what amounts to the full purchase price every year in perpetuity.
But there is really nothing else like Ulysses out there. There are dozens of markdown and minimalist writing apps available on every platform and I’ve tried a bunch of them, but they all fall short in some way. The biggest issue for me is failing to support indents, something I consider crucial for writing fiction.
FocusWriter is lean and generally nice to use, but it’s almost a little too basic and its organizational structure is pretty bare.
The WriteMonkey 3.0 beta looks promising, but indents are still only a “might include” feature and the beta is moving so slowly I may be 110 by the time it hits official release. It’s a one-man project, so I’m not knocking the dev, just saying.
iA Writer has a wonderful minimalist interface, but it lacks indents and the Windows version lags behind the Mac version of features (even though the Mac version itself is not exactly feature-rich).
And on it goes, with other programs either getting abandoned, lacking features, not working well with cloud-saving (like Atomic Scribbler–though really, how can you develop and launch a writing app in 2018 and not plan for people wanting to save their work to cloud-based storage?) or just somehow not being the right fit.
It’s also possible I may be too fussy. Very possible.
For now I’m sticking to WriteMonkey 2.7. It’s getting old, but it still works and it’s pretty solid. It only saves text files, so the possibly of data corruption is pretty low (insert GIF of Jeff Goldblum saying, “Nature finds a way” here).
Now I just need to get back to the actual writing. One of my resolutions for the new year. Let’s hope it pans out better than my attempts to get my weight down.