Then I split my writing between Scrivener (novels) and Ulysses (everything else).
But I’ve always had a slight problem with both of them: it was the markup.
Ulysses uses Markdown – or rather its own subset of Markdown. It can handle basics like bold and italics, and at punch, it does a fairly good job with stuff like footnotes (pretty useful if you’re writing academic papers). Table support has been a weak spot as old as Ulysses itself: it just can’t do ‘em, even though every other Markdown editor supports them. Still, most novels don’t need tables, so it’s hardly a dealbreaker if you’re writing the next great American novel. What’s important is that it saves your work in the Markdown format: it’s purely text-based so is portable, a good fit for collaborative work, and is great for version control systems.
On the other lawn, we have Scrivener, which stores everything in RTF format.
Now, the problem I have with RTF is probably just my own ageism: RTF is old. It’s the format Microsoft used for word processing when the world was a twinkle in the eye of the cosmos. Things have moved on; Microsoft certainly has. So while there is nothing lacking with RTF, I don’t like keeping stuff in a dead format, especially one that’s kind of … opaque.
Okay, now I say ‘neat’ because I was pretty chuffed when I got it to work!
Scrivener is the best way to write a book, in my less than humble opinion, but it does have a pretty steep learning curve for some of the really deep stuff it can do. For that reason, make sure you have a good working knowledge of the Scrivener styles setup before you go any further.
Okay, so here’s the scenario:
I’ve just joined a local writing group, (lovely people), and one of the things we do is critique each other’s ongoing work. I like to pull out the occasional chapter that I need help with (which is usually all of them) and drop them in for a quick look-see. Easy enough in Scrivener: you can set the compile page to include just the chapters you want and export them to a PDF.
There we go: first chapter of the new book, ready for export and review. The only problem is, I don’t have a header. Now, the writers group is pretty specific: every submission has to have a header on the first page which showing:
the title of the piece
the word count (our group has a limit of 1500 words for a review, though you can submit two pieces if we’re short of pieces – which we never are)
genre (I usually have no idea what genre I’m writing until someone tells me)
type of feedback required (the best answer seen so far: ‘gentle’)
anything the reader needs to know (you can add warnings for graphic sex scenes, violence or mentioning Brexit)
So the word’s out: Scrivener 3 hit the interweb on the 20th of November. Oceans will boil, grown men will weep, children will speak in tongues…
No seriously, that’s what’s going to happen.
It’s been a long time coming for most of the user base, but a lucky few of us have been given the opportunity(!) to beta test the latest version of what is arguably the greatest writing tool known to man.
I’ve been Scrivener fan since version 1.0 (a little before that actually) and so I like to think I shaped its evolution in some very small way – even if it was just to have some of my feature requests flatly refused. Keith Blount, the app’s main developer, has always maintained that Scrivener is primarily a composition tool: you write your stuff pretty much stripped of formatting, compile it into a finished document and then drop it into word for the final polish. It’s main selling point was organisation: you could write your piece as a hierarchy of folders and documents, move them about, chop and change them as much as you want, and then when the world was ready for your masterpiece, churn out a first draft.
Scrivener 2 built on this, reorganising the user interface and simplifying the compilation process so it was less daunting for beginners … but once again it fell short of the end-to-end solution. Still, as far as I was concerned, it was still the best way to get your first draft done.
And now, many seasons and four novels later, we arrive at Scrivener3, and this is definitely not your mama’s upgrade. To begin with, a lot of the internals have been rewritten to support the latest Apple technologies, and the UI has been completely revamped. It looks a lot better, a lot less distracting to the eye. The biggest change though, really represents a change in philosophy. Keith seems to have relaxed his “we’re a composition tool only” stance and has reimagined Scrivener as your complete long form development kit.
Now before we go any further, let’s be clear on two things:
Scrivener will always be missing 30% of MS Word’s functionality
No one actually uses that 30%
Okay, so what’s changed? Well let’s start with the biggie: