Scrivener Thoughts: Strengths and Weaknesses

Now that I’ve spent a bit more time with Scrivener, I have a broader understanding of the software’s strengths and weaknesses.

Eh …

I mentioned in my last post how I don’t like the lack of multi-computer syncing or multi-user commenting. I want the ability to share a project between every computer that I end up using throughout the week. I’d also like to share my project with beta users and receive feedback and suggested edits. Google Docs handles these two functions wonderfully, but Scrivener is lacking in these areas at the moment.

Fortunately, there are workarounds. For the multi-computer problem, I simply keep the project in my Dropbox folder with backups automatically saving to my hard drive. After the minor setup, it works seamlessly, and is just as good as Google Docs. I’m happy with this workaround, but would prefer if the functionality came native in Scrivener. That isn’t a big deal, though, so I would rate this solution as “very good.”

For the multi-reviewer problem, the best solution I’ve found isn’t nearly as nice. It looks like I’ll have to export the document, send it out, compile comments, then edit my master file. But since I haven’t reached the beta reader stage in my current WIP, I can’t speak from experience yet. I have tested exporting the document, however. The ease of that process and the quality of my resulting document both lead me to believe that this solution won’t be too painful. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around the need to compile and interpret pages of feedback. I’ll update you on how rough this actually ends up being. Hopefully, reality will prove easier than the worries my mind has been conjuring. I would describe this solution as “satisfactory.”

Ohh …

What I’ve used the most and found the most useful so far have been the search and organizational abilities.

Because I’m able to split a chapter into sections, then split those sections into sub-sections, I’ve found my writing far more flexible. Considering that flexibility often comes with greater complexity, Scrivener has done a fantastic job here. I can select multiple document fragments for simultaneous viewing (as though all in a single document), and can switch easily between multiple view types. Since flexibility was one of my greatest concerns with stepping into a closed workspace like this, I’m both relieved and thrilled at how Scrivener has made my process more flexible and easier to manage at the same time. This might be the single greatest value this software holds.

Along the same lines, Scrivener’s index cards are a fantastic way to organize and review simple summaries as meta-data. I can also name each file and assign different icons to make them more understandable at a glance. Scrivener also gives me a tidy, sensible, unobtrusive, and simple way to store my characters and research for easy reference. Additionally, the ability to quickly search throughout all chapters, sections, and sub-sections to find a particular character or thread has been golden. These elements combined with Scrivener’s corkboard and list views for chapters / sections and their index cards have made keeping track of a large, sprawling story like my current WIP much, much easier. It’s been a world of difference, and I can’t imagine going without this assistance.

Hmm …

Aside from that, Scrivener has so far held its own with all other word processors. I generally dislike having to rig together a passable solution to my problems and usually prefer to forgo the software rather than have to put up with inefficiencies like that. With Scrivener, however, the problems are so small when compared to the benefits that I don’t really mind the extra hassle–yet. I would still love to see native solutions in the future, though, and if another piece of software can match Scrivener’s strengths while also solving these problems, I might switch. But for now, I can’t find anything that can beat Scrivener.

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