Friday, November 20, 2015

I'm Just Wild About Scrivener

First of all, I must mention that the version of Scrivener I'm running is version 2.6, and I'm running it on a Mac, whose operating system is OS X, version 10.9.5. If you have a PC, it may be that some of the features I find so enthralling are not available to you. Or maybe they are. I have no way of knowing.

Scrivener is available for download at the Literature and Latte site. You can try it out for thirty days and see whether you like it. If you do, it can be yours forever (or until your computer is obsolete; make that six months) for only $45.00.

I don't even know three-quarters of the bells and whistles on this product. The tutorial that comes with it is very good, but to tell you the truth I didn't go through it all the way. Instead I jumped on and began to write my historical spy thriller. I found it to be wonderful for that, because you can keep notes on each character—with pictures—in the sidebar that runs down the left hand side, along with notes on all the locations you're using, timelines, and links to anything you might want to link to for quick reference. You can enter a date when you'd like to be finished, and the number of words long you'd like your work to be, and it shows you how many words you have to write every day, with a thermometer that turns green when you're nearly there.

All this is beyond swell. But the feature I just discovered—dictation!—is the swellest of all.

Did you ever see one of those forties movies with a famous writer as a main character? Do you remember how he was not only rich (he was always a man) but how he had a cute young stenographer taking down his deathless prose while he loafed and invited his muse with his feet up on the desk, chewing the end of a pencil for effect? No carpal tunnel syndrome for that boy. He had a servant. And now I do too. I could even put my feet on the dining room table here and balance the laptop on my lap, dictating into the built-in microphone, if I weren't afraid of dropping the laptop, and even more afraid of disgracing myself by putting my feet on the dining room table. My word, what my grandmother would have had to say about that.

For me the practical effect of being able to dictate the work straight into the computer is to double my productivity in terms of word count. I can talk two or three times as fast as I can type. You can say "period" and "comma," too, and it puts in periods and commas. You have to watch the words as they appear on the screen, of course, and make sure they are the words you meant to go there. My bad guy is named "Ratz," for instance, and Scrivener wanted to say "rats" the first couple of times. But the third time Scrivener got it right. So it follows what you do, and the corrections you make, and adjusts to your style.

You do have to remember to turn off the dictation function if you have to answer the phone. Yesterday I got a call from one of my sons. We chatted happily for awhile, and when I returned to work there was a long passage in the middle of the manuscript, which went something like this:

Sure Thursday Ashley well… Give yourself so but will let you today to do some sort of deal was okay Melissa yeah I got that yes okay no that's okay cause she was the mortgage Time is usually easily around dinnertime subclasses and his friends want to do something the middle of the night off I'm sure over here for dinner so I hope you come pick you up and you're out there soon see you tomorrow coming to some extent we have to go to choir practice right at quarter quarter something also six we can eat we will disburse all just you okay okay Wilfong
Tediously noticed right so so chocolate
Great if that's okay anyway I will hurry because they're pretty well trichinosis
Hey Neil would've been very bad okay good night okay okay see them yes yes good good great okey-dokey see you then bye-bye okay

…so you probably don't want to use Scrivener's dictation function to write the minutes of your next meeting, or for much of anything else unless you have your eye on the screen at all times and your fingers on the keyboard ready to make occasional corrections. ("Tediously noticed right so so chocolate?" What was that about?)

© 2015 Kate Gallison

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