This is the story of how (and why) I synced up Scrivener with 3 ipad apps
I love Scrivener. I’ve written about it many times before, and it remains my favourite piece of writing software. It lets you write in tiny pieces (one scene at a time, as is my wont) but it knits all the pieces together into a chapter, part, or manuscript, depending on how you want to look at it. You can shift the tiny pieces around, too, so if you’re like me and you work in scenes rather than chapters, and then it occurs to you 40k words in that you might be able to see where the chapter breaks actually are, you can drag and drop the scenes into chapters (and then change your mind again 10k words later). Scrivener’s outliner is still my very favourite planning tool (though sometimes I need a spreadsheet when things get more complicated than they should).
While I write fanfiction exclusively in Google Docs (for the sharing and versioning functionality), I write original fiction (almost) exclusively in Scrivener. It’s not as easy to share with it, there’s that, but it makes it easier to manage a large project. And I shouldn’t be sharing original work so easily, should I (/tart).
I knew there was some complicated way of connecting Scrivener to an ipad or an iphone, but I was never that keen to do it. I don’t want to have to copy and paste anything back and forth (the formatting always goes wonky). My laptop is ridiculously portable anyway, and the need to share with mobile devices never really struck me. I don’t do much writing on my ipad anyway. Or, well, I didn’t.
I really should plan overseas trips more often. You wouldn’t believe the new things in my life that have come out of it. New underpants, good walking boots, and now, a better integrated writing solution. Yay!
There are two critical parts of novel writing (in my limited experience): planning/outlining, and the actual putting manuscript words next to each other. I can do planning/outlining anywhere and any time, for the most part, but actual writing requires more concentration, comfort, and time. I’m not sure yet how portable actual writing is (though I’m ready to try and see). But outlining/planning is very portable. In Scrivener, the outliner is just a bird’s eye view display of your scene structure; looking at it in outliner mode hides the manscript text, and shows only the scene titles and summaries, though the manscript text is still there. The outliner contains your manscript text too; it’s just a telescoped view of your project for planning purposes. This is a dual function in Scrivener, and I’ve discovered that I need two apps to account for them: I have an outliner app, and a manuscipt text writing app.
This is Index Card ($4.99). Scrivener generates a document that converts all the outliner scene titles, summaries, and notes into its format, so I can outline, rearrange, and plan on my ipad, and then sync it back into Scrivener when I’m back on my laptop. This is the stage I’m working in right now, and there’s something sort of zen about working on my ipad rather than a computer, I have to say. Fewer distractions, maybe? I don’t know. (Those index cards might look small, but they go on indefinitely.) I can’t add to the manuscript word count through this app, though.
(This picture is wider than my tumblr column, the text is quite distorted. Sorry.)
To do that, I’m using PlainText (free, but with a small ad banner on the bottom. You can buy a “no ads” option inside the app for $1.99.). As you can see, it is indeed pretty plain. Which is fine! This is the app I’m going to use to actually write the text of those scenes that are outlined on the corkboard above. Scrivener outputs txt files that PlainText picks up and reads, then saves back into the same place for Scrivener to update from. When I first synced the two together, all my scenes appeared, in order, in the lefthand sidebar. So I can pick the scene I’m working on, and just write it with no distractions. I haven’t done this yet, but concievably, I can run out for the day, write a few thousand words, then sync it into the master project when I get home. I just update Scrivener clicking a button in the menu, and my new text appears where it should in my story structure. Magic!
To sync up both of these apps to Scrivener, I need another app. Dropbox (free). All three of these apps save files into a shared dropbox folder, from which they all update. That’s what keeps them all tightly integrated. Dropbox is a good thing no matter what you’re doing; it saves files across multiple computers and devices, it doesn’t care what those files are.
Once I set up Dropbox and saved my Scriv project into it (as a good backup), I realized I could actually share with a beta reader this way as well. I could just share my Scriv project file through dropbox onto my beta’s computer, and she could open it up as easily as I can. Of course, that means my beta reader for this project should to have a copy of Scrivener, but that’s easy enough to solve if she doesn’t already have one.
Sharing in Scrivener isn’t as fluid and interative as it is in Google Docs (I suspect nothing ever really will be, Google Docs is awesome), but for an original project that isn’t going to be widely shared, this solution might work out. I haven’t tried out all the bits and pieces of it yet, so I guess I’ll find out.
I hooked up my bluetooth keyboard with my ipad this morning, too. So now I have maximum writing ability. And bonus: the keyboard fits in my purse. Score!
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