Evolution of an Indie: Software, Seriously

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #7 for 2012:

The days of the typewriter are dead. Dead dead. Long dead. If you are a writer, so should the days of Microsoft Word’s dominance be dead. Software is serious. So seriously, why are so many people still using the lardaciously cumbersome Word to create graceful narratives?

Software is serious. Ditch Word, seriously.

Can I paint a masterpiece with an old, crusty 4″ brush that’s been resting in turpentine for a few years, maybe. But wouldn’t it be better to start with the proper tools from the beginning? Sure, I think Microsoft is evil, just like all gifted artist do (don’t we?). My moral beliefs aside, Word wasn’t designed for writing and publishing novels, scripts, or long narrative works of any sort.

There are a growing number of word processors that are designed to do just that. Click here for a good article for learning about some of them. But before you do that, I’ll lay down the gritty, time-saving truth for you.

Scrivener by Literature and Latte is the bestest and baddest of all word processors around. If Word is the 800 pound gorilla, then Scrivener feasts on hundreds of pounds of gorilla meat every day. Can I compare it to any other processors? No. I don’t make it a practice to waste time with impostors. I wasted enough of my life pecking out technology-impaired-brilliance via Microsoft Word. Those days for me are indeed dead.

It used to be that Scrivener was available only for the Mac enlightened of the world. Well, now that’s no longer an excuse. Literature and Latte’s PC version of Scrivener has officially ended it’s beta period and is now live. Crazier still, the Mac version is only $45 while the PC version is only $40. These are piss in a pond prices for a product I would pay $500 for. Why would I be willing to pay so much?

Scrivener allows me to create a better product: The workspace can be shifted between document, cork board and outline. I can write by scene (which I’ll gamble is what every fiction writer should be doing) as well as chapter. I can track key words, characters, transitions, strings, themes, etc. better with Scrivener.

The cork board helps me formulate my ideas, plot points, and story arc brilliantly and see it all at once. Scrivener actually helps me write better stories.

Scrivener enables me to get the product to market with less time and energy: This is the big one for me. The backend abilities of Scrivener to compile my manuscript make the need to learn ebook formatting or even paperback formatting mostly obsolete. It takes a little time to figure out the depth of possibilities, but once you get there, holy schmoly.

In a few minutes I can select the portions of the text, the styles and formatting of the font, indents, hyperlinks, etc., set my meta data, pick my cover image, set my pagination… everything, and click compile. Scrivener has presets now for .epub ebooks, paperbacks, proof copies, etc. that only require mild tweaking to give you exactly what you are looking for. And you have the option of compiling epub, pdf, html, rtx, and even .doc.

When I need to make a change to a published ebook (God forbid), I open up Scrivener, make the change once to the manuscript, then compile it to whatever format(s) I need. When I’m ready for publishing the paperback I fiddle with the margins, gutter, pagination for altering pages, etc. and then compile. I get a product ready for uploading just like that.

Even if you are only writing books for your own enjoyment, how can that enjoyment not be worth $40? I know, I know. The hard part is accepting your acquired aptitude with Word has all been a waste. But you have to get over it and move onward and upward. Use the right tools for the job.

***Standard Disclaimer: There are 3 brands of Indie:

  1. an artist expressing him/herself for the pure joy of it
  2. an artist or idealist who wishes to express an emotion or idea to the world
  3. an artist/entrepreneur who wishes to make a living as a writer

An indie can be one, two or all three of these. But knowing the composition is critical. I am all three of the above, but first and foremost I have to be #3, or I won’t be able to continue doing #2 and #1 full-time. Not all of the above applies to someone seeking #1 or #2. Man, this is sounding scatological, isn’t it?

6 thoughts on “Evolution of an Indie: Software, Seriously”

  1. Okay, I’ll give Scrivener a try. If they have a free trial version.
    What do you think of Pages for the Mac? It seems quite stable, does what I want it to do and doesn’t add all the extraneous code that Word does, which only becomes apparent when you transfer files to HTML or EPUB.
    The good thing about Pages is that it works seamlessly with iCloud.
    Now, for famous novelists like you, that’s irrelevant, but for guys like me who have to move locations regularly (don’t tell the Tres where I am), it’s a great boon.
    What do you think?

    • i like pages, but from what i understand it only does a third of what scrivener does. and scrivener has a built in sync function with an app called simple note. i use simple note as a third level back up for all files and for when I need to work from my iPad. I believe Simple note is still free, while Pages for my iPad is almost as expensive as Scrivener was for my computer. Of course Simplenote is simple. I only use it for editing and making changes to stuff I already have written. while you could use it to compose new stuff, it doesn’t have nearly the functionality.

      Something to consider as well is when you get edits back from people. How hard or easy is it to import the changes back into pages? I don’t have any idea. From open office and Word, Scrivener will import the comment notes as well as the changes, a nice feature for getting feedback…

    • Thanks for the insight, David- I’ll have to give it a shot. I use OpenOffice but never really considered that there would be a platform better suited for writing. I’ll check it out.

      …and thanks for anticipating and answering every question I thought I had. I’m sold!


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