In class last Wednesday, we briefly discussed the Mac app Scrivener. To refresh everyone’s memories, Scrivener is a tool designed to aid writers in the creative and research process. This technology is especially exciting to me because one of my goals for 2010 is to edit the work I have created the past two semesters in creative writing classes. Frankly, the prospect of piecing together all the drafts and comments is incredibly daunting. So I downloaded the free 30-day trial and began experimenting.
As someone who is admittedly somewhat out of touch with new technologies, I was surprised at how many things I liked about Scrivener. While I still have a lot of tinkering around to do in order to truly understand all that the technology is capable of, I really love the organization and structure the program provides to a process that is messy and difficult to manage. Instead of having to organize the physical pages of countless drafts, sheets of research, and sources of inspiration into a system that is somehow comprehensive, a system is already in place and the clutter (and waste) of paper is drastically reduced or entirely eliminated.
At first I worried that the paperless system would be more difficult to interact with, but visually Scrivener is quite accessible. I think my favorite feature is the corkboard, where you can lay out notes and tag them to specific documents. My appreciation of the visual layout of Scrivener really drove home the point we were discussing about the cultural significance of paper. The main reason I found Scrivener appealing was that it mimicked the way one would organize a novel using paper. The index cards on the corkboard look identical to the ones I would place on a bulletin board in my room without requiring a physical space.
One of the main advantages I see about Scrivener is that it has the potential to speed up the creative process. While it seems strange to think of making a more efficient creative process, it will allow writers to be more prolific and increase the amount of literature that is being put out there. That said it is possible to take the goal of efficiency too far. One review I read of Scrivener was on the National Novel Writing Month webpage that recommended Scrivener for its participants. After reading their review, I skimmed the rest of the website which described the competition as writing an entire 175 page novel in the month of November. I was somewhat appalled to find that the goal of the program was “quantity not quality.”
The program in some ways is enticing as it provides incentive for aspiring novelists to write a novel in entirety. In some ways, I’m tempted to attempt it next November, just to give it a try. However, I think that advertising Scrivener as a technology to aid in the creation of “quantity, not quality” is deceptive. The main advantage of Scrivener as far as I can see is its ability to assist the author in the most important part of the process: rewriting. It is through rewriting that the shapeless quantity morphs into a more substantive piece of true quality.