"Exploring Scrivener"    [ 05 ]   
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Apr 2016
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book: "Who Moved My Cheese?"

Everybody has dreams — maybe crammed into the STAR WARS lunchbox of their soul, all popping and wriggling to explode... or perhaps languishing in a dark closet, buried deep in some emotional swamp or other... but they're in there. Some dreams take a lifetime to fulfill, while others can drop right out of the clear blue sky to splash into our lives like a confetti supply-drop.

I have recently come to realize that a good number of my own lifelong dreams have already come to pass [!!] — some at great cost (yielding questionable results) and a few others that, though I did not comprehend it until years later, truly did reflect mysteries and desires in my heart. (Funny how God knows what He's doing in this department) As for one persistent ambition in particular, I cannot imagine any unpublished writer who does not dream of someday producing and promoting a book (or 20) for some vast, eager readership. To Be Heard is such a primal instinct hard-wired into every one of us. What young child does not call out to their guardian(s) "Watch me!" as they tumble about the floor, jump a ramp on a bicycle, or perform some skilled maneuver in sports (or life)? This compulsion follows each one of us right into adulthood, from captains of industry striving toward excellence in their chosen fields, to milestones achieved on more personal levels. Whether in family, business, sports, or the Arts, we're all crying out in some way "Hey, watch me! Check this out! Hear what I have to say! Understand what's important to me!" [Consider Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etcetera] More than just some ego boost, I believe that all of this reflects the fundamental condition of simply Being Human, of being alive: hear me ~ know me ~ contact / connect! (sounds like a Rush song) I recently took Ann to catch "Singin' in the Rain" in-theater, and was impressed all over again by not only the comedic genius and timing of one Mr. Donald O'Connor, but also Gene Kelly's creative aspirations as demonstrated through his amazing choreography, particularly in his highly imaginative tour de force "Broadway Melody" — "Gotta dance! ♪ GOTTA ♫ dance!!"

— Yeah... for me Writing is a lot like this.

To this end, I have drafted trunkfuls of journals, novel length manuscripts, and scores of short stories over the decades (and most recently this blog). I do it all simply for the enjoyment of communicating and connecting through the medium of words.  :-)  However, I also realize one cannot make a living by pursuing a hobby... unless one transforms such passions into a lucrative business. I am careful about this, though. I continue to play piano/keys/organ in rockin' church bands because I love it so much! Being part of a creative musical team helping to usher people into a true place of worshipping the ultimate Only True Being there is . . there's just nothing else like it! It is no "job" with obligatory duties and imposed deadlines. Well... I guess it does include those elements, but the difference, I think, is an "I get to do this" attitude versus a pressing "have to do it" feeling. I have seen, and experienced, what turning a leisurely interest into a vocation can do — it can drain the very life out of that pastime. For instance, it is one thing to learn and practice animation for the fun of it, quite another find yourself a slave to working overtime hours tweening thousands of pages based on characters designed by someone else. And if you stray off-spec, your meager-paying little animation job will be snatched from you just like that! ~ Not cool, man.. not cool. ~ Yet I need to pursue something new, as I sense the "cheese" of my multimedia/tech profession has been substantially moved over the last decade. I need to find a better way to make a living than suffering the annual injustices of mandatory yet increasingly limited so-called "upgrades" to the tools of my trade (operating systems, multimedia applications.. .. Adobe [see my 2011 "impassioned email" here]) In considering my options, I feel as though I have been sitting in the middle of a creative Writing fountain all my life, splashing around rather aimlessly instead of daring to channel its energies toward more substantial goals. Sure, I enjoy creating just for the sake of it, but I think the time has come to extend the scrawling reach of my pen.

     1928 Smith-Corona Typewriter
 Typewriter

Back in 1990/1991, I still typed up manuscripts on an old (beautiful) 1928 Smith-Corona portable typewriter. It could be secured in a durable hard-cover case clasped tightly shut with a nice sturdy handle to make it easy to tote around. You could even bungee the thing to the back of a mountain bike for a trip across town or somewhere up into the forest. One shop in town still sold those hard-to-find typewriter ribbons which I could thread without inking up my fingers. Scores of tiny letter-riddled white-out strips littered my apartment. With some good idea, I could click-clack away on that thing pretty quickly, until the typebars would eventually "SNAK·SNAK·SNAK·SNAK!" in a tangled mess in front of the paper like some halted march of steely intent. I would draw them down carefully back into place and continue. The 'zip/clack·DING!" of the carriage return sounded like music confirming every line. Setting margins and line heights was a manual affair, often involving a physical ruler in hand for verification. It hung out next to my mug o' pens and dictionary, and could easily fit in the carry case. I had never so much as touched a computer — I saw no need for it — until one enterprising dude in our writing club demonstrated how ~ using his COMPUTER ~ he could edit, change, and make corrections directly onto his electronic screen 'paper' before typing it out with his fancy and buzzingly loud dot-matrix printer.

286 Computer / 'WordPerfect 5.1'
 286 PC + WP5.1

—  Blew  —  My  —  Mind  —

I locked up my typewriter in its archaic case and marched it straight out to the dumpster behind our apartments, heaving away that old method of writing with a loud echoing "BANG!" (The metallic sound of the Future?) I then went out and financed a $1,500 top-of-the-line 286 computer, WordPerfect 5.1, and my very own dot-matrix printer! (Plus "The Secret of Monkey Island", of course) Instead of countless sheets of paper, messy correction fluid & tape strips, and repeating retyped efforts, not to mention blotchy carbon paper, I could cleanly write and store an ENTIRE NOVEL on one single floppy diskette. [!!] I could barely even comprehend this! — In hindsight, I wish I would have kept that vintage typewriter around but, at the time, decided I had to choose such a radical one-way move to secure my resolve.

Ironically, I would learn so much about these new tools as to become quite a successful Computer Instructor, then a highly decorated Multimedia Designer/Developer! (Funny how the pages of Life fill with material you never intended to write) Yet still, I continued developing novel-length manuscripts in the cumbersome environment of MS Word. It is perfect for short document work, not so great at managing multiple chapters, source materials, and exporting to diverse platforms.

·  ·  ·  •   §   Enter Scrivener   §   •  ·  ·  ·

It bubbled up from the same general software cauldron that spawned the likes of CopyWrite, Z-Write, Ulysses, WriteWay Pro, NewNovelist, WriteItNow!, Liquid Story Binder, and RoughDraft. While the latest versions of some of those do provide features any budding novelist might desire, my research shows Scrivener to be the most well-rounded workhorse for my creative work habits. And as computers outperform typewriters in every way, moving from my current writing methods to Scrivener should yield a comparable increase in functional productivity.  :-)  BOOYAH!  That's the plan, anyway...

 Scrivener Logo

If you are also an aspiring novelist (or playwright, or screenwriter), here is a link for a trial and/or purchase version of Scrivener. It currently costs about $40, but if you fish `round the `net you can probably dig up some discount code to get it for less. And unlike the current [deplorable] trend of monthly or annual 'membership costs' adopted by shameless money-grabbing corporations, just a single one-time license purchase is required ~ allowing for multiple computer uses per household. Sweet! Online tutorials abound —( some for free, some for $$$ )— but if you've got any kind of word processing experience, it looks pretty easy to figure out. Lots of instructional materials and quick guides are likewise available online. I laminated a couple quick-guides and plan to set aside a few evenings to dive into the app very soon . . .

   Scrivener title
 
 • Centralized research center
 • Version archiving features
 • Outline view = synopses & meta-data
 • Sortable index cards on a virtual corkboard
 • Fullscreen compositional options
 • Realtime source views (even while composing)
 • Linked search options (text and styles)
 • Comprehensive format export options
            All intuitively simple to organize/restructure
 
 Scrivener [screenshot]
 

I started this year with the express goal of writing 25 blog entries before 2017. As of now, one-third of the way through 2016, I have produced HALF of my intended quota!  :-/  One reason I push toward such goals is to practice freelance creative production under imposed deadlines. I still intend to fulfill 25 entries this year, but will ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO STOP blogging so deeply and prioritize getting into this application if I want to get serious about writing for more than a hobby. I need to master Scrivener like I did Flash all those years ago...

 bread (2 loaves)
 bread (1 loaf)

Fortunately, I've got plenty of old material to resurrect and iron into working outlines, including three original novel ideas that are still timely and 'fresh enough' to bring to market. A verse in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 11:1) says to "cast your bread upon the water, and in due season it will return to you." That's ancient-Hebrew-speak to encourage expansive planning in one's giving patterns and vocational enterprises. The Bible is full of admonitions to Go Forward Boldly and not shrink back in fear. Without question, it is God who provides any increase, but with this drive and new software, perhaps now is the time I've been waiting for all my life to pursue publication! I have no delusions of becoming "rich and famous" — I've had a taste of local fame in years past, and it doesn't suit me much (let alone anything on a grander scale). And if I'm really 'lucky' a solid year of effort might yield a good return of a fully-taxable $20,000 or so... probably more like $5,000-$10,000. That's not much of an annual salary, but that's the reality of starting out in this business . . that is, if you find any success at all. I may write heaps, cast my 'bread' out there, and receive no real measurable reward other than lost time. But since I'm gonna write anyway, I may as well leverage what I can in this new direction (or rather, in a return to form) and see if one of these ideas might just catch fire and flare up...! (For the record, I will seek to self-publish, which is more of a lucrative option for an untested author in today's publishing market rather than rely on the traditional agency/publishing route I explored in the 90's — it's a whole new Writing World out there nowadays)

There was once a time in my life when I would just grab the nearest spiral notebook and Get To Writing. But now things are different: Scrivener is my new Flash! (Heh.. this would have been such a strange-sounding statement to my writerly self back in the 80's) One fact remains: you won't achieve anything unless you put some effort into it!  So: shorter blog entries by design for the rest of the year, and I will also provide an update in a few months to report on learning, production, and general Scrivener progress ~ stay tuned . . .

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