Is Scrivener a force for good or evil?

When I came across and tied Scrivener I thought it was amazing. Less than a word processing program, it is a database program which lets you write in sections, append notes, move things around and just keep track of what is going on and where you want to go. Using it for some early drafts it seemed like an amazingly effort free way to work. With a menu of headings, sub-headings and sub-sub-headings down the side, I could drag and drop sections, start new ones and just keep writing away. If I was working on a different computer, I would simply work on a section in a normal word processing program and just import it into my Scrivener file later.

However, with both of the shorter pieces I attempted to write in this way everything became a massive mess. After a few days I had a lot of words, but I certainly did not have a piece of work. While I could press a magic button to make all the sections appear as a single document, what I had written in the sections meant I certainly did not have a coherent paper. Scrivener kept me working, but I tried to outsource any discipline to the program. It turns out the program was not quite that magic.

Now I have to pump out a short methodology paper, and also a methodology chapter of undetermined length. I have stayed away from Scrivener, but I have also so far avoided my old trick of just dumping a bunch of quotes and notes in a .doc file and getting overwhelmed. Instead I am actually writing what I want to say in a rather linear fashion. When it comes to writing about my methodology I do have the advantage of having written about it and lived it for a couple of years now.

Whether or not what I am writing will be able to be revised into anything ‘good’ is a whole other matter, but at the moment I am just pleased that I am putting together some early drafts. The sections can be imported into Scrivener later if I like, but the decisions about how to make one section flow into the next will already have to have been made. I suppose there is no effort free way of working.

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