Overwriting, Time Machine, & Scrivener, oh my

You don’t want to know what just happened.

But I’m going to tell you anyway.

Instead of replacing an old story file with a new one, I accidentally replaced the new file with the old one.
And because that’s considered an overwrite, I can’t get the new one back.

Well, I might be able to get the new one back, if I pay $80-90 for the software that might be able to retrieve it for me. Maybe. As in, it might not even be able to find the correct file at all. Because apparently overwritten files in Yosemite are not sent to the trash can. And the trial version of the recovery software failed to show me a preview of almost all of the documents it might be able to recover.


No, I’m not panicking. Not yet, anyway. Because I’ve still got the extraneous documents that I used to upload to FictionPress on a chapter-by-chapter basis. And you shouldn’t panic yet either, because I hand-wrote a solid beginning to chapter 15 (and remember which version of that I settled on), and I have all the versions of the major scene[s] (which I’ve been playing with and fine-tuning) saved in their own separate documents, for easier access and for the sake of my sanity.

So, all is not lost. But all is definitely a pain in the rear.

Which means, in my opinion, it’s not worth spending $90 to recover a single file, when I can start using Time Machine. Theoretically. Once I reformat my hard drive. (Ick. Thought I avoided that phase.)

In better news,

Not only is my laptop (and therefore my story files) now physically protected, I also have acquired a computer program that is going to make this whole my-documents-are-scattered-everywhere life much simpler. If you’ve read any writers’ blogs, or attended any online writing workshops, chances are that at some point you’ve heard someone mention Scrivener. If you’re like me—a.k.a. a newbie—then you probably had/have no idea what that is.

Let’s just say that if I were a professor teaching creative writing classes of any kind—be they poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, essaying, short story-writing, or novel writing—I would require my students to purchase this software.

I mean, let’s be real: Most college (or college-prep) teachers require their students to purchase books that have an online or electronic component. Students purchase a $100-200 textbook they’ll probably rarely use thereafter, which goes hand-in-hand with required software that they’ll only have access to for a semester (or a year, tops). For $45, they could be purchasing a program that they will continue to use indefinitely, if they are serious about writing. And it’s not textbook-y; real authors use it like students use Microsoft Word (which, unlike Scrivener, makes you pay for the next version).

That being said, I recently purchased Scrivener. Or rather, someone purchased it for me recently, as a gift. The download came complete with a tutorial typed out within the program itself, so you can try out all the functions in the same window as the manual. It also refers you to simple how-to YouTube videos, created by the creator of Scrivener.

All the Mac users right now are asking, “What’s the catch? What do I get to struggle with that PC users don’t?”

Nothing. The software was originally developed for Macs. For once, Windows gets to be the secondary system for a word processor.

But yes, it is available for Windows too. 🙂

So, what’s so special about this Scrivener program, anyway? I already have a word processing program. Why would I pay for another?

It’s all about the kind of writing you’re doing, and what your writing process is like. The reality is that most writers have their work in more than one format, which means it’s in more than one place–whether on their computer, spread between electronic gadgets (which may or may not be compatible with one another), or “old school” (in notebooks, and/or on white boards, sketch pads, index cards, and post-it notes). In other words, between research and plotting and sporadic ideas, visual inspirations, and writing and revisions, the writer’s life is a mess.

“Where did that post-it-note go?”

“I have no idea what order these index cards were supposed to go in!”

“I want this scene here! …No, here! …No, I only want this chunk. Wait, I need it to go back to the way it was!”

“Great; now I have 8 separate Word documents for this one scene. And that’s not counting Notepad/TextEdit over here…”

“I have this idea, but I don’t want to draft it out yet…It’s only one line!”

Like I said: a mess.

The purpose of Scrivener, simply-put, is to keep the mess in one place. And maybe to stop battling the word processing glitches for extremely long documents.

But it also formats your manuscripts for you. When the program first starts up, instead of selecting whether you want to write a letter, a paper, or a brochure, you select whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, or poetry/lyrics. Then you pick from the sub-categories.

After that point, you can import documents, PDFs, pictures, and music files from your computer, compile documents, separate documents, and view different files side by side (including research next to writing) while you’re figuring things out. You can even create a split version of your manuscript, for revisions. And each document you start or import gets its own notecard, in the Corkboard view, where you can write a title and summary for that scene. You can then more those scenes around, until you find the right order to plot them in. You can also create character profile pages, to keep track of all those unique character quirks as you write them.

I’m super new to Scrivener, so I’m still figuring things out. I imagine I’ll still be tapping out ideas and notes into my phone, when I’m away from my computer. For trading notes between computer and phone, in-format, I hear OneNote is the way to go, but I haven’t tried that one out yet. But for trying to tie everything together into my writing, I’m looking forward to transitioning into Scrivener as my main app for writing.

If you’re interested in Scrivener, there’s a free trial available on the Literature and Latte site (among others), or (for Mac users) you can download the licensed software through the App Store.


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