When do you dump Scrivener for Word?

This always happens towards the end of the book. I’ve worked and planned and schemed in Scrivener. The story’s almost there. I know the scene structure. There are perhaps three or four more to go – say five thousand words at the most.

And I’m itching to get everything out into Word to finish it. This is illogical in many ways. But makes sense in a few important ones. Let me run through them for my own sake as much as that of anyone else facing the same dilemma.

  1. I write for publication. This means I must deliver a Word file. A Word file will come back to me for revision and editing. If you self-pub you can handle the whole process in Scrivener. I can’t. One way or another I will have to work in Word. No choice about it.
  2. Word is better on Windows. Any way I look at it. Word 2013, still in beta, is the best version so far. I love it. Word on the Mac is, for me, slow, clunky and ugly. You can’t drag around chapter headings to move them. You can’t get individual section word counts. Apple’s own word processor Pages hasn’t been updated in years and is inadequate. I can’t get on with the one decent alternative, Nisus Writer Pro, which does a good enough job but makes me feel I’m still living in the 1990s. Logical conclusion: the final version must be handled in Word, on Windows.
  3. I’m a big fan of looking at the same manuscript in different ways. You see things you never saw before. I dump out drafts to pdfs and look at them on a tablet or even a phone. When I dump out a book from Scrivener and open it in Word I see new issues immediately. Why is this? I don’t know. But it’s real and it’s useful.
  4. When the MS is in Word it looks like a book, not a collection of screens. One of Scrivener’s many strengths is that it allows you fine tune a narrative’s structure down to the nth degree. This is useful to the writer but meaningless to the reader. A reader isn’t interested in structure at all; it should be invisible to them. In Word structure becomes much less visible but (in 2013 at least) still manageable. I like that. It feels I’m dealing with a book being born, not an editorial project.
  5. This is a purely personal one. I spent most of my life inside Scrivener. It’s a fantastic piece of software but after a while I want a change. Nothing to do with the program, my problem entirely.

Those are my feelings. Yours may be different. And as I said… if you’re self-pubbing you may do the whole thing in Scrivener and nothing else. Though that point about how work looks different in different apps is an important one I think, whatever your market.

So the current book is now up in Word. Seeing it in that new form has already given me a new burst of energy. I’m spotting issues and possibilities, making notes in OneNote, thinking of the final run-in to delivery towards the end of this month. If you follow this same route here are some tips for the process of transfer.

Here’s the narrative structure in Scrivener.

There are headings for parts and scenes. You can produce a Word file directly from Scrivener. But it won’t have the headings in place as styles. You can get the headers as text headings in Word though. Tick the right boxes in the Compile process (the manual or my little book will tell you how) and you will get each scene or part exported as a text heading. On Scrivener for the Mac the choices look like this — they tell Scrivener to export both the headings and the text they contain.

All I do then is go to the part headings and give them a Heading 1 style in Word then do the same for scene headings and make them Heading 2 style. After which you will see your book in Word with a Scrivener-style structure in the navigation pane. You can go to the scenes you want and move them around just as in Scrivener (in Word 2013 anyway). On Mac Word it looks like this (though you can’t move the headings around in the nav pane). In Word 2013 and 2010 they can be moved and you can get word counts too.

When I’m done with the manuscript I save a copy as ‘Book Delivery’ and remove the text from the scenes, replacing them with numbers if I feel like it. Then when then book comes back for revision I can refer to the original with the scene headings in place if needed.

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