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Writing tool + personalized customer interaction

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I've been hearing a lot of good things about Scrivener lately.

It's a Macintosh word-processing and document-management application for writers, especially for writers of novels, screenplays, and book-length nonfiction; it has a bunch of cool features, and it's apparently extremely useful for anything where you need to (a) keep track of a bunch of notes and reference material and/or (b) reorder pieces of the work over time.

(Note that it's not a desktop-publishing tool. The focus is on helping the writer to write, not on fancy formatting and layout stuff; it's not a replacement for, say, FrameMaker or InDesign.)

Oh, and it costs only $40 US, or $35 for students and academics.

Several of my fiction-writing friends swear by it—for example, one friend who usually uses Windows is using a Mac specifically for this application, iIrc—so it was already on my radar, and then last week I learned that a colleague has been using it to write a nonfiction book for programmers. So I was intrigued.

I downloaded the trial version a few days ago; last night, I spent half an hour or so reading through the tutorial and learning about the features. It looks pretty cool.

I've started occasionally posting to Twitter (which forwards to Facebook), so I posted that I was reading the tutorial.

And about three hours later, I got a response tweet from the official Scrivener Twitter account, saying "Hope that you enjoy using Scrivener Jed!"

It turns out that the sales/marketing guy posts lots of tweets in response to people who mention the app on Twitter. Looks like he's posted about 40 in the last 24 hours—some answering questions or pointing people to support resources, others just thanking people for mentioning the app. In many cases, he goes and looks up the tweeter's name (rather than just their handle) and calls them by name.

I think this is totally cool. It would be cool even if he were exclusively using canned responses (at first I thought it might be a Twitterbot programmed to respond to all Scrivener tweets), but he doesn't seem to be; he seems to use one canned response for people who retweet about the app, but otherwise all the tweets appear to be individually written.

So this is a company representative who's not only interacting with customers through a direct and immediate medium, but is actually reaching out individually to potential customers who've publicly expressed interest, and addressing them by name.

It would be creepy or annoying if he were using this explicitly as a sales tool. But he's not; the result, at least for me, was kind of like being welcomed to the family of users.

I was already positively inclined toward the app; this makes me even more so.

I'm still not sure whether I'm going to buy the app; I don't write book-length works. But the story that I've been very slowly working on will likely turn out to be at least novella-length, and it definitely needs easy access to notes and reference material, and I even more or less have an outline of the plot, which seems to fit the Scrivener model pretty well. So I think I'll try using the app to work on that story, and if it works well, I'll buy it.

It's tempting to think that having a shiny new tool will make me more likely to actually write fiction regularly, but that's probably not true. I've been writing all my fiction (what little I write) in plain text in BBEdit for a while now, and it suits my needs pretty well. But it's possible that having a shiny new tool will make me actively want to sit down and work on the story, at least for a little while, because I'll get to play with the app; so that might help a little. And this story, if I ever finish it, is likely to be several times as long as the longest thing I've ever previously written, so having a little organizational help might come in handy.

Anyway, seems worth a try.

3 Comments

I've been tempted by Scrivener, but I don't want to switch in the middle of a book. It may not be for me, though — they're emphatic that Scrivener knows nothing of pages until you export the text, and it's an important part of my process that what I'm writing look like pages of a book. I can't get any sense of pacing from manuscript format — I reformat the text before mailing it off. If Scrivener can't display page breaks, I won't be able to tell where I am in a chapter.


It looks like version 2.0 will have a "page layout" view when it comes out mid-2010 — once I see what that actually means, I may get excited.


Scrivener is great for short stories, too. That's primarily what I use it for.

One little thing that isn't really documented all that well, as far as I can tell, are the templates. When you install Scrivener, there is an "Extras Installer". Install it! Then, when you start Scrivener, it will give you the option of creating various project types -- short story, novel, comic book script, screenplay, etc.

The short story template sets up your cover page and first scene. When you've finished writing everything, you can "compile short story" and it will generate your doc/rtf complete with page header, cover page, word count -- all in standard submission format.


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