Lisa Yee (lisayee) wrote,
Lisa Yee

The Creator of SCRIVENER, A Writer's Best Friend, Tells All - Part One

It’s no secret that that there are a few writerly things I cannot live without. Can you guess which ones they are from this list . . .

1) See’s chocolates
2) Freedom
3) Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
4) Scrivener

Yes! All of the above.



Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy likes to hang out in my office and, on occasion, we make chili.

Photobucket Photobucket

We also go driving around town together when trying to come up with new book ideas . . .


Oops, I got distracted. What I really want to tell you about is this program that anyone who writes should have. And, no, I am not being paid to say that.

I’ve been using Scrivener’s writing/organization program for five years now. Despite a rough start, due to my refusing to read the directions or watch the tutorial, this happened . . .

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Now imagine THREE HUNDRED more pages like this. Or don't.

However, since that first week, our relationship has blossomed into true love.


My beloved Scrivener let’s me organize and take notes . . .


Scrivener tracks work counts/goals for me . . .


It keeps all my research in one place and never criticizes me . . .


Scrivener helps me outline, and more . . .


Recently, I asked Keith Blount, one of the masterminds behind Scrivener, to tell us everything about everything.


LISA: Scrivener is incredibly organized and efficient. Are you that way in real life? Do you sort your laundry when washing it, or do you toss everything in together?


KEITH: Laundry, what's that?


KEITH: Although, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure this shirt didn't used to be pink…


KEITH: My idea of organization is to wait until I can no longer find my keyboard because my desk is so full of Post-It notes and printing paper filled with illegible scrawls, piles of books, "to do" lists and other detritus.


KEITH: My hard drive used to be full of Word documents, half-formed chapters or entire scenes, and research documents, and I'd have folders full of index cards and an Excel file trying to make sense of it all…

If I'd been well-organized, then I don't think I would have created Scrivener.

LISA: I was having lunch with a bunch of authors and mentioned that we'd be chatting. One wanted me to ask you, "How did you get in my brain???!!!"


So, then, how did you get into Sara Wilson Etienne's brain and create a writing program that I would have, had I had the talent, skill and determination?

(Above: Sara.)

KEITH: How I came up with Scrivener was entirely selfish -- I wanted a program that would allow me to write without having to worry where everything was going to go just yet, so that I could get an overview whenever I needed -- and restructure as I went along.

I put it out for beta-testing on the NaNoWriMo forums (this was back in 2005) and I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm with which it was received.


KEITH: After much more hard work it went on sale in January 2007, and a year after that it became my full-time job.

LISA: You did the software-designy-developy stuff, right? Can you tell us in non-computer-esque terms what it is that you actually do?

KEITH: Generally, I stare at a computer screen each day until my forehead starts bleeding.

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(Note: The above photo is of Lisa’s bleeding face, not Keith’s.)

KEITH: I didn't start out as a software developer. I spent my twenties writing lots of bad fiction, figuring I'd be getting the idea for the next Booker Prize winner at any moment.

Eventually, I figured that I should have something else I liked doing to fall back on. When I first started working on Scrivener, I was a primary school teacher.

(Note: Those children are not Keith’s students and that teacher is not Keith.)

KEITH: As a kid I had typed some programs from computer magazines into my ZX Spectrum, so I figured, how hard could it be? (The answer, it turned out, was, "Pretty bloomin' hard, actually.")

I was on Windows and way over my head. It was only when I moved to a Mac and bought a couple of programming books for OS X that things started to make sense.


KEITH: For each update I'll work out the logig, "If the thingy is pressed and the wotsit is selected, then do this, and the whojamacallit is selected…"

Then I'll turn all of this into code in Xcode -- Apple's program for developing Mac software, test out a new build, swear because things aren't working as they should, fix some stupid mistake, and so on.

LISA: This sounds familiar . . .

KEITH: In a way, the process isn't a million miles away from writing: you work out what's going to happen next, get a rough idea of how it's going to work, hammer it out and then spend time revising it until it works properly.

LISA: Since you used to be a teacher, how is helping organize writers different from helping little kids? Or is it basically the same thing?

KEITH: Ha! No comment.

Actually it's very different. I loved teaching, but I hated the paperwork. I used to get told off for setting a bad example to the kids because my desk was so messy.


KEITH: Although I miss working with kids, I really enjoy interacting with our users. Because Scrivener’s used by writers, most of our emails and posts on our user forums, are generally pleasant, and well-thought out. We very rarely get angry or abusive emails in all-caps, for instance.

LISA: Well, your company does seem very mellow.


LISA: Okay, so you've figured out how to predict winning lottery numbers and are going to tell us . . . OOPS! We’ve run out of space. Darn.

Stay tuned for my next blog, for PART TWO of this interview. Find out about the rumors about Keith and Olivia Wilde, why his company has the “most pretentious company name, ever,” and what would happen if Keith and Mark Zukerberg got in a fight.

And while you’re waiting, if you’d like to test drive Scrivener for the great price of FREE – CLICK HERE.



Disclaimer: No proofreaders were harmed (or even used) in the creation of this blog.

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