Scrivener: my disappointment [updated]

Update: in the new version of Scrivener (2.8.1.2) problem with crashes caused by adding Project Notes has been solved. Now Scrivener works just fine.

When preparing for this year edition of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I thought about many different factors that could have impact on the process of my writing, its output and the overall probability of success, that is, writing a 50 000-word novel by the end of November 2016. Unlike in previous years, I’ve decided not to outline the novel before the beginning of November, I wanted to check how easy it would be to write a novel in a more spontaneous way, without the rigour of previously arranged plot arc. Because NaNoWriMo is more about reaching your word count goal rather than creating a sophisticated fiction from the beginning, I didn’t have to worry about the quality of my first draft, as long as it meets the main goal regarding the length of the novel. On the 2nd November I set up my workspace, made a cup of my favourite hot chocolate and created a new project in Scrivener. I have always written fiction in Scrivener, considering it the best tool for creating advanced stories with various subplots and wide range of characters. Even after experiencing serious problems with its functionality I’ve decided to give it another chance, as I really, really liked working in Scrivener. ‚NaNoWriMo will be perfect opportunity to test Scrivener again and check whether it is a right tool for the job or not’ I thought, full of hope and enthusiasm.

Then I tried to add Project Notes to my NaNoWriMo novel and Scrivener crashed.

When writing fiction I always consider two possible levels of details. For projects with detailed outlining I use Scrivener section called Document Notes to specify main requirements for each scene (document), and only on their basis I write the scene itself. When I don’t outline or when I need only some general informations, I use Project Notes instead. Project Notes are great place for putting any informations that are relevant to the whole story or that need to be easily accessible no matter what scene one is currently working on. For me Project Notes are an essential part of Scrivener that definitely should be working properly, especially in the time-sensitive projects like writing a novel in a month. For some reason Scrivener became unable to not only add Project Notes to brand new projects (like my fresh NaNoWriMo novel) but even to edit or delete Project Notes assigned to all my previous projects! It means whether I have correct informations in Project Notes or not, I can no longer change them, even when it’s important to reflect modifications of the project in its notes. I hate having outdated Project or Document Notes, as I often use them as synopses or index cards for particular texts I’m working on. And when I’m writing fiction I need the possibility to change Project Notes whenever I want.

One could suggest to check if the problem is related to a particular project or set of projects. Well, I’ve checked all my Scrivener projects kept on two separate machines and each and every time Scrivener crashed when I was trying to add or edit Project Notes. The problem appears even in blank new projects created with or without a template, so I guess it is caused by some general flaw in Scrivener code and it’s not related to a particular set of project files or Scrivener installation. The thing is, Scrivener is designed to be professional word processor for professionals, and bugs like this one should never leave the beta tests phase. How am I supposed to work on the project in which I cannot edit basic informations I’ve typed in previously? And what if tomorrow it turns out that there is another bug that makes it impossible to edit the manuscript itself? Am I supposed to hold up all my work and stop all my projects, waiting patiently for a patch? Literature & Latte (Scrivener developers) still didn’t fix the bug that caused Scrivener to crash when opening previously saved project in full screen mode, they only changed the default behaviour of Scrivener so it would not open in full screen mode on start and trigger a crash. Should I expect that in the next version of Scrivener Project Notes will be disabled to avoid this bug?

I’m not angry with Scrivener developers. But I am deeply disappointed and sad. Scrivener was always a reliable tool I could use for all types of writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, long or short pieces. After buying Scrivener I’ve stopped opening Pages or Word almost completely, and I’ve moved the majority of my works into Scrivener projects. I still consider it to be a programme with big potential, I don’t want to abandon it if there is any other choice. I only want Scrivener to work as a whole. Unfortunately, I don’t want to accept and I cannot accept software that is working only partially, because it undermines my fundamental trust in safety of all texts kept within its files. Of course I do have backups, but I don’t want to start every writing session wondering if there is any other bug in Scrivener that could cause sudden CTD (Crash To Desktop), effectively preventing me from saving results of my current work somewhere else. At this moment, when Scrivener crashes on Project Notes, I don’t see the possibility of continuing my work in this programme. I’ve already started writing my NaNoWriMo novel in Ulysses. Ulysses is intuitive, simple but powerful word processor and it has three huge advantages over Scrivener:

  1. Ulysses cloud synchronisation is fast and seamless. It takes seconds to upload changes made in particular scene or document to the server, while Dropbox synchronisation used in Scrivener is utterly slow and problematic. I’ve often spent a quarter or more waiting for 3 or 4 small files to finish upload to Dropbox before I could resume my work from other device. Several times despite finishing synchronisation on one device I was unable to continue my work on another because Scrivener detected potential conflicts in uploaded files. I’ve never ever had a single synchronisation problem with Ulysses!
  2. Ulysses interface is modern and clean. For many years Scrivener had cluttered interface with ugly icons. New version has improved interface, but is still not half as nice-looking as Ulysses. It’s much easier to navigate through various options in Ulysses than in Scrivener.
  3. Ulysses is stable like a rock! I’ve been using it for my non-fiction writing for over a year now and I haven’t experienced a single crash or bug or instability of any kind. Ulysses just works and works perfectly. I’m not afraid that something will happen to my data saved in Ulysses while I’m painfully aware that something has already happened to my data saved in Scrivener.

Maybe I will return to Scrivener some day, maybe I will just use it less often or for less demanding things, but for now, for NaNoWriMo 2016, my word processor of choice is Ulysses.

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