To compile or not to compile

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Tue Mar 17, 2020 11:21 pm Post

Greetings all,

I've been using Scrivener for almost a year with little pet projects of mine and I really enjoy it. I finally talked my wife into using it for a serious book she is writing; she spends an enormous amount of time in research and taking notes and she's realized a lot of what she does can be contained in Scriv. Moving everything from Word into Scriv was tedious and now that it is done she's concerned about publishing, particularly with formatting. For example, one thing Scrivener cannot do is wrapping text around an image, Seems that most any word processor has had that ability for years, if not decades, but not here. But, I digress and I know, Scrivener is not designed for formatting.

But, my question to you is, how many of you compile directly from Scrivener to the final format, be it ePub, PDF, or whatever, and how many of you export to another software to finish formatting and finalize your project before sending it out? And if you do use different software for finalizing, what do you use and then what do you use for publishing?



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Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:24 am Post

The answer is likely to depend on the requirements of the particular project. For large blocks of text, compiling directly to the final format is quite feasible. The more complex the ultimate formatting requirements, the more likely you are to need an intermediate tool.

I would still compile, though. Export doesn't give you nearly as much flexibility.

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Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:50 am Post

I created a course specifically for this topic a few years back, just before the Scrivener 3 update. It's somewhat dated, especially since the compiling features have been significantly updated, but most of the tips are still applicable.

Anyway, one of the main reasons I decided to create this course was because I felt that no one should be stuck having to rely on another service after having spent their hard-earned money on Scrivener, which, IMHO, should be seen as an all-in-one writing tool. Why buy it at all if you're not willing to put a little skin in the game and learn how to use it to its full potential. And thus, the course was born.

Granted, I recommend when people get started using Scrivener that they only use the features they need at the time and wait until they need other features to begin learning about them. If you're not a read-the-manual-first type of person with a love for research and learning (guilty), then you'll just get overwhelmed by the project and it will suck all the enjoyment Scrivener can provide.

Having said all that, I myself personally compile with Scrivener and don't expect it to be a fully-functional formatting program (with drop-caps—yet, lol—and other "fancy" features), but it's more than capable of producing professional-grade formatting. Most importantly—this just occurred to me—you don't need all the bells and whistles in your formatting anyway if you truly want your focus to be on the writing itself. Worry about the writing, do the minimal amount of formatting you can be satisfied with...and get back to writing!

Otherwise, if you're so inclined, you can more than throw money at the problem with other solutions out there. (Note, Draft2Digital offers free book formatting and ebook conversion that's worth checking out. I haven't tried it myself, but it looks easy and professional enough for me should I decide to give it a try.)

Bottom line: When I purchase a product, I prefer to know all there is about it before looking elsewhere. Time is money, and if it takes me way too many hours to solve a problem, I have two choices: throw money at it, or spend the time learning how to do it myself and acquire new skills in the process. Skills which often prove to be priceless.

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Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:11 am Post

I would say it depends very much on the boundaries of one's personal concept of an "all-in-one writing tool". You yourself, having made that claim, go on to show that there are things Scrivener can't do, such as Drop Caps, so that is outside your boundaries, but for others it seems to be within theirs. And I suspect that it is expecting Scrivener to be an "all-in-one writing tool" that causes angst for so many new users.

For everything I do, I am happy to compile to Nisus Writer Pro—and I bet there are very few people on these forums that don't have Word, Libre Office, Mellel, NWP or other word processor on their machines—using a standard compile format, and then use NWP to deal with any further style matters. So my concept of a "writing tool" has narrower boundaries than yours to the extent that I don't expect Scrivener to be "all-n-one".


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Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:39 pm Post

The title of your post implies you want to do something other than compile to get work out of Scrivener. Even if you do employ another piece of software to tidy up the final result, I can't imagine avoiding compiling a big project to get it ready for publication. Depending on your/your wife's computing environment, there are free word processor/layout programs for that final tidying step. As you get more accustomed to scrivener, and want to dive deeper into customizing the compile process for your needs, you can reduce how much work is done after compile. For some people, they eventually get it down to zero time spent tweaking their work outside of Scrivener. But it takes time.

But, "To compile or not to compile?" That is a question easily answered; Yes.
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Fri Apr 24, 2020 9:20 am Post

I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer to this.

For example, because of limitations in Scrivener's screenwriting functions, I avoid compiling and instead do a merge and export to FDX and do my delivery output from Final Draft.

I expect that there may be some prose cases where exporting to Word, Nisus or perhaps a desktop publishing app would be more useful than trying to do everything in Scrivener.

If you can solve all your issues with compiling, by all means do it. Otherwise, explore workarounds that suit your situation.