Thanks. I suspect I need to update my old school thinking in that I format all my text as a standard manuscript–essentially not making the distinction between on screen appearance and compile.
Ha, maybe so. Though in a way you could say it’s “middle school”. If you go back far enough word processing had nothing to do with formatting. WordPerfect for DOS didn’t show you fonts, colours, simulated sheets of paper or tab stops. Somewhere along the way word processing got all mixed up in desktop publishing—and it’s an undeniably popular model, but when you look at it that way, Scrivener kind of goes back to an older model: one where you put “instructions” through a machine and have it generate a document; where the font you type with may have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that you like it. It however does so in a way that is friendlier than say, Troff or TeX! So maybe it’s neo old school.
Is learning MultiMarkdown worth learning for most writers–and is it the best way to fully utilize Scrivener?
I’d say it’s more a matter of taste than anything. Those that prefer it like how it forces you to focus on content alone. There is not even the option to spend time with tab stops on lists because a numbered list is simply “1.” typed into the start of the line, or an asterisk for a bullet. There are no distractions in that sense. (You can use Scrivener’s lists too, but purely as text generators, so you don’t have to type in the numbers by hand, but no formatting.)
Those that don’t care for it tend to dislike how such a minimalist writing method means putting more effort into the export
side of formatting. Lists remain a good example I think—you just have two types, bullets and numbers, and you can’t do anything with them, that is all you have. So if you want some lists that have checkmarks (like “What we’ve learned so far…” type recaps), and some lists that use squares, and so on, it means more formatting after you’re done writing. Of course that is what those that prefer it like about it—it delegates that kind of thinking
to a different phase of the project, makes it so you can’t easily bother with that kind of stuff when you’re supposed to be writing. But for those that have spent years interleaving these two tasks into one creative process, it can be jarring and difficult to really truly put the design pen down and see the text as content rather than form in any sense of the word.
The other downside is that for some things it can be a little more technical—but I’d say it’s not so bad as it used to be. Especially with a tool like Scrivener, where if you install the Pandoc document conversion tool you can actually just compile a regular old .docx file that is going to be perfectly acceptable to start formatting with very little technical know-how required.
Geeks tend to like these tools because you can
go crazy with them if that’s what you need. But you don’t have to—much like Scrivener I’d say for that matter. You can just compile “Original” (or “Default” now) and do all your formatting and layout in Word and only learn the bare minimum basics of what “compile” means. You can also go all out with the compiler, even learning how to program it if that’s your thing. Both systems are very deep, and for that they can be rewarding for those that need it, but neither needs to be intimidating for that. You can get a simple docx with Scrivener, you can get a simple docx with Markdown. If you’re happy doing the rest in a word processor—then either approach is fine, and we’re back to the point I started out with: do you like being forced to focus on content, or do you like being able to make bullets look just
right, and does not having them just right make it difficult to write? Nothing wrong or better with either—it’s just a matter of taste.
Best way to utilise Scrivener? Whew, probably no way to really answer that in a general fashion. If the writing method itself suits you, then Scrivener will very likely rise to that method—I think that’s a better way of putting it. It has the breadth to make many different approaches excellent.