A Review of Scrivener

I wrote the following review for a local writer’s group, but I will share the recommendation with the web at large, because I know quite a few writers of my acquaintance who would love to use Scrivener.

Scrivener is the best writing program I have used, bar none. It’s a practical all-in-one drafting program that alternately allows you to either use just the word processing functions or go so far as to organize your entire novel (including research notes/pictures/videos) in one place, print your entire novel manuscript in standard format (that’s .RTF or .DOC if you prefer), automatically backup your novel at scheduled intervals to either a local folder or network drive, and take snapshots so you can edit without committing changes to the manuscript until you are comfortable that its fully right.

Those are the main features, but there are some additional bells and whistles that come with the software. For example, for those who struggle to come up with names for your characters, Scrivener has a name generator that can generate names from various ethnicities and nationalities. It also has a neat word count that will let you track word counts and set goals by scene and also set a word count for the overall manuscript so you can visually track how far you have to complete the novel.

Scrivener also has a really generous household license, which will allow you to install it on multiple computers (for all your family members) and it can also be installed on a USB stick so you can use it on the go.

Also, if you are scared off by the many features offered by Scrivener, I should note that all of these features are in the background and come up to be used only when you need them. You can use Scrivener without ever taking a look outside of the word processor/organization functions (but I suspect most people will eventually use those other features as well.)

If you are unsure about buying Scrivener ($45 for Mac and $40 for Windows versions) they have a demo version free for download at their site. The demo expires after 30 uses (that’s right uses not days) so you can take as long as you would like to test it out before purchasing it.

There are a few great demo videos on the Scrivener site that will show you how Scrivener works. Since the Mac version has been around for a few more years, there are some additional features in the Mac version that don’t appear in the Windows version.

For the Linux users (Ubuntu/Debian/Fedora/et al.) there is a free version of Scrivener available for download. I use the Linux version half the time while linked to a Dropbox account, and I can say that it hasn’t crashed on me yet. I’ve opened the Scrivener file in my Windows O/S after working on it in Ubuntu and everything just works. I should caution you that the Linux build is not supported by the Scrivener folks and should be used at your own discretion.

I hope you will give it a try–I know that because of Scrivener, I’ve had a much easier time writing my first novel. I hope you’ll have a similar success too. Happy writing.

Full Disclosure: I use Scrivener, but I’m posting this testimonial based on my own use. I’m not affiliated with Literature and Latte (the company that makes this product) in any way.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Movie Review

Movie: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Hindi w/ e.s.t.)

Directed By: Zoya Akthar

Starring: Kalki Koechlin, Farhan Akthar, Abhay Deol, Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif, Naseruddin Shah

I don’t watch many Bollywood movies, and not all the ones I watch are exceptional, but among the good ones there are a few that I like enough to recommend to my Hindi filmi watching family and friends. My taste in hindi film (I will use the term Bollywood sparingly here, as it excludes the breadth and width of Indian cinema done in other languages) has been acquired over many years. I have cultivated it by watching everything from multi-generational family epics like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, classic love stories (of the 1980’s) like Hum Aap ke Hain Koun and Maine Pyar Kiya, comedies of the NRI variety like Dostana, and straight up masala (you say popcorn, we say masala) action movies like Dhoom 2. So, in their own way the hindi films have their own genres, each catering to different demographic, much like Hollywood.

In truth, there are a few significant differences between how a Bollywood film handles those cinematic tropes versus the Hollywood treatment of the same material, but I digress. Keeping in mind that a large majority of this blog’s readers may not be familiar with Bollywood tropes, here is a small primer courtesy of Wikipedia. Bollywood turns out thousands of films a year, a number of which are shot primarily for Indian audiences living abroad.

Which brings us to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Won’t Get Life Back Again). The movie features three friends Kabir (Deol), Arjun (Roshan), and Imran (Akthar) who take a three week road trip through Spain before Kabir gets married. The road trip movie as an archetype is about a journey of self discovery and we learn through intermittent flashbacks that each of the characters are dealing with internal struggles that seethe to the surface over the course of the trip. Kabir is getting cold feet, and is not certain that he wants to marry. Arjun who’s professional life is sucessful is facing the prospect of an unfulfilling personal life. Four years ago, we learn, Imran brought Arjun’s relationship with his girlfriend to an end over an affair. Imran is hoping to reunite with his father, a painter living in Spain, over whom he’s had a strained relationship with his mother. Zoya Akthar has a knack for directing both Farhan Akthar (her twin brother in real life) and Hrithik Roshan (whom she previously directed in 2008’s Luck By Chance), and it shows in their performances. All three male leads pull off warm personable performances without ever over acting or melodramatizing a scene.

Zoya’s cinematic language is often subtle and self aware, never drawing attention to itself.  What I mean by this is that the gorgeous Spanish cityscapes from Costa Brava  to Seville and Pamplona are allowed to speak for themselves without the riot of colours and song that usually accompany a Bollywood movie. In an industry where the song, dance, and colorful costume are a given fact in nearly every movie, Zindagi’s rejects the norm to use a  storytelling style that lets it walk the fine line between Indian and western movie-making.

Alas, you know what that means: no dream sequences. Instead of dream sequences, what we get are four passages in the movie where Imraan recites a Hindi poem in voiceover to highlight a particularly emotional moment. I found these passages to be utterly riveting and wished that I had a better grasp of Hindi so that I could fully understand the poems.

Music is certainly an integral part of any Bollywood movie. With Zindagi, Shankar-Eshaan-Loy have stayed with a fairly tight selection of pop and electronica beats. Stand-out songs include: Ik Junoon (Paint it Red) and Senorita.  The video for the former was shot at the Tomatina festival in Buñol and it looks like everyone involved just had a blast shooting it. (Check out the video here.) And Senorita stands out in particular for the clever sleight of hand that the composers used to blend Hindi and Spanish lyrics into the song. (See the video here.)

The best part is that although the movie runs 153 minutes, it never suffers for pacing. All of the characters are given their due in screen time and the emotional climax of the movie delivers (I’m not giving it away here) a resounding conclusion that could have been in a movie a third of its length. Looking back, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes Bollywood movies and to the more adventurous crowd willing to try out a Hindi movie.