Right now, one of the projects I’m juggling is the layout and design of The Murder in Skoghall. Last week, a reader of my Word Essential Writers newsletter (sign up to the right) asked me what I do about layout, and I helpfully reported that I do my interior design in Scrivener. It has a steep learning curve and some trial and error head aches, but so far I was happy with it.

Well, no more. Scrivener, you’re losing me.

Not for writing. I love Scrivener’s organizational capabilities. I will definitely continue to write in Scrivener. But… Skoghall has illustrations. I’m also inserting a vector graphic at the head and tail of the chapters. My design head aches have tripled with this book.

The Problems

In the images here, you can see the vector graphic I’m using above each chapter. I was able to insert the typewriter using Scrivener’s compile feature and setting the prefix above the folder name with the image tag. That was easy enough.

However, I want to use a small flourish at the end of each chapter and the end of the text. Scrivener has a front matter folder built in, but not a back matter folder. So, to compile the back matter into the book, requires it be part of the manuscript. This means the end flourish was placed after the About the Author page, not at the end of the story.

One of my illustrations has been inserted into the book successfully. See the image with the house. The next image didn’t go so smoothly. Why? Because Scrivener uses image tags, not the images themselves. This means the text shifts when the book is compiled to accommodate the image. That shift left weird white space around paragraphs. See the picture below with the image tag in the text? The tag is a single line. But the image fills about a third of the page. If the image falls on a page break, then you get stuck with a lot of white space either above or below the image.

I suppose one solution might be to use full pages for illustrations, inserting page breaks before and after them. But that’s not what I want.

And I have issues with Scrivener’s page numbering feature in compile. If I don’t want the number on the pages with chapter headings, I haven’t found a way to remove those.

The Solution

I’ve polled some indie authors and learned that Word is the way to go for layout. Shocked? I was. I used Word with its sections and style controls to format both of my academic theses; however, I never really considered it for working the layout of a novel. I thought it was either InDesign or Scrivener. I have done layout work in Scribus, a shareware alternative to InDesign. Scribus was great for doing chapbooks, which, for fiction, can run about 50 pages. When I considered switching from Scrivener to Scribus this past week, I thought “Hell no!”

See, when months pass between projects, I slide back down the learning curve. I’ve logged plenty of hours in Scrivener the past couple of weeks setting up this manuscript. And if Skoghall didn’t have illustrations or graphics, it would be done already. When I considered the learning curve I’d face switching to Scribus, it made me want to stay with Scrivener.

One of the indies I polled is also a professional designer. When I heard that she does layout in Word, and she has and knows how to use InDesign, I was floored. Then a bunch of other authors weighed in. Guess what? Word was the big winner. Nobody likes Scrivener for layout. Well, Donna, I’m sorry I steered you wrong! I was happy with the layout of my last book. No real complaints, other than the rather steep learning curve. But now—thanks to my frustrations and asking others what they do—I have seen the light.

I hate to have lost all those hours to working the layout in Scrivener, but at the end of the workweek, I need a layout that I’ll be proud of—even if it means taking on another learning curve with another software.

Word, here I come!

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