Safe automatic backups with Scrivener

In a blog post that’s no longer available, David Hewson described a great alternative to keeping manuscript files in your Dropbox (which seems slightly risky, even though there is a local copy as well as one in the cloud) while still getting the benefit of having an up-to-date copy in the cloud if you unexpectedly want one.

Since the original post is gone, I thought I’d update this post with a quick description of the idea.

First, get an account at Dropbox. (Another cloud storage place would probably work just as well.)

Second, go into Scrivener’s Preferences and point the location for backups at a folder in your Dropbox folder. (Choose to save as a zip file; choose to include the date in the file name; choose to save some reasonable number of copies.)

I’ve been running with Scrivener set this way for a couple of years now, and I really like it.

My master copy is on my desktop machine, not vulnerable to any glitches on the internet. But every time I close Scrivener, a copy is zipped up and put in the cloud. It’s reliable enough that I don’t bother put a fresh copy of my file on my laptop when I head out to work off-site somewhere. When I’m ready to work, I just grab the latest backup off my Dropbox, unzip it, and work on that file. When I get home, I do the same thing again, grabbing the latest backup (the one saved at the end of my off-site work session), unzipping it, and swapping that file in for my master copy.

[Updated 25 February 2013 to remove the dead link and provide a description of the procedure originally described by David Hewson.]

Cool Scrivener feature: show stamps

Tobias Buckell’s recent post on chapters was not only interesting in its own right. It also brought me to Scott Westerfeld’s valuable post on pace charts. Even more cool, though was a tidbit in a comment on that post, with details on a cool feature of Scrivener: You can show stamps on the note cards!

Scott’s example involved marking the note cards to indicate what sort of tension was driving each scene. With that information he could see if there were long stretches without an action scene (or if his action scenes started falling too much into a simple rhythm). That gave him useful information for adjusting the pacing—keeping things moving, mixing things up, etc.

I’m going to be using this all the time now. For example, the story I workshopped last month is both a heist story and a love story. This feature gives me a way to mark the scenes so that I can see which aspect of the story is being advanced and then view that aspect of all the scenes:

Screen capture of Scrivener corkboard
Scrivener corkboard

I was completely unaware of this feature, even though I use Scrivener all the time, so I thought I’d spell out how to do it.

  1. Make sure that the “Inspector” is being displayed.
  2. In the Inspector under “General” find the “Status” pop-up menu and select “Edit.”
  3. Add whatever status items you’ll need.
  4. Go through your scenes, setting each Status as appropriate.
  5. In the Menu select “View->Index Cards->Show Stamps.”

It was step 5 that I was completely unaware of. That’s what causes the diagonal overprinting of the status to be shown across the cards.

I can see using this a dozen different ways to illuminate the story structure.