Bullets in Scrivener
I’ve been rather quiet on the blog posts recently. There’s been a lot going on in my life, not least of which is the challenge that is Scrivener. For those of you who don’t know Scrivener, this is software that is hailed as the one package to make your writing go faster. I have to say, though, it hasn’t improved my writing at all. I quite like the ease of Microsoft Word, the lovely white blank pages and the not-nearly-as-intimidating interface.
However, Scrivener has really great ways to move files around that you don’t have in Word. But Word doesn’t generally convert as well to ebook formats if you have anything unusual going on. (Strange formats often bump all over the place with conversion software and you find the picture you meant to have on page 6 suddenly appearing in the introduction, for example). So I understand there is value in both.
Last week I tackled uploading my new book into Scrivener, just to see how the formatting would translate. Disaster! Every single bullet (which needed to at least be an em-dash or equivalent), became a filled in round bullet, with huge indents. It looked awful. I wrote out to the hive mind and some ideas came back.
One idea was: “Highlight them, go to format tab and choose preserve formatting it should then keep it exactly as it is.” Then another added: “If that fails, export that particular file ‘As is'”. Some very clever person, said, “MOBI and ePub are basically HTML under the hood. You can tweak the layouts using CSS. I’ve never done it myself, but I’m sure it can’t be too hard. Scrivener has a spot in the compile window to add CSS rules.” (I’m sure I should have understood this, but nope, no idea what this meant.)
I contacted the author of Scrivener for Dummies, Gwen Hernandez, who went to huge trouble to assist. Her suggestions were thorough:
“Hi, Paula. Unfortunately, there are a lot of variables here. Since EPUB and MOBI files are HTML based, a bulleted list is just marked with the list attribute. The specific bullet character may not translate, depending on the e-reader/device used to view the file. I attempted to recreate your issue with multiple lists: one with a square bullet, one with an em dash, and one with a single dash/hyphen. I compiled an EPUB and a MOBI from Scrivener for Windows and then viewed the results in the following apps .
- Adobe Digital Editions (Windows 10)
- iBooks (on a Mac)
- Kindle Previewer 3.0 (on a Mac)
- Kindle app (iPad)
My square bullets only became solid circles in the Kindle for iOS app and Adobe Digital Editions. In all cases, the em dashes and hyphens worked fine. Since the last two options would probably be safer for getting the look you want in the largest number of circumstances, I was wondering if perhaps you had compile options that were causing the issue with the em dashes.”
She then made suggestions: “What happens if you remove the As-Is option for the bulleted pages, and make sure that the first six boxes on the Transformations tab are unchecked?” (Nope).
“Also, did you create the lists in Scrivener, or copy/paste them from somewhere else? If you did the latter, I’d recommend you select the list, choose Format—>List—>None, and then recreate the list or put in the em dash/hyphen. Since the bar bullet isn’t standard in Scrivener, I still think you might be safer using an emdash or hyphen.”
In the end I had to use a combination of advice.
- In Word I had to remove the bullets completely, and use an em-dash instead (but not in bullet format). The moment a bullet was added the round circle appeared.
- I then re-imported the document.
- I marked those chapters as “as is”.
- Since there were no bullets, Scrivener left the em-dashes as they were and they looked fine. The only thing that wasn’t quite right was that I would have liked a bit of an indent, but you can’t have everything.
So I hope this helps some other poor sod stuck with the wrong kinds of bullets. Thanks Gwen and the others for the tips!