I have over twenty-five years managing software trainers, computer techs, and program developers, combined with about the same amount of time as a novelist and screenwriter. So I believe it’s fair to say, I possess good credentials to recognize a sensational software program for authors from both a technical and an end-user perspective. From the moment I viewed the features of the Scrivener program, it was love at first sight. Coincidentally, the same thing had happened the day I met my husband.
When I went online to purchase the program, I discovered that not only did it cost only $45, but, the vendor offered a free week trial. It almost sounded too good to be true. With virtually nothing to lose, I downloaded it that afternoon. After using it for one full writing day, I paid my $45 cognizant I had found a lifetime writing partner.
In the creators Literature and Latte’s own words, “Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of novels and long text. It won’t try to tell you how to write – it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.”
In Scrivener, you start your book by creating a new project just as you would do if you were planning to build a skyscraper. A chapter is essentially a folder, and the scenes in the chapter are called scrivenings. You get a collapsible, hierarchical view of your novel, and the ability to edit scrivenings individually, or as a continuous scroll of text. The binder is essentially the manuscript index.
Another cool feature is creating collections. My novel, The Girl from Long Guyland, has alternating past and present scenes. I color-coded each chapter, past (red), and present (blue) then created a “collection” labeled “1970” and one called “2012.” I also did collections of chapters that contained ongoing clues to the mystery to make sure they were methodical and consistent. I could then read the “scrivenings” in each collection as a separate contiguous file.
Scrivener provides other powerful tools for viewing and editing your book. There’s a cork-board in which you see each chapter or scrivening as an index card, and in which metadata (notes, keywords, etc.) are visible. When you fill out the “Synopsis” field for any chapter or scene, it appears on the index card on the corkboard allowing you to easily shuffle them around as needed. Perfect for plotting and planning a work in progress.
You can display the manuscript as an outline of documents and sub-documents. The character template is outstanding. For each character you answer the following questions: Role in Story, Occupation, Internal conflicts, External Conflicts, Personality, Habits and Mannerisms.
Do you have your research files scattered all over your computer? The RESEARCH folder is set up to add text, images, files, links, etc. Ah, and then there’s the ability to split your screen. You can view both your research and your document simultaneously for easy cut-and-paste.
Scrivener can also help you with the “business” of writing books. I’ve set up a project I call “promotions.” It allows me to quickly retrieve data I need for filling out forms for advertisements by organizing ISBNs, synopses, premise, author bio, links, sales and expense data, interviews I’ve done, etc., in one place for easy retrieval. This was invaluable when I recently did my KDP Amazon free promotion and filled out forms on over 30 websites to advertise the days my book went free.
A critical feature of Scrivener is the ability to take your data out of the application. Scrivener will export your projects or you can use the “compile feature” which takes the scrivenings, filters them with criteria you set, and generates a document in a targeted format—Word.doc, PDF, Final Draft, and e-books formats—Epub or Mobi. I personally haven’t used the e-book formatting feature yet, but plan to in the future.
I suspect that if Scrivener catches on, the result will be greatly improved structure in both novels and non-fiction with fewer inconsistencies and plot threads gone astray. The sensational flexibility of Scrivener will allow authors to increase effectiveness and focus on creativity.
So that’s the story of my love affair with Scrivener. Please don’t tell my husband.
Lara Reznik is the author of the recently published psychological thriller, The Girl From Long Guyland available on Amazon.com. Learn more about Lara from her website.
12 thoughts on “My Love Affair With Scrivener”
Lara, I can testify to the usefulness of Scrivener. It has saved this author in training countless hours of switching between word documents and other research tools. The visual layout is the best. When I’m writing with the next few scenes in mind I can look at the tree to see where I need to go. When I don’t want any distractions, I turn it up to full screen and blackout the background.
Thank you for sharing your experience with it. It’s nice to know the software is ‘professional’ quality. 🙂
Great post! I didn’t know Scrivener existed until my husband bought the Windows version for my birthday last week! I’m editing a novel and researching two others, I write a blog and I’m promoting my e-book and I needed this program! I was spending so much time looking for computer files instead of writing. Scrivener is great so far. There is also a 5 dollar teacher discount 🙂
Thank you for helping me decide whether to purchase inDesign or Scrivener. I’m stalling with my sequel because of the mess-up with my first book, now in print, but out of my own control because I had to farm out the formatting. It needs conversion to and ebook and I’m unable to do what is, apparently, an easy conversion using Createspace’s free download. Keep the good info and advice coming to us, and good luck with your own work.
Scrivener is a good program, but it should be noted that it’s not perfect.
1. It is programmed to save your file every 2 seconds that you don’t hit a key. This drove me crazy with it pausing and resuming until I changed it to 15 seconds.
2. Search and replace will only let you change words, not fonts. In Word, I can italicize Ritz (it’s for an Agatha Christie book set in the ’20s). In Scrivener, I have to find, then pause to italicize, then repeat.
3. Also, if your search reaches the bottom of the page and you ask it to jump to the top, it dumps you out at the top. In other words, if you’re searching for a particular word and you press next, next, next, next, at the top of the page it’ll assume you’re done searching and the active cursor will be on the text, and you risk deleting a passage if you’re not wary.
These are annoying, but not bad enough to make me stop using the program. The ability to keep your notes to one side and refer to them as needed is very helpful. Not only that, it keeps track of the last place in every document, so if you need a quick fact, you can call up the page, get the info you need, hit the Back button, and carry on.
Well worth the money (there’s also some discount associated with NaNoWr Month, so check out their website first).
Bill, How did you find the conversion to a Word.doc for e-books? I am interested in the next step that you used with your ms. Thanks.
Been wanting to try it out for a while, so I think I will.
Interesting post and the second one I’ve read on Scrivener this week by someone else singing its praises so I am tempted. I’m researching for a biography and have masses of stuff stashed all over the place so it would be great to have it sorted and stored.
I love working with Scrivener too. I haven’t tried it as in-depth as you though, but the character profile about habits etc sounds just what I need to do as currently rewriting my books.
Anything that helps organize a WIP and assists in moving it along is well worth investigating. Thanks for the information!
Thanks for the information ~ Hope Scrivener appreciates you!
Interesting post, Lara, and it has alerted me to something I knew nothing about.
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