Every now and then I see posts on Twitter or Facebook asking whether or not Scrivener is a good project development program for writers. I always chime in with a resounding “yes!” Not because I’m being paid to say so. I’m not. I just know a useful tool when I see one, and I want to share that information. Writing is hard enough without using cumbersome, top-heavy writing software to do it. For me, Scrivener has been a life-saver.
Here are seven reasons why.
1. All the pertinent documentation can be saved in one project file. For a number of years, I wrote only in Word. I have folders and folders and still more folders with documents and research notes and versions of my drafts, ad infinitum. With all that information scattered around, I inevitably lost files. Oh, I’m sure they’re on my hard drive. Somewhere. Finding them is the problem. Who can remember what they titled something more than a few weeks ago?
With Scrivener I can save all my research and notes in connected files that are all packed away in a single project document. What I see when I open my draft folder is the file name “The Founder’s Seed,” but what I see when I open that single document is a sidebar to the left (called the “binder”) listing multiple scenes in separate files, all of which are organized into chapters; character and scene setting profiles (I’ll come back to this in a minute); research notes; cut/pulled scenes or narrative that I might be able use later; a glossary (my MS is a science fantasy with some of its own language); and other supporting documents I’ve saved into the project file.
No longer do I need to search my hard drive for notes I might have made three years ago. They are all near to hand and ready whenever I need them.
2. I can choose how I view the manuscript. With Word, I had to write either one long (100K words) document and work with that unwieldy file, or write the chapters as separate documents, then compile them all into one massive text to view as a whole.
In Scrivener, I write the scenes as separate documents within the project, so that I can work with a smaller chunk of text that is easier to navigate. Yet when I want to see the whole chapter (with multiple scenes), a whole segment of the MS, or even the entire MS at one time, I can let the program run them together in one contiguous document without actually losing the segregation I put there on purpose. I can also choose to view only the scenes where a particular character makes an appearance, to perhaps check their continuity or look for missed opportunities to develop the character’s persona. Scrivener offers a number of ways to view the text.
I also like that Scrivener has a corkboard feature, where I can type in one or two sentence summaries of what is happening in any given scene throughout the novel. If I want to move a scene from one place to another, I don’t need to copy and paste any text. I can simply view the corkboard where each chapter’s scene summaries are displayed on digital 3×5 cards, and move the card for the scene in question to its new location. Scrivener then moves the text to the associated location for me.
Viewing windows have options too. I can open one of the research documents or one of the other chapters or scenes in a pop-out window for easy access while working another scene; I can also split the central screen into two windows that scroll and modify independently of one another.
There is more, but these are the most important “view” options for me.
3. Scrivener offers template sheets. Already included are those for characters and settings, which suggest important details to include in each, but both are changeable so that you can suit it specifically to your own needs. You can also create whole new template sheets that are relevant to your story’s world and your unique manuscript!
4. Scrivener’s “Inspector” offers tools to assist me in drafting, refining, and tracking. The “inspector” is so detailed that I admit I use only a small portion of its capability. I can make notes related to reasons behind details in a scene or chapter that are visible only to me in the inspector’s notes sidebar (to the right of the text window). I can bookmark documents and files external to the project or even drag them into the project file. I can tag scenes with metadata (I’m still learning this tool.) I can take a snapshot of a scene before I revise it and, later, compare the two; if I hate the revision, I can still access bits to reuse or even go back to the way it was before just by clicking on a prior version. And I can tie a comment on any portion of the scene directly to the text in question so that I can go back and review my own comments during the revision process.
5. Scrivener offers a huge palette of tools from which to choose. Among the options, Scrivener’s tools run the gamut from a dictionary/thesaurus to keywords to tools for setting word count targets, and so much more. Adding new tools is as easy as clicking and dragging. At the moment, my toolbar (across the top of my window) has some available space, but I’m still learning Scrivener’s hidden depths and cool options.
6. Scrivener is POWERFUL, yet easy to learn. You can fumble through it and learn it on your own like I did. It’s very user friendly! But there are dozens of Scrivener tutorial videos online. Some are through Literature and Latte, the company that produces Scrivener. But there are plenty of others, and most are free. I don’t think I ever watched a tutorial until the last year, and I’ve been using the program—and discovering handy tools by accident—for about six years now.
7. Scrivener is inexpensive. The program costs $45. That’s it. And they do regular upgrades, many of which come free to registered purchasers. They even offer a discount for students and academics!
There are numerous other little niceties in the program that make writing so much easier, too, like the tool to easily replace multiple spaces with a single space or remove leading tabs, or check the project’s statistics. It also has a Name Generator, which is fun to play with, and which can be expanded with external lists, if I’m not mistaken. There is also a nice online forum and community where you can ask questions and get answers and tips.
The program was written by writers for writers, so it’s geared specifically toward long writing projects, though I’ve also used it for shorter works, especially if I had concept notes, multiple characters, or research details I needed to keep handy. It’s so flexible that whether you’re a plotter or a pantser (or somewhere in between), you can customize your project to work the way you want to.
What program do you use?
Document Storm, from Pixabay, courtesy of Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/pile-of-covered-books-159751/
Corkboard screenshot from my work-in-progress, “The Founder’s Seed”
Packing a Punch, by Sabel Blanco , courtesy of Pexels