Writing Better with Scrivener

Writers have strong feelings about their writing tools, and word processors can inspire fierce loyalty. George R.R. Martin, the author of the massive Song of Ice and Fire series, still uses Word Star 4.0 on a DOS machine. Sometimes we keep using the tools we’ve always used because they work best. Sometimes, even when a word processor isn’t ideal, we cling to it, afraid to try something new. I never warmed up to Microsoft Word. I used WordPerfect until the bitter end (two words: reveal codes): It did everything I needed it to do and didn’t think it knew better than me what I wanted.

This year, one of our goals at Writership is to increase our business efficiencies. I wanted to share our favorite writing tool with you. None of the links provided are affiliate links; we just really like these products. Today, I use Scrivener for most of my writing needs. It’s a comprehensive tool that lets me plan, write, and compile books. It has everything I need in one place, which I deeply appreciate. Even if you love Word (or Word Star!), you might appreciate what Scrivener has to offer, especially if you write books or other long-form pieces.

Getting Started

When I start a project, I like to make notes and collect pictures and information. Scrivener provides a place to store it all where I can easily find it later. I can save text, PDFs, images, audio, video, and web archives. All of this information is easily accessible through all stages of a project.

As I begin outlining my project, I use the corkboard function. This screen looks just like a bulletin board with index cards on it. I can use those cards to organize and find holes in my research and record thoughts whether I’m working on a fiction or nonfiction project. The drag and drop function allows me to move the index cards as I rearrange my thoughts. I can take a snapshot before I make any changes, so I can easily go back to the way it was before I started. The outlining feature allows me to look at all of my work in a linear format when that is better suited to my purpose.

Start Writing

When I’m ready to write, all of my research, notes, and outline are immediately accessible. I can collect everything related to a particular character or setting in one place, like a folder, while leaving the same items in the order I want them to appear in the novel. This function is useful, for example, if I need to flesh out a particular setting later.  I make a collection of those scenes in which the setting appears and find them easily to fill in the gaps when I’m ready. And I can tag a scene with multiple labels and its status.

Scrivener makes it easy to move around in a large document while I work with the help of the Binder. And, every time I open the program I am right where I was when left it, not back at the beginning. I can work in a distraction-free environment, when I need an uncluttered screen. The project targets and statistics help me stay on track with my project.

When I move into the revision phase, I can use a different color text for different passes through the document and take snapshots or the project before I make changes, which I can compare after I edit.

If you’re working with an editor who likes Word for its track changes feature, you can use the workflow that Joseph Michael created that takes you step by step through the process of moving from Scrivener, to Word, and back to Scrivener again.

Share Your Words with the World

When you’re ready to publish your work, Scrivener makes it easy to do so with its compile feature. You can create a .mobi file, an .epub file, PDF, or Word doc from your project and then upload to the publishing platform of your choice. The program helps you add the cover, front matter, and back matter so you will have a finished product. If you’ve already started a project in Word, you can make the leap to Scrivener. The compile feature makes it worth it to switch even at the last minute.

Why Not Take the plunge?

If Scrivener is so great, why isn’t everyone using it? Well, there are two main reasons. Some people have found what works best for them. GRRM won’t be shifting to Scrivener anytime soon, I think. Other people are afraid of adjusting to a new program. I won’t lie to you; the learning curve is steep. But it is well worth the effort for the ease you’ll find once you’ve become acclimated, and there are some great resources available to help you on your way. 

Resources

We love Scrivener, but we’re not Scrivener teachers. Here are some amazing resources to help you get started and keep learning more.

First, grab a copy of Scrivener from Literature and Latte. You can download the free trial and get thirty days of actual use, not just the thirty days from when you download it. It’s $45 from Literature & Latte.

Learn Scrivener Fast is an online course created by Joseph Michael, the Scrivener Coach. We highly recommend this course. Michael walks you through the basics and also provides advanced techniques that allow you to go deeper. You can move around so that you can quickly get the information you need right away, or go step by step to learn the program. 

Gwen Hernandez, the author of Scrivener for Dummies, posts helpful information on her website, and in this post you’ll find a list of her blog posts with Scrivener tips.

To create your own Scrivener templates, check out this post.

Here, you’ll find a great collection of links with Scrivener resources.

Are you a big fan of Scrivener? Have you felt curious but afraid to try it out? Let us know about your favorite writing tools in the comments below. If you liked this post and want more from Writership, join our crew. You’ll receive our monthly newsletter, hear about our promotions first, and receive a free copy of The Writership Sampler, a collection of some of our favorite exercises to inspire your writing.

/Leslie