This post was originally going to be all about “writing tools” that I’ve used along the way, but instead I found myself going overboard about one tool in particular: Scrivener.
Check out my YouTube video on this post if you’re a fan of watching rather than reading! (But let’s be honest, we’re all readers here)
While I love all my little writing tools, I love Scrivener the absolute most. No this post is not sponsored by them, this is my honest feedback! There’s only one thing I can think of that I don’t like about Scrivener and I’ll go into that in a minute.
Scrivener is a tool developed by Literature and Latte. It combines all of your novel-related materials into one place from the very start of your novel to the finish. Scrivener can help you no matter what stage of writing you’re in: brainstorming, outlining, first draft, final draft or publishing.
But it’s not just for novel-writing. If you have any large project that’s getting out of hand, Scrivener can organize it for you! From script-writing to blog posts, YouTube video ideas to research papers, you can really use Scrivener for anything.
Why is the Mac version more expensive? This is the part I don’t like about Scrivener. It’s more geared toward Mac users. The interface, while still structurally able to do the same things, just looks nicer for Macs. Is this a silly thing to not like about Scrivener? Yes, but I don’t see a reason why there would be two different setups for the same piece of software. I hate when MS Word looks different from a Mac to a PC and I hate it when Scrivener looks different as well. Not only that, but Mac has certain functions that they don’t give to PCs. Why? I honestly have no clue. Since I’ve never used the Mac version, I’m not really missing anything but when I watch a tutorial and can’t replicate what they’re doing, it’s kind of frustrating.
Will I live? Yes. And thank you for reading my mini-rant.
In a moment I’ll go over why I love Scrivener so much but first, how did I find this beautiful piece of software?
Before I moved over to Scrivener, I would have a huge folder for every work in progress. In that file I would inspiration photos, character photos, setting photos, notes, more notes, chapters that I had written, chapters that I needed to rewrite and so on. I thought I was pretty organized with my folder system but I needed a reality check…big time.
I heard of Scrivener through blogs and YouTube videos like mine. I checked it out and even at a cheap $40, I was still hesitant. I downloaded the trial version and used it through Camp NaNoWriMo July 2015. And I fell in love with it.
It’s the only thing I use and I wouldn’t imagine going back to using MS Word. You have to be extremely organized to replicate the things you get with Scrivener with plain ol’ Word – and I salute you if you’re one of these people!
But I love that I don’t have to have two windows open if I ever need to reference something in another document. I can simply find it in the same window and then press the back button to go back to what I was working on.
Or if you like, you can have two windows inside of Scrivener open at the same time. Want to have your character profile sheet open while writing dialogue for that character? It literally takes two seconds to do this. You don’t have to search through your folders to find that character and then wait for your program to open up your notes.
Am I pushing Scrivener pretty hard right now?
Yes. Because I fricken love this software and I think you would too!
Binder – the area on the far left of your project. This is the wonderful tree where you can get as crazy as you want with organizing! This is where you access all of your manuscript scenes, character profiles, research, etc.
Editor – the large section in the middle where you actually do the majority of your writing. There are a lot of options when it comes to the view mode for this section including having multiple windows open, corkboard layout or scrivenings mode (where you can view a continuous scroll of your WIP).
Inspector – the extra bits of information. This is where you can change your labels or status, display pictures at the top, view your synopsis information or make general scene notes.
Full screen mode. If, for whatever reason, I’m not dictating my writing I always use full screen writing mode. You can set an inspiring photo to be your background or just pick any color you want. I particularly like this feature because it blocks everything else out.
There’s no buttons in the way (unless you want them) and no distractions. Instead of giving me “white page” fever, I actually like it. It’s clean and neat looking and it definitely makes me more productive.
Another cool thing about full screen mode is that your typing stays centered on the page. You never have to deal with scrolling down or feeling cramped at the bottom of the page. Full screen mode allows you to forget about the mechanics of writing and just write.
Statistics and targets. If you’ve already heard of Scrivener, this is usually one of the first things people mention about it and something NaNo folk particularly enjoy. You can set session word count goals so that every time you open your Scrivener file, it’ll let you know how close you are to that goal.
You can also set manuscript goals but this isn’t something I’ve ever used. I apparently have no gage of how long my novel is going to be and I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have to worry about that. I’m already planning to self-publish my novel so I’m not worried about keeping my manuscript under a certain number.
The statistics side of things is pretty cool too: you can see total word count and an estimated number of pages for your WIP. I love seeing that number go up, it’s incredibly addicting! Plus when people ask how far along you are, muggles might not understand how much 50k words really is. “140 pages” is much easier to understand.
Automatic backups. Never take backing up your WIP lightly. Is backing up your writing to a hard drive enough? NO! I can speak from experience here. My laptop was stolen when my house was broken into a few years ago. Did I backup my files to an external? Yes. But they stole that too.
The awesome thing with Scrivener is that you can set it to automatically generate a zipped backup file either upon opening your project or closing it. This zipped file is then stored on Dropbox. Meaning if your computer and external are stolen, you’re good! Well, your WIP is good…you might not be feeling so good…
I can’t tell you how much this has saved me from worrying. After losing all, all, ALL of my previous stories, I can sleep easier knowing my ideas are floating around somewhere safe in a marshmallowy cloud of data. While my previous stories illustrate my rise from horribly disgusting, take-it-out-back-and-shoot-it, to this-is-pretty-good, I-might-actually-be-a-full-time-writer-one-day, I still miss my stories. It’s like losing your family photo album. Yes, you had an awkward period with fluffy hair, braces and acne, but those memories are yours to
hate cherish. It’s nice to see how far you’ve come!
Color coding. Or rather, anything coding. If you’ve been following my website for a while, you already know that I love organizing things by color, icon, etc. You might read this and think I’m a clean person, but ohh no. I’m organized but I’m not clean. Make sense? No? I’m weird, I know.
Scrivener lets you assign different colors or icons to your scenes, or assign certain labels to your scenes/chapters. For example, I mark scenes that need to be rewritten with blue icons and scenes that haven’t been written yet with red icons. Once I rewrite or just plain write that scene, I change the icon back to its default. Now that I’m into the editing phase, I use labels to mark which draft that document is in: first draft, second draft, revision, etc.
I’m tempted to switch my labeling into colors to keep track of my editing process more visually, but we’ll see what I decide!
General layout. Whether you separate your novel by scenes or chapters, it’s so easy to organize them within your binder. If you ever find it necessary to rearrange anything, you simple click and drag that item where ever you want it.
You might find this particularly useful if you don’t arrange your novels by chapters at the start. If you outline first using scenes and then arrange those scenes into chapters later, you know as well as I do that this is a pain to accomplish in Word.
No more highlighting large portions of text to cut and paste in another spot. I absolutely love seeing the bird’s eye view of my scenes this way. Switching between scenes or finding information, like the color of someone’s hair, is so much faster.
You have everything in one place and it’s amazing! Setting notes, character profile sheets, random notes, your actual manuscript, and even a flashcard view for organizing your outline.
At the end of NaNoWriMo, I got a code for winning for 50% off of Scrivener and promptly bought it. If you participate in any of the NaNo’s, you’ll also get one of these awesome codes…another reason to go for it!
I do recommend finding videos on YouTube for tutorials. Sure, you could buy a book but YouTube is always free and there’s a plethora of information on Scrivener there. Even if you’re super tech savvy it’s still a good idea to check them out so you’re using the program to its fullest.
That’s all I have for today, I hope everyone is having a wonderful week! Be sure to check out the chapter reveals for my novel by clicking here.
Let me know if you enjoy writing with Scrivener, if you’ve never tried it, or if you’ve tried and didn’t like it for some reason. I want to hear from you!
Also, if you enjoyed this post, let me know if you would enjoy other similar technical posts. I can go more in depth with how I use Scrivener and even do some mini-tutorials if ya’ll like.