Monday, July 12, 2010

If You Love Scrivener So Much, Why Don't You Marry It?

Believe me, I would if such a thing were A: legal, or B: practical.

This is my promised post in which I laud all that is good and holy and perfect about Scrivener. Before we get started, there are a couple of things I would like to note. The first is that, I am in no way affiliated with Scrivener, nor are they paying me to (or
even aware that) I'm writing this. The second is that I am in no way an expert on this software, and I suspect I am barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Let's begin with a love story.

Once upon a time there was a writer named Liz, who had a wonderful relationship with Microsoft Word. So wonderful, in fact, that after she converted to the Mac religion, she paid good money to keep her Microsoft Word. They were like an old married couple--she knew all the keyboard shortcuts, could format a manuscript within an inch of its life, and had even mastered the art of creating folders for each project so all related documents could stay together.

Then, she met Scrivener. Their eyes met across a crowded Internet, she could see his demo video. Her mouth went dry. And she knew in an instant that she was no longer a one-word-processing-program woman.

So, why do I love Scrivener? Well, I could retell you all of the things you can learn from the demo video in the program after you download your free (fully functional) 30-day trial at Literature & Latte, but that would be redundant. I'll just give you the top seven things I love about it.

1. Organization, part 1. It allows me to divide my manuscript into folders. Each folder holds one chapter, and in the first draft, I divide each chapter into scenes. Each scene can be named for what happens, or by number depending on what floats your boat. I'm a namer. The names will never appear in the final document. Then, when I want to look at something in an old scene, I can quickly skip to it, without scrolling through thousands of words.

2. Organization, part deux. When I did my revisions on my last project (see my series for THAT whole story), I added a new text to each folder called Final. It allowed me to keep all my drafts together by chapter, and when I compiled the manuscript at the end, I just selected the texts entitled Final. Easy peasey.

3. The final product. Speaking of compiling, there are so many options when you do this it just might make you weep with joy. Or maybe that's just me. See, you can do all your formatting right there, regardless of how your texts look while you're in the midst of the writing process. And if you've ever had to meet very specific formatting requirements for an agent (Colleen Lindsay is one who has VERY specific ones, for example), you can do most of the grunt work right there. From changing italics to underlines, to eliminating typesetters quotes, it's all one click. AND you can pick your file type right there. .doc, .rtf, name it, Scrivener's got it.

4. Organization, part C. I started with Scrivener in the early stages of my rewrite process. It was a MASSIVE undertaking to copy and paste each scene into an individual text, but it was worth it. I'd actually recommend moving an old document into Scrivener if you really want to learn about it. Now, however, I am starting a brand new project (only 40 pages in) in Scrivener, and the folder/text system is working brilliantly.

5. The Research Folder. If you're anything like me as a writer, you have scads of research for each project. I have Internet Favorites folders for each project to save all those relevant web pages. And scattered all over the rest of my harddrive used to be folders with everything from pictures to old drafts to query letters and synopses. Now, I keep it all in Scrivener, in the Research section.

For my WIP, I have a text in the Research folder for my Character List, my MC's class schedule (she's in High School, and I've already mentioned several classes by their period), a list of locations I've mentioned by name and what chapter they're in, a list she made in the beginning of the story that will continue to affect the story, and other miscellaneous facts that I need.

6. Split Screen. If you're doing major copy-paste work, you can split the screen in Scrivener and scroll independently in each half of the split. Drag and drop goes between panes without a problem.
7. Instant Motivation. Each text has its own side column for various things--I don't even use all these features. But, one of the items is called Document Notes. You can put anything you want to see in there: a list of things you need to accomplish in that chapter, you can even put a picture. For my last revision, I wanted my MC to be a little more kick-ass throughout the story. So, I had a picture of an anime warrior, of all things, to remind me I needed to be taking names and kicking booty in each chapter.

Hey, whatever works, right?

Scrivener has a Facebook fanpage that gives you a tip of the day, and they're always brilliant. I won't even bother detailing them all, just go fan up and be done with it.

So, there you go. Some of the reasons I'm still having a passionate affair with Scrivener. Next up on the blog, I renew my vows with MS Word.

Fellow users: What's your favorite feature? Haters: What's not working for you? PC Users: Sorry, man.

- Liz


Kristan said...


Long story short: all those features that you love, that's precisely what overwhelms me. I need things to be as simple as possible: pen and paper, or keyboard and blank screen.

But I like the idea of copying & pasting an old MS into Scrivener to better understand it!

Eleven Eleven said...

Only one thing I hate: You can't format more than one folder at a time. Want the middle third of your novel to be in a bigger font? You can't just select all your chapters and one-click it, you have to go folder by folder. It took me weeks to figure out why I couldn't change the font for my whole novel.

I LOVE the Document Notes. Character and scenery photos, inspirational quotes, character's motives, conflict specifics, chapter-by-chapter revision to-do's. It is awesome!

I love the sub folders. I give each chapter its own sub folder for comments readers give me. When I go back to review, the comments are easy to find, and the split screen lets me look at both the chapter and the feedback at the same time.

The research folder is also amazing! I had so many random brainstorming moments and info-dense research stored all over my hard drive. Putting them all together in a place I could easily scroll through saved my brain from exploding.

Rah Rah Rivener! I love Scrivener! Especially now that I know how to change the font.

Anonymous said...

I've been lusting after Scrivener for two years. Sadly, I'm currently a PC User. *sadface*

I, obviously, love my computer and Word but...gosh, Scrivener is just sooo shiny.

Although, considering how much I hated LiquidBinder (or whatever it was called) which was basically a PC version of Scrivener, I might not do so well with it. o.o

Inara Scott said...

I've written four books on scrivener, and I truly believe it makes me a better writer. I use the folders to help with my initial brainstorming/plotting, and love the cork board as a way of storyboarding without all the post its.

Sorry, Liz, you don't get to marry Scrivner. He's taken. ;-)

Michelle Richmond said...

I bought a Macbook 2 years ago just so I could use Scrivener. Love the it! Used it for the early stages of writing fragments and disconnected chapters, as well as for filing research. When I was ready to put pages together in a draft, I moved to Word.

Anonymous said...

Eleven Eleven:

I think I know what you mean, and it drove me crazy for a little while too... But if you select all the chapters/documents in your Draft folder that you want to edit, regardless of whether they're in different little folders of their own, and then hit Command + Option + 4, it'll let you view all of them together without actually merging them. Then you can select all and change font size and whatnot at will.

Mireyah Wolfe:

A PC user friend of mine has been using PageFour for a little while and likes it quite a bit.

David said...

Thanks for the love Liz! Everyone enjoys a romance, especially one that has something for every day of the week. ;-) Really happy that Scrivener is aiding your writing process.

With regard to those PC users, there will hopefully be some Scrivener light. They can join our Scrivener for Windows newsletter here: We will send any development news to newsletter recipients first.

Thanks again Liz!

All the best,
Scrivener, Literature & Latte