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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Scrivener #1 - My New Writing Tool

As can be assumed from the title of this post, I aim to publish a series of posts on my experiences using Scrivener during the next few months. (UPDATE: The complete series can be found HERE.)

So, for all of you that haven't heard of it, what is Scrivener? Quite simply it's a Word Processing / Project Management / Ideas Mapping / Reference Collector all-in-one. Or, to put it another way, it's the software I'm now going to use to write my novels.

Let's start with a little history. Probably like most of you, I have been a user of Microsoft Word for many, many years and it's always seemed the best tool to use for writing my novels. And seemed is the correct word here. I mean, after all, it's a word processing piece of software. That's got to be the right thing to write a novel, hasn't it? And Word does a fairly good job of allowing me to write my manuscripts. Okay, it does get a little difficult managing an 80,000 to 125,000 word document; I can never seem to find the exact piece of text I want to edit. Oh, and I do have difficulty remembering what I wrote about Joe the Plumber four chapters back. Not to worry, I'll just page back through my manuscript and re-read it before I start writing the new part. And cutting and pasting that section of story from chapter twelve to chapter sixteen is a little dangerous. I'd better make another backup and then make sure it still all flows. Oh, and then Jane. What color was her hair? Was she last driving a blue car? I can't remember. But it doesn't really matter, I've got a really super-duper word processor. Nothing else is important.

Does any of this ring any bells with you? It's been a constant annoyance to me. As well as my ever-growing, unwieldy manuscript I am forced to keep other documents containing character descriptions, plot points, ideas, location names, etc. Oh, and don't forget the whole folder of photos that I need when I'm writing some of the descriptive scenes. It's all driving me crazy.

Enter Scrivener, which has been available on the Mac for several years, and is now available on the Windows platform (yes I know, I'm old-fashioned). This single piece of software claims to solve every one of my problems and create a project for each one of my books (or series of books - to be explained in a later post). In my scrivener project I can keep all my character information, all my reference materials, and my manuscript. Not only that, it will allow me to break my manuscript up by plot point (or whatever other element I want to - like chapter), attach metadata to that plot point (i.e. POV Character, Location, synopsis of scene, etc.) and then also attach the actual writing. My head is already spinning.

So what does all this mean in reality? I wish I had a hundred hours to tell you. There are so many ways in which Scrivener is going to help my writing. And this is the purpose of this series of blog posts. Like I said at the beginning, over the next couple of months I am going to blog my experiences and relate how Scrivener is helping my novel writing and editing process. Today I just wanted to introduce the software to you, and tomorrow I'll tell you how I've started to use it. We'll call it Scrivener - The Early Days. So, until tomorrow.

I would love to hear any comments you have.

The complete series of blog posts on Scrivener can be found HERE.


  1. I can't wait to hear the next section, Paul. I used Scrivener to start my second novel (still in process) and gave up. It seemed such a wonderful idea, but I just couldn't get into it properly (in spite of the tutorials and the help). I have reverted to using Word, but have a niggling feeling that I missed some vital aspect of Scrivener and that I should have persisted. So. I'm hoping you'll be able to put me right!

  2. It certainly has a learning curve - but I'm loving it. I look forward to further comments as the series progresses.

  3. I just purchased it recently myself. I haven't had the chance to really dig into it but I'm excited to figure it all out. Looks like we'll be learning together! Everyone I've talked to in my writing group who uses it absolutely adores it.

  4. I have yWriter5 by spacejock software, which is a lot like Scrivener. I just started using it to keep track of a non-fiction novel that I am writing, but for my fiction I prefer Microsoft works.

  5. Hi Paul (I'm so happy that I can now post on here!).

    I too have suffered with my unwieldy #wips after they hit the 80,000 word mark. I can't handle them at that size and fumble with them before dropping them all over the floor! That's why I have stopped writing the big 'uns, and am now focussing on a series of shorts to get the experience in.

    I did use the yWriter program like kkrafts (above), but that was after the #wip got too big, and so I spent a month or so incorporating the thing into the program, which just about killed off any creativity! Talk about bad language...

    I did, however, realise the usefulness of the program. I just wished I'd have used it from the start!

    I read about #Scrivener a few months back, and decided I'd try it out when it arrived for Windows (which I swore I'd never buy again!).

    So, I look forward to following your progress with it and I'll maybe look at buying it for my next few shorts, so that I get used to it before (importing again!) one of my biggies into it!

    Best of luck!

  6. Having just spent hours—days, actually—cutting and pasting parts of my MSS around like a virtual jigsaw puzzle, praying the whole time that I haven't made a major WHOOPS, this post hits home with me big time. I'm excited to hear that you'll be covering Scrivener more soon. Off to check it out now...

  7. Thanks to all for commenting. The series posting can be found here:

  8. Since using Scrivener, I really couldn't go back to keeping lots of word documents in files. Love Scrivener for keeping everything together, it seems so simple and yet it can do the most complex tasks. Big fan.
    Wagging Tales

  9. I recently used Scrivener for a novel I've already written, in order to get .mobi and .ePub files. I have now reloaded my ebook to Kindle and B & N. Finally, I have great files for my ebooks!!

    I agree there is a learning curve, which I still need to work on, but once I master it, I'm sure I'll love it. It has many advantages over Word.

  10. Looking forward to more posts on this program. I've tried several of these programs in the past. Can't remember the names, maybe Scrivener was one of them, but gave up due to frustration. Maybe you can shed some light.

  11. Hi Paul. 'Have been reading and enjoying your tweets/blog for some time. I have been using yWriter for some time, as have others here, and am very pleased with it. I would be interested in reading what advantages you believe Scrivner has over yWriter.

    Best regards,


    1. Hack - Unfortunately I've never used yWriter, but I have read good things about it. I think some of the major differences between Scrivener and yWriter are the way they handle research and the ability to take and use snapshots (to go back to previous revisions).