Scrivener: Designed With Writers In Mind

A professional writer deserves a custom tool that allows them to execute their craft as effortlessly as possible. A Tour de France participant would never ride a standard bicycle from a shop down the road; they have state-of-the-art bikes made of carbon fibre.

So why do many people who write for a living settle for writing in standard word processing programs like Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, or Google Docs?

In many cases, writers simply don’t know that an alternative exists. Software made specifically for writers is a relatively small niche, and companies that produce them often don’t have the marketing budget available to get such products noticed. But unlike carbon fibre bicycles that can cost thousands of dollars, a writer can buy an optimal tool of their trade for a one-time fee of $40 USD in the form of a program called Scrivener.

scrivener-logo

Scrivener is a program available for both Windows and iOS operating systems. It was developed by a UK-based company called Literature and Latte, which refer to their program as a “content-generation tool for writers”.

Scrivener screenshot
Scrivener Screenshot by Jason Jones used under Creative Commons.

Who Is Scrivener For?

It’s perfect for all types of writing, but Scrivener really excels on long writing projects.

One of its main benefits is that your manuscript, notes, and research are all saved in one project file, instead of scattered across your computer’s hard drive.

Fiction, screenplays, and similar works that require keeping track of a rich plot will show the most benefit when using Scrivener instead of an average word processing software. Students and academics can also make good use of the software to track of all of their research, and even bloggers and short story writers could benefit.

Your Binder

All data in Scrivener is kept in a digital “binder” window on the left side of the program, showing all the different sections of your project. By default, this includes:

  • Manuscript – This is the section where you do your actual writing of the drafts that will eventually become your finished work. The manuscript can be broken down into chapters, which in turn can be further broken down into scenes. All sections of the manuscript can be easily re-arranged by dragging and dropping to suit your story as it changes.
  • Research – If you’re writing a sci-fi fantasy novel that takes place in space, the research section of your binder may include articles about black holes, how rocket propulsion works, and other reference information to ensure you’re getting the technical details in your book correct. Nothing’s worse than getting a negative review on your book because you confused an inner event horizon with a singularity.
  • Characters – You also don’t want a character in your book to have blue eyes in one chapter, and green eyes in the next. Having an outline for each character with details such as their appearance and demeanour can help you keep them straight as you’re writing your book. If you’re having trouble designing your character, Scrivener includes templates to help get you started. It’s recommended to keep adding details to your character outline as new details emerge from your manuscript.
  • Places – Keep track of the locales of your story in similar detail to how you outline your characters. Having a rich description of the locations in your book will help set the stage for your story.

All of these sections allow a variety of media including text, images, and audio. You can gather pictures that remind you of a particular character or place in your story, and save them all to help add details to your story. Scrivener also offers a split-screen mode, so you can look at an inspiring image related to your character within the program while writing about them.

If you aren’t writing a book, these labels can be changed to something more fitting.

Corkboard

Users of Trello will be familiar with the idea of using index cards on a board to create outlines. The corkboard feature of Scrivener works much in the same way, allowing you to easily drag and drop cards on the page to create a plot for your story.

Compose Mode

When you just want to sit down and write without any distractions, you can enter the full-screen “compose” mode, which shows only a white text area on a black background, so there’s nothing except you and a page to write on.

Exporting is Easy

Scrivener allows you to quickly and easily export your finished work to multiple platforms like Amazon Kindle directly from the software. You can export text in a wide variety of formats such as EPUB for publishing, or HTML if your work will be published online. This saves a lot of time instead of manually formatting the document to the individual requirements of each platform. Your main document always remains in its original format.

Some Downsides

As with any program, Scrivener does suffer from a few flaws. They are mostly minor details, but they might cause some frustration if you aren’t expecting them:

  • When exporting a document, Scrivener will inexplicably change all italics to underlines by default unless you override the option.
  • Collaboration with other parties such as editors can be difficult if they don’t use Scrivener themselves. Revisions show up in red to you within Scrivener, but won’t show for your editor when you send them the document. You will need to export into a Word file to be able to share with them. Deleted content also isn’t notated within the document.

It’s Free To Try

A free trial version of Scrivener is available to try for 30 days. Unlike other trial software, it’s literally 30 days of actual use. This means if you only use the program for two days per week, the trial version will actually last fifteen weeks of use.

Since the program is a bit different from Microsoft Word or other programs you may currently use, it’s worth using it for a trial before purchasing to ensure it’s a good fit for you.

Overall, it’s a great program that every writer should at least try out. It features all of the familiar abilities you’d expect from a word processor, such as adding notes or comments within the document, as well as tracking your word count progress for the day. Importing existing files into Scrivener is easy, and you don’t need to be computer savvy to make the switch.

 

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