A few friends have asked me if I really like using Scrivener and what the point of it is, and my answer is that I really, really do like it because Scrivener has a ton of USEFUL functionality. I thought I would share how I’m using the program. FYI, I’m using the Windows version.

BREAKING YOUR NOVEL DOWN:

My mother taught me that a huge project is much more manageable when you break it down into smaller tasks. When you’re using Word, chapters are my smaller pieces. If my chapters are longer, then scenes become my smaller pieces. YET, with Word, all of those pieces are compiled in one long document you have to scroll through. And I can see I’m on page 20 and feel the pressure of having hundreds of pages to go.

What Scrivener does:

In Scrivener, you decide how to manage your project and how to break it down within my project binder. I create folders for each chapter. Within each chapter folder, I create separate documents for each scene. I can do this as I write, OR (if you are an outliner like me) I can jump to my Corkboard view and type a few quick notes on the little “post-it” for each scene or chapter.  When I’m ready, it’s easy to Compile the manuscript into a Word doc with the “Compile” feature in Scrivener.

 

OUTLINER HEAVEN:

As mentioned here, I’m an outliner. It’s a skeleton at best, but my outline provides a few key points each chapter needs to hit on to keep my plot and emotional arcs on track.

What Scrivener does:

Scrivener is an outliner’s dream. For each chapter or scene, I can include a few quick notes for the highlights it should include. I can do this in the Corkboard view where every chapter looks like a little post it note (that I can type on) or I can do it in a little sidebar box next to my document. Scrivener has several ways to view these notes, too. Aside from the Corkboard view, I can also use the outliner view. This lets me see my outline in neat rows similar to Excel. I prefer the Corkboard view, but it’s great to have the flexibility.

RESEARCH, WHERE ART THOU FILE?:

I do a lot of research. Location research. Character name research. Medical research. Police procedure research. I find images to use as reference for describing settings and characters. I used to store all of this research into separate Word files. Then I’d have to go find them all each time I needed them and keep flipping back and forth between my manuscript and the pictures. And then I’d have a file of just URLs to reference in case I needed to find that website that told me how doctors treat punctured lungs. I’m organized, but I still had a hard time tracking things.

What Scrivener does:

There’s a Research folder. I can import web pages. I can import photos. I can create a folder for a person or place and then drop whatever I like into that folder. Pictures, web pages, character notes. It’s all there in one place WITH my manuscript. I never have to hunt for files. And get this… I can even have any of those files pulled up on my screen next to my manuscript as I type. What does my MC look like again? Oh, wait. Here’s the photo of her. It’s that easy.

EDITING MADE EASIER:

Have you ever deleted an entire scene or chapter? Say it’s Chapter 2 of 40. What a nightmare to have to renumber every chapter and shift everything around. The same can happen if you have to add chapters. These kinds of edits are time consuming.

What Scrivener does:

Every scene is its own little unit in Scrivener. When you’re in Binder view, every scene has its own icon that can be dragged and dropped in the binder. You can move it within a chapter or between chapters. You can select a bunch of scenes and move them around with a couple clicks.  It’s SO convenient.

STAT CHECKERS:

Don’t laugh at me. I have an Excel spreadsheet where I track overall and daily word counts. I track how many words I need to do each day in order to finish a book by X date. And I adjust those figures based on my daily actual word counts. I’d love to not have to do this, but if you’re serious about writing, you better get serious about deadlines. Make them your friend.

What Scrivener does:

I know Word has that a total word count you can track at the bottom left corner of the screen. Scrivener does more. You can track scene and chapter word counts. Better yet, you can set daily word count goals within Project Targets. LOVE this. And, if you like to track which chapters you’ve edited, finished writing, etc., you can also do this in Scrivener. At a glance, I can see where I left off the last time I was working.

INTERFACE:

Okay, I’ll admit it. When the first beta of Scrivener came out, I LOATHED the interface. It was single-spaced and kept putting weird returns between my paragraphs. I couldn’t see the edges of my pages. I felt paralyzed by the interface. So I ditched the beta and went back to my cozy, comfortable Word world. When I decided to give Scrivener another shot, the beta had been updated to include much more functionality. I can do everything Word does, except see the edges of my pages (which I still kind of miss). BUT on the upside, Scrivener has a Full Screen view that grays out your background, including that distracting Twitter and email inbox.

 

So that’s a very basic breakdown of why I’m in love with Scrivener and going to have its babies. I hope this helps some of you if you’re sitting on the fence about what Scrivener can do. If you try it out, I recommend you watch the tutorial videos. They are short, easy to follow and will save you hours of floundering.

*All images are the property of Scrivener.