Thinking About Scrivener

I’m finishing up a work-in-process and looking toward my next project.  In the interest of speeding things up and keeping my desk, uhm, just a little neater. (It currently looks like a mini tornado blew across the surface.) I’m thinking about switching to Scrivener. The picture below was taken mid-project.  I’m not going to post a picture of my desk’s surface right now because my storyboard filled up at the 50% mark.  The rest of the cards are strewn everywhere. It isn’t pretty.  Frankly, the mess is embarrassing and probably hinders my productivity.

There’s a lot going on in my books.  Action, action, action. Somehow I have to keep track of it all.  But in general, I’d like to turn this:

Into something neater, more organized, and more interactive. This looks very appealing:

Has anyone else made the switch?  Does it help?  Can I, for instance, print an outline?  In Word, one of my big beefs was that I couldn’t print the document map.

Is the learning curve for scrivener steep? Tell me. Tell me everything.


49 responses to “Thinking About Scrivener

  1. I made the switch for writing book 3 in my series. I like being able to move the cards around on the cork board to rearrange scenes, and I LOVE being able to compile the whole ms into a formatted Word doc. Even though I’m underutilizing the program (terribly so!) and probably using much of it “wrong”, I’m still finding it very helpful. I figure it will only get better as I become more familiar with the features. So…definite recommendation from my perspective! 🙂

  2. I’ve recently switched to Scrivener. I love it. You can rearrange your scenes on the cork board, there is an outline mode, You can keep all your research from the internet (including pictures) right there. No more switching between documents. You can keep document notes for thing you have to fix within the document (scene or chapter) and project notes for things you need to remember during the course of the manuscript. There are all different ways to use it depending on what you want. I’m still learning, but it’s a great tool so far. And Gwen Hernandez teaches online scrivener classes. I recommend you signing up for the next one. Try it for free for a month (and go through the tutorial) and see how you like it.

  3. Do it, Melinda! Ha, I’m biased, but I love Scrivener, and for someone like you who storyboards, it’s especially perfect. Yes, you can print outlines, and even your index cards. You can color code your scenes by whatever you want (Label, POV, Setting, Species, Day of the week…).

    Definitely try out the free trial. It’s good for 30 uses (counted by when you close/reopen the program), so you can get a lot more than 30 days out of it.

    Good luck!

  4. I just switched–there is definitely a learning curve. I’m taking a class with Gwen Hernadez on line and its the best. I too am starting the 3rd book in my series and I like not having to shuffle around index cards on my corkboard, I use the corkboard on Scrivener now –so much easier. Marian

    • So, I guess I’m going to have to give it a try. I’m going to use it for book 2 in one of my series. I’m hoping it will help me keep track of all the stuff I need to keep track of.
      Thanks, Marian.

  5. Thanks, Melinda. There’s more info on my class here:

    And I swear, I did not pay Marian to say that! 😉 Thanks, Marian!!

  6. Having been a confirmed pantser forever, I was resistant until I started mentally planning out a five book fantasy series. At the same time I was doing second edits on a romance, and found some glaring plot inconsistencies. I’m realizing if that happens in a 65,000 word book, how can it NOT happen in five much larger books? Not to mention, tornado aftermath is too polite to describe my entire house! So I’m taking the dive, thanks for the push!

  7. Melinda –

    I love Scrivener. Yes, as some people have mentioned, there is a learning curve. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything now. I use it for various purposes besides my novels. For example, organizing all my blog posts for my website.

    Good luck!

  8. I have downloaded it and started playing. the learning curve seems steep, but I love that I can format my books for kindle with a click or two. Have to take a class. Gwen are you sure you’re not offering one until September?

    • Right now, that’s the plan. I’m in the middle of a class now, and then with spring break and summer coming, things get hectic around here.

      And just a note, Scrivener is great for us pantsers too. =)

  9. A class in April would be great!

  10. Hey a GIAM x2 here.
    I made the switch to the IBM compatible version. I think there are some pro’s and con’s. For me the pro’s outweigh the cons. I will stick with the program.
    For this post, I will only focus on the cons, just so you know what they are.
    1 – You need to learn out to set up the compile (export) features. Mine still isn’t right and I have to adjust the content once in word. Drives me crazy. I did watch the on-line video, it helped, but still haven’t quite got it.
    2 – I hate, well maybe that is to strong of word, I dislike the spell checker. If I only want to check one word, Scrivner starts at the top and works its way down the page stopping at names, etc. Sometimes, if I’m working on a section I cut and paste into word, then paste back.

  11. Compiling is definitely powerful, but confusing. Some people find it easier to do the writing in Scrivener and the prettying up in Word.

    Elizabeth: You can set the options for how spell checker works in the Auto-corrections tab under Settings. You can also have it learn words so it won’t stop on character names every time. Or you can have it underline words like Word does instead of having to use the Spell Checker window.

  12. I tried three times to switch over to Scrivener. I hated every moment of it because it isn’t newbie friendly and the names of functions can be quite confusing. For example, bet you don’t know, off hand, what a ‘Scrivenings’ is 😛

    However, when it finally clicked, it was like the clouds parted, the skies opened up, and the birds sang. I can write without it (if forced) but I find it impossible to do major revisions without it. It’s an amazing tool even though I use only half of the things that it can do. Make the switch. Put in the time. Curse and pound your desk if you must. But one day, you will fall in love and your office will be tidy 😉

    • As soon as I turn in my current book and revisions on another book. (yikes, getting double-teamed this month!) I’m going to use it for my next projects. It sounds like a level of commitment is necessary here. So, I’ll go Yoda: Try not. Do.

  13. Just made the switch and love it. But I definitely need to take a class so I’m making full use of it. Even with the basics, I find it much easier to keep organized. Now I’m off to check the class!!!

  14. I got it for half price as a NaNoWriMo winner. Due to Gwen’s enthusiam (among other people) and Amy Atwell showing me blogging/promo organization she’d done, I was really jonesing to get it. It took FOREVER for the Windows version to be ready!

    But since then I’ve been SO swamped with work and deadlines I haven’t had time to watch the tutorial and learn how to use it! Which annoys the heck out of me, because I know it’s supposed to be so great. If only Gwen would/could do a Windows class! 😦

    • Oh, Nat, I wish you’d said something. I have more than 20 Windows users in my current class. In fact, that demand has prompted me to consider developing a Windows class, so stay tuned… 😉

      • Oh, yay! I thought about signing up anyway, but 1) time, ugh, and 2) my understanding is the differences are big enough to make a class on the Mac version confusing. I have a big ego about my ability to learn things on my own, but sometimes I need a class to make myself do it. 🙂

  15. What a timely post for me. I just bought Scrivener the other day. I haven’t had a chance to play with it (finishing up revisions…due tomorrow…yikes!!!), but I’m looking forward to it. I’m tired of my desk/table/floor being cluttered with sticky notes and cards. I’m a pantser trying to be more of a plotter. Hopefully, this will help.

    • We are living parallel lives, Rebecca! Next week I intend to play with Scrivener. And after I dig into it for a while, I’ll have to blog about the experience.

  16. Scrivener? I hadn’t even heard of it before or if I did it must have slipped through my brain cells. Such great new tools out there available to use. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing all the tidbits about it.

  17. I absolutely love Scrivener. I made a novel template which incorporated my writing process and style for the first draft and discovery mode. Everything is in the Scrivener doc including research and character pages. When I get close to finished, I export it to word and make that doc for submissions and final polishing, but it the way to go. Of course, I still lightly story board in the beginning because my brain likes to go from hard copy to computer copy and back again. It’s just a way to turn off the left editor brain and turn on the right creative brain 🙂 Switch!!!

    • I’m going to try it, but the exporting issue troubles me. Part of my problem is going back in to do edits 6 months or more later. I feel like I need all the corkboarding then as well, and going back and forth between word and scrivener seems like it will be a pain. I guess we’ll see.

      Thanks, Christine

      • Melinda: I use Word for format polishing, but I always put my edits/feedback right back into Scrivener. Then when it’s time, I export again. I think you’ll see that it’s not as cumbersome as it sounds. And if you get stuck, let me know. 🙂

  18. I’ve got some Scrivener support and help pages for you – and a Quickstart plan – at

  19. Melinda, I just copy the entire doc and paste it into Word. It’s easer. I reformat the doc. If I had time I’d take Gwen’s course, but I just muddle along on my own. I do copy everything and plop it back into Scrivener if I think I need to do a major revision. It’s easy to cut the scenes back into different documents/individual documents and redo the synopsis index card s with the automatic first few lines put into it.

    go for it!

  20. The only problem with dumping it back into scrivener for revisions is that all edits have to be done with track changes. Scrivener doesn’t hold track changes & comments, does it?

    • See, I don’t dump it back in. I don’t do editing in Word, only formatting. So I don’t have to put it back into Scrivener, it’s already there.

      Personally, I find it easier to refer to the Word document’s comments, but make the actual changes in Scrivener. But that’s just me. And my extra monitor. 😉

      The notes and changes from Track Changes will import, but not in a nice way. Now, if the person you’re working with has Scrivener, you guys can make comments (not sure if this is true in Windows yet) for each other, and even use different colors.

  21. So far, every editor I’ve worked with has wanted all edits to be made in track changes so revising in Scrivener wouldn’t be an option at that point. But for the creation process, it’s worth trying.

    Thanks for all the pointers, Gwen. I’ll look for your class in September!

  22. Pingback: Thinking About Switching to Scrivener | Everything Scrivener

  23. I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and began toying with it in the fall of 2011. I initially used it for outlining, I loved the corkboard feature. I then decided to give it a try for NaNoWriMo 2011. It was the first year I finished. Attribute it to the intuitive interface, great tools or just having all your writing, characters and research in one program. I love writing in scenes and being able to drag and drop these as I need to rearrange my story is priceless. There is a free trial so why not give it a shot!

    If anyone decides to buy Scrivener I was given a limited use coupon here You’ll get 20% off – until it expires. Enjoy!

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  25. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!|

  26. First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask
    if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your
    head before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my
    mind in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the
    first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thanks!

  27. It’s not easy, Mallory, especially in the summer when the kids are home. Noise canceling headphones are my new best friends. I try to find music for each book and listen while I write. Hope that helps.

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