Writing software spotlight: Scrivener

There came a point in the creation of my novel when Microsoft Word and Google Docs just weren’t cutting it. The document I was creating was too long and too complex. So, in addition to the apps I use for note taking and brainstorming, I picked up two alternative word processing programs, Scrivener and Storyist. This week, I’m going to talk about Scrivener, and next week, I’ll give you a glimpse of Storyist, and how I force the two to play nicely together.

Scrivener screenshot

My scenes are outlined on the left side, easy to navigate.

In an ideal world, I’d use Scrivener for everything, because in this ideal world, there would be an iPad app for Scrivener. Literature and Latte, the creators of Scrivener, claim to be hard at work on one, but I’m sure it’s not a simple task, because Scrivener is a treasure trove of tasty writerly features.

What I love about Scrivener is that they’ve done away with this idea of a long, linear, MS Word style document. Instead, your document is broken up into your scenes. You can still display it and read it all together in order, but if you jump around like I do when writing, you can skip directly from the scene where the main character’s beloved dog is introduced to its tragic death towards the end. You can also drag and drop your scenes to arrange them, or use the handy corkboard option to visually display your outline.

Scrivener is essential (at least for me) at the end of the journey. Whether you need to start producing pretty and perfectly groomed manuscripts for sending off to agents, or you’re a DIY self publisher busting out your own e-books, Scrivener will take all those scenes and put them together in a nice package for you. There are enough formatting options to satisfy even the oddest of submission guidelines.


Scrivener’s corkboard view

A few other features: Scrivener has a distraction free writing mode, syncs flawlessly with Dropbox, can switch to a pre-formatted scriptwriting setup, holds your research and notes right there with your manuscript, and easily wrangles huge files.

Scrivener is not perfect, however. The price tag, while not unreasonable, is a consideration for a starving artist. $40 for the Windows version, and $45 for the Mac, which has a few extra features us PC users don’t get. Still, compare it to the hefty $80 for Microsoft Word 2013, and it doesn’t look bad at all.

In addition, the learning curve for Scrivener can be daunting, because it has so many options and functions. However, it’s well worth the time investment to figure it out. If anyone is interested in a more thorough overview of Scrivener and maybe a little guide through some of the features, drop me a note in the comments and I’ll put something together.

If Scrivener only had an app for the iPad, it would be perfect. Because it’s not, I use Storyist on my mobile devices. I’ll tell you all about that, next time. Until then, let me know if you’d like to learn more about how to use Scrivener, or if there’s any great software out there I’ve overlooked.

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