“Have you tried Scrivener?” asked my sister.
Smiling, I shook my head and said I wasn’t interested. If she uses it to write academic papers, I reasoned, how would it help me write fantasy novels?
Well… to be honest, I didn’t want to have anything else on my plate. It had taken days to format my first book with Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word. I didn’t want another challenge right before my first book release.
Then I started to write the first draft of my second novel. I had scattered outlines in written journals and random word documents. Several chapters took shape.
Things were going well, until my creative mind went from this:
To something like this:
Characters and subplots spiraled out of control. I tried to work on too many chapters at once and lost track of my changes.
I turned to old habits. Soon, note cards and colored sticky notes consumed the doors and floors of my apartment. It wasn’t pretty. The cat was in paper-shredding heaven.
When I was confronted by my own mess, Scrivener became a much more appealing avenue to explore.
So, what is Scrivener?
Scrivener organizes ideas and keeps the writer on track until the final draft. It stores outlines, allows you to take notes, and make extensive changes without effort. All in one place.
There are many things I appreciate about this shiny piece of software, but I admit I am only a beginner!
Here’s what I love so far:
1) Less clutter on my actual writing desk
One of life’s great pleasures is in making messes you don’t have to clean up later.
With Scrivener, you create as may lists and notes as you like. The sky is the limit. Also, you get to rip up and throw away your old pile of note cards. Very satisfying.
Good for the environment, too!
2) Keeps your inspiration close
There’s a separate section for “research” in Scrivener. Photos, websites, music, all available.
As a fantasy author, that means I can take the several folders I have in many different places and get rid of them all.
Photos of places I love. Book cover ideas. A great online article on character development right next to my thoughts on medieval weaponry, and what kind of hat Praelor Thurst would wear. Storing it all in the same folder is magical.
3) It travels well
I’m also excited that I can take Scrivener with me when I travel. All that research material can come, too.
Did you put Scrivener on your desktop, and not your laptop? It’s not unreasonable to buy a second copy. Which leads me to…
4) It’s not expensive
$40 for one download. You can also save a few dollars by buying multiple licenses for your devices.
I’ve made my fair share of interesting purchases to try and speed up my success. This one is worthwhile.
5) Try it for 30 days of use before you pay a cent
As a self-published author, I’m bombarded by services and offers all the time. Spend money on marketing services. Facebook advertisements. It’s endless.
Having a free trial of anything is a nice change. Scrivener not only gives you 30 days free, it’s 30 days of use. That’s right, use. Did you sign up and then forget for three months? It’s okay, you can come back and keep working for 29 more days.
Personally, I tried it for a few hours before realizing this was a valuable investment with the way I write. I’m also a very visual person, which is helpful to know. Visual aides keep me focused and motivated.
6) It’s easy to move over works in progress
In the middle of a project? Worried you would mess everything up by switching to Scrivener halfway through? I was, too.
Click the import button. Select ‘file’. Find your Microsoft Word document. That’s it.
Now, it would import the whole thing as one, uninterrupted document. And if you’re writing a novel, you have chapters. So, here’s a tip I learned to automatically move your book and separate those chapters:
Put a # before each chapter title or section break. When you import, click ‘import and split’ using # when it asks what to look for. There you go. All your chapters will separate and you can keep organized!
7) It keeps your writing goals on track
Authors love to use Scrivener during Nanowrimo. Why? Because you can customize your writing goals and set reminders.
For each chapter, you choose how many thousands of words you want. You can even set a date by which you want to have it finished.
Progress bars turn from red to green when you reach your goal. Finally, a visual pat on the back for all that hard work.
It’s a great feeling to see measurable progress on long projects.
A Word of Caution
Now, I know it’s easy to get carried away by initial enthusiasm. It’s important to keep in mind what you need for your own writing style.
I’ve heard authors have a hard time formatting their books in Scrivener.
It’s not a seamless transition when you’re ready to publish- few things are, really.
If formatting is your main reason for buying new software, I would recommend you look elsewhere at software like Adobe Indesign and Vellum.
For staying motivated and organized, though, I’m enjoying Scrivener. We’ll see how long that lasts!
Anything that makes productivity better is well worth the investment
It leaves time for other important things, like family trips and enjoying the summer sunshine.