How Scrivener Saved My Life

Most people in the writing world know of Scrivener by now as a stellar program that facilitates the writing process. There are so many sources of information on Scrivener that I couldn’t begin to compete with them.  Here are several of the better ones I’ve run across.

First, if you don’t have Scrivener and want to try it, go to the following link and download the 30 day trial. Read the excellent manual and tutorial, and visit the users forum. The people who staff the forum are fantastic. How many programs can you say that for?

Here’s the woman who wrote the book “Scrivener for Dummies.”

These are two sites where the focus is on just a few things. Scrivener is such a rich program, it’s hard to absorb in large chunks — unless you’re a geek. If you are, you’re probably not reading this anyway.

All right, so that’s the housekeeping. Now, I want to tell you how Scrivener saved my life.

Before Scrivener, there was Word.  And Word was God. Whatever word-processing you used, chances are it was a Word-type program. Now, I’m not one of those folks who dump on Word. It’s very good at what it does best, which is provide a platform for the creation and editing of documents.  It DOES NOT help you organize your files or the information that goes into them, or to have a visual picture of your documents. It doesn’t include note cards or multimedia. There’s a long list of what it doesn’t do. If you can think of those things — the ones in your “I wish I could get Word to do X” file — then you have an idea of what Scrivener can do.

In my own case, I was on my second or so draft (but who’s counting?) of my first book.  It had taken me a very long time to get where I was and I was suffocated by mountains of paper and a file that was 120,000 words long. I knew I needed to cut by about 20,000 words but I couldn’t see how the individual pieces of the manuscript played out against each other and thus what needed deleting.

About that same time, I took an online course called ” Scenes and Sequels.” It was a monumental eye-opener.  All of a sudden, I had a way to look at my manuscript in pieces and see if they were providing the right kind of flow, tension, and readability.

Luckily,  I stumbled onto Scrivener at just the right moment.  I used the binder the way it’s set up, with tabbed chapters and scenes.  I imported each scene into a folder and analyzed it to determine if it was a scene (action) or a sequel (reaction). I colored the tabs appropriately and immediately could tell where I had problems. Too many sequels clustered together (yawn), not enough scenes, and 1a screenshot

I was able to review each scene with the knowledge of what had just happened and what was going to happen. Vitally important, I was able to cut and see that I hadn’t broken the back of my story.

Something must have worked because my manuscript placed in the finals for both the Daphne du Maurier and Debut Dagger contests.  A few months before, I would have been embarrassed to submit to any contests. (A little Blatant Self Promotion: “Message from Panama” is now available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.)

That’s my testimonial. Now for a note or two. In my current manuscript, I’m much more comfortable with the proper use of scenes and sequels, so I’m using titles for each tab. Note below the color coordination between the tab on the left  (about half way down, grey with a yellow dot) and the note on the upper right. If I were to click the note cards display option, it would show ALL of my cards with their titles, corresponding tab colors, and any notes I’d made.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I use colors because  a) I like them and b) they help me differentiate at a glance between the types of folders I have.screenshot4

I also have a tab for characters, one for places, and one for things. I can whip in and out of them all day. The picture below shows scenes on the left waiting to be slotted into chapters; Items and Character folders in the middle; and a list of snapshots that were taken of these files and their dates.screenshot 3

Two other quickies. I use the Project Targets feature a lot, especially during NaNo. It calculates daily totals against your daily goals and overall totals against your overall goals. I also like the feature that allows you to input the URL from another file (think Bookmarks) within an Annotations sub-routine. Finally, there’s a neat little feature that counts word frequency.

Everybody has his/her favorite parts of Scrivener. If you have some to share, please tell us about them here.

~~Jane Vasarhelyi

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6 thoughts on “How Scrivener Saved My Life

  1. I used a trial of Scrivener during a NaNoWriMo and liked it a lot but never went back to buy the program … maybe I will have to do so! If I use it on different computers can I download it on more than one?

    • Scrivener is very reasonable. $40, I think, and that’s for a permanent license. No renewal fees.

      I have it installed on 2 computers but one is dying and has my old files on it. The new computer has the work I’m currently doing. You can move back and forth between the two computers by using a memory stick. Scrivener automatically opens a scriv document that’s transferred in and clicked. You want to make sure you’re using a scriv file and not the compile file.

      There’s a discussion on the Scrivener forum about using Dropbox with the program.

      Hope this helps.


  2. I discovered Scrivener about six months ago, when I realized that I needed a more visual way to organize my manuscripts during the editing process. I’d figured out my draft writing process, but editing was the problem. Editing a story with multiple storylines and plots turned out to be tricky. I tried lists in Word or Excel, color coded note cards, a white board, cutting up a physical copy of the manuscript, separating the story lines into different documents and then trying to weave them back together.
    The problem with these methods was always translating the manual edits into the typed document and getting the document to flow.
    I’d heard about Scrivener a couple of times before but didn’t have a Mac. (I think they do have a PC version now though). So when I got my Mac, I splurged on Scrivener. I took the time to work through the manual so I’d have an overview of all the features. Then I imported my latest WIP and set about editing it.
    The one feature I am loving right now is the note cards. I’m a visual person and being able to see the flow and rhythm of the story is eye-opening. In addition, being able to adjust it by simple drag and drop is wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing the resources. I’ll bookmark them to review.

  3. There’s so much to like about this program it makes me wonder why there are any writers out there still using Word for manuscripts.


  4. I love Scrivener, too. This year, I’m putting all my blog posts together. Since I do two blogs, have guests on one of them, and am sometimes a guest on other blogs, I color code: blue for Novel Adventurers, green for Italian Intrigues, pink for guests on Novel Adventurers, and orange for when I am a guest.

    I use the index card for publication date, contacts (for guests and hosts), and deadlines if they vary from pub date.

    I love the reference section of Inspector. When I do preliminary research, I include anything that looks promising. I can always delete those that are of no use.

    I use the notes, but if I find that I need longer document notes, I put a child document under the blog title and ad notes there.

    Scrivener is a lifesaver.

  5. Pingback: Scrivener – Quick Tip | Mostly Mystery

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