Scrivener: A New to Me Writing Tool; The Hard Way or The Easy Way?

My husband bought me Scrivener, a writing tool for organization and more. I think it was in self-defense.

I am forever jotting down notes on whatever is handy, note paper, scratch paper, gum wrappers, printing out reams of computer pages for reference.  I have a ton of memos on my desk.  The names, dates, people, and places I want to remember.  Little tidbits of things I cannot forget.  Long summations of things I have put together. Story arcs, timelines, outlines, plot lines, scenes, character profiles, names, dates, people, places, all scribbled down somewhere.

I am also constantly asking myself, sometimes out loud, “Where did I write this or that?”  Followed by, “I know I had that somewhere!”

I wrote my first novel everywhere; on the kitchen table, the table on the back porch, at my desk.  Notes and papers were scattered everywhere.  It was truly amazing that I managed to pull it all together into one cohesive story in consideration of the amount of research that went into that book and my writing habits.  I had three diaries spanning 20 years with bookmarks on nearly every page. I also had tons of old notes from the early 1990s. The primary document was written in Word.  I am probably more of a “panster” than a “plotter” but I am seeking to change that in order to get more organization in my work.

I am reminded of my son when he was a pre-teen.  His job/chore was to wash the pots and pans after supper.  One day, I came home from work and saw the kitchen all nice and clean, and I thought, “Great, how wonderful to come home and find the dishes done and the kitchen clean.  I complimented him.

The next day I could not find a pot or pan to cook in.  I knew I had them, but they were not in the cabinets, the dishwasher, or the stove.  I looked everywhere.  When I asked him, I got the infamous, “I don’t know.”   He insisted that he washed them, and didn’t know what happened to them, “Maybe Daddy had them for something.”

Well, three days later we found them.  I noticed the shovel propped against the back door.  An unusual place for it. I also noticed a fairly fresh mound of dirt in the back yard.  Yes, he had gone through the trouble of burying the pots and pans in the back yard to keep from having to wash them.  Now I am thinking, it would have taken all of fifteen or twenty minutes to wash them and put them away, but he spent time (who only knows how long?) and labor digging a deep enough hole in the back yard to bury them.  Out of sight, out of mind.   What a work effort for him.  Wouldn’t it have just been easier to wash them?

I think the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Sometimes I will do things the hard way, rather than the easy way.  I am hoping Scrivener will help me learn to do my writing the easy way, with a lot less clutter.  I am going to follow the 2 hour tutorial today and see if it is user friendly enough for me to get started.  Once I get to about chapter three, my panster method of writing can get rather complicated and I am trying alleviate some of that complexity.  This next WIP is apt to become a series, and staying organized will be imperative.

If you have ever used Scrivener, or know anything about it or some other writing tool and how it is useful, please let me know.  If you have any tips, or can tell me how Scrivener has simplified your writing process, please feel free to comment.  Links to your posts about scrivener are welcome also. I would welcome and appreciate all of the help I can get.

78 thoughts on “Scrivener: A New to Me Writing Tool; The Hard Way or The Easy Way?

  1. I’m not a writer so I can’t offer anything about mechanics. But I literally laughed out loud about the story of your son. My daughter used to stack everything in the oven. Since I don’t cook/bake, they could go undetected for quite some time.

  2. the only writing program I know is Word, and I don’t know the ins and outs of Word at that… I don’t know how you writers do it all the notes, character sketches, story outlines and arcs plus all the drafts and rewrites… I do all my writing from my head and I don’t take notes for any of my research but I will keep a book, or page open that has the material I want to reference. I work from my head…

    • You must have a good head. I write a lot of historical content.
      Keeping facts straight can be a challenge and I don’t want someone coming to me saying, “That didn’t happen in that year or on that date”. Or, “over here you said he was born in 1960, but over here you say he was 16 yo in 1974.”
      I don’t think this WIP will be the same way because it is not a historical piece, but there are still many tracks and layers to keep up with.

      • not sure about a good head but I have a lot of useless information stored up there. I like the memory exercise involved in the way I write, it really forces me to think and remember, especially in long form prose. If I can’t remember precisely I just reference previously written material. I seldom re read what I’ve written other than a quick scan when I’m done so this gives me the opportunity to do so. I have a very odd process for writing, but it works for me but it might by why all my attempts to write a novel die at the 50-100 page mark at which point I cremate them. I don’t keep previous attempts…at the same time the stories are still in my head. I am trying something different this time around with my secondary blog and a new project I am working on which I will announce shortly…

        • It is funny you say that about the lifespan of your novel attempts. It is at about 75 pages that I start feeling a bit overwhelmed and really have to take care. Accuracy becomes an issue. For example, if I am writing about Florida in 2004, I have to remember that four huge and destructive hurricanes came through here about that time. I need the dates and locations. I need to know how people were generally affected by each one, severely, or not so much…that is if I am striving for authenticity. The fictional narrative and dialog parts to the plot line are easy. Keeping up with the details sometimes is not. My husband has a head like yours, “Full of useless information.” He can recall the words to almost every song he has ever heard. He is also a virtual walking encyclopaedia. You may think it is useless, but I kind of depend on him sometimes for guidance.

  3. I use Scrivener for PC. I really love it for my outlining and first draft phase. Everything in one place, including my research links, character and setting sketches, etc. I did have a problem backing it up to Dropbox on a couple of occasions–didn’t save the most recent version and then when I tried to open it up in Scrivener, it wasn’t there either. Thought for a few panicked minutes that I’d lost my manuscript. But I sorted things out. After that, I learned to compile my draft to a Word document after each session as well. Just in case. Now that I’m in the editing phase, I’m using Word again.

  4. I’ve been hearing a lot about Scrivener. I even have a full version on my Mac … that I still haven’t learned to use. Like so many others, I’ll probably have to sit through the 2-hour tutorial. I’m thinking it will be worth the effort to learn since (at this point) I have a trilogy of sorts and really need to be organized. Loved the story about your son. Maybe he needed to do it the hard first so he could understand why the easy way would be better 😉

    • I am doing the tutorial right now. I don’t make any claim to be very tech savvy. I have Dragon, but I was never able to train my Dragon to talk with a southern accent and it didn’t punctuate properly…so that was a waste. I am thinking this Scrivener thing might come in handy.

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  6. I’ve got Scrivener on my iMac and love it. The best part of the software is that it organizes me while I write, and at the end of the day I pull it all together in something that I think is cohesive. You can have several projects at once in the program (So far I have 4 projects – my blog, my novel, plot/character ideas for future writing and snippets of other’s thoughts on writing.) While the app is not compatible with IPad, the Textilius app for IPad is compatible with Scrivener which allows me to write while traveling or on the sunny deck for a different perspective – all uploaded to Dropbox which provides access anywhere. I love it – so much more powerful than Word for writers and even includes templates. Well worth the money! Now, if I can finish the novel and claim a published work! Caveat: I am not a representative for Scrivener 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments. I am just getting started with the tutorial. I did not realize that you could have several projects going on at once, but I can sort of see how that can be done. I think I will probably still do my manuscript writing in Word for the most part, but the iPad app they keep talking about might actually prevent me from spending money on a laptop right now. I will check out Textilius in the meanwhile. I am hoping to benefit from the research and organizational features of Scrivener. I feel as if I just came to a college chemistry class after not having it in High School. Well, that is my preliminary opinion. I am liking the import export features and the research features so far.

  7. I have all kinds of sticky notes over my desk, from book ideas to blog ideas to website ideas to to-do lists to… I have to find that sticky note to remember what else. Every once in a while I find one on the floor and I’m so relieved I didn’t lose it. The fun is with all the ideas I think of while driving, taking a shower, and waking up at three in the morning… trying not to forge them. 🙂

    • That’s weird thing for me too. I don’t get most of my marvelous ideas when I am sitting at the computer trying to think them up. I get them standing in the line at the grocery store check out, while driving the car, and while working in the yard. I am hoping this tool will help me keep from losing the notes I have made, and help me research the ideas more thoroughly while allowing me to keep organized. When I was younger, you could give me a phone number and I could recall it two weeks later without ever having written it down. Now, I have to hear it three times while I am standing there trying to enter it into the phone. The woes of aging.

  8. Scrivener automatically creates zipped archives of your most recent “editions” of each and every project. You can increase the number of archives which it preserves. I have mine set to create a zipped archive each time I open a project and each time I close a project. I also preserve ten archives per project.

    If you are using Scrivener in the cloud on multiple devices, you MUST, I repeat MUST, close the project on one device before opening it on another. If you don’t you will probably have to use one of your zip archives to recover your project, this means that you may lose some of the work which you have most recently done. Please, please, close the project on each device before opening it on another device.

    Since you said that you would like people to comment if they have ever used Scrivener, there is a public community for Scrivener Users which has over a thousand members. Because it is public you do not need to be a member nor do you need a google plus account to visit it.

    The web address is: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109597039874015233580

    A thousand users should be enough to keep you busy for awhile.

    • Thank you for the comments. I am just going through the tutorial. I am working on a PC but am also looking at compatible iPad apps. I did not know that very critical detail about closing projects on one device before opening on another. Thanks for the tip and the link. I know more questions are going to arise as I get more deeply involved with this. It certainly appears to be quite useful.

  9. As fate would have it, I connected with another wordpress blogger who is signed up for Scrivener online course taught by the lady (Hernandez) who wrote “Scrivener for Dummies” and she had posted a link to the class that starts tomorrow (or I should say today) @ 9 am.
    http://www.wiziq.com/course/27217-scrivener-tutorial-for-windows-by-gwen-hernandez-september-2013
    So I signed up. She advises us to at least have opened the software to become somewhat familiar with the platform before class starts in the morning. I am very glad that I completed the tutorial today. This is a month long class with five sessions a week that last from 30 mins. to 90 mins. each, followed by 2 weeks of questions/answers. There are tests and you can use your own projects. This may be the motivator that I needed to really get serious with this tool. There will be more classes offered in the future and I barely got in under the wire on this one. I will keep you posted on how it goes, but I will probably not be as active on my blog for the next four weeks.

    • I did Gwen’s class – she is so good and now this old lady is away swinging through scrivener – tis a wonderful tool – I am a panster writing a series and I so needed some way of ordering all my research/character etc – its a yay for scrivener – as well as the link above there is a facebook page for scrivener uses with a lot of help pouring in – it is not the easiest because it has so much to offer but after the course you will have got to grips with what you want it to do and life will be much easier

      your son sounds great – I expect to hear gret things about him if I’m still around in 20 years or so:)

  10. Evernote does the same as Scrivner and it’s FREE! Also you can share the notebooks created with formatters or editors directly if need be. I don’t know if Scrivner offers this option, but Evernote is accessible from the internet [should you be without your main computer] and it has a special add-on for your broswer called “WebClipper” where you can clip research items to a notebook for easy access 😀

    • That sounds like a good alternative. I have heard of Evernote but did not know its value as an organizer. I have Scrivener already as a gift, and I am signed up for an online course, so I will see how this goes. Thanks for the option to an alternative and for your comments. I can see where the availability form the internet could be quite helpful if I were traveling or out of town and needed access. Sharing with others readily and easily also sounds attractive.

      • I believe they even have an ap for your phone, too. I looked into Scrivner and, though the graphics were pretty, found it a bit confusing to use. Evernote is simple, and think on this – if your computer even goes wacko, you have it online 😉

        • I have always been a little shy to work in “the cloud”. Being hardwired on my home PC with my non-published work is preferable to me. I know it sounds a wee tad paranoid in this day and age, but I still haven’t gotten accepted the whole “cloud” movement. I keep backed up with Norton 360 on another hard drive as well as onto CDs.

    • I connected with Vicki Thompson via a link back to my post today (or I should say yesterday), and got immediately signed up for the classes with Gwen Hernandez that start at 9 am this morning (our time) and as you can see, I haven’t gone to bed yet. I just got the software as a gift yesterday and finished the tutorial. I am looking at the syllabus for the course at the moment. I am also familiarizing myself with the WizIQ site that the course is offered on. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew with doing all of this so very quickly. We shall see. Thanks for the link.

        • I started out doing that and have them all organized in a folder that I can acess. I will most like refer to them again and again. I also have them saved in a folder on my PC (I don’t have a mac, so i am in the MS one.) I am getting along with the lessons just fine, and feel much more motivated than I did with the tutorial. I am doing a post on that now, due to requests on my progress. Sometimes, I do the lesson or homework and then trash it and redo, just to see if I can do without her guidance. I have nothing but time on my hands being semi-retired though. How are you doing? How is Simon?

  11. I stuck with Word for such a long time and had no real issues with it, but when I converted my first novel into eBook form, I was suddenly made aware of hundreds of formatting issues that Word had introduced. All right, I’d actually created them, but hadn’t been aware until I began formatting. It took me weeks to purge them all!!
    I have now written four novellas and two short stories in Scrivener and found it to be incredibly useful. All my research notes, images, web-clips and even email conversations regarding the story can all be kept in one place and are visible from a single side-pane. Each chapter or scene can be listed in a separate sub-folder which allows me to flit between chapter / scenes without necessitating tedious scrolling or using ‘search’.
    I even have a reference list of all my characters in the same pane so if I have trouble remembering who I’ve killed off or even how to spell the names (they are all Old Norse), I can reference the information in a second.
    Scrivener has revolutionised my writing. I only even use Word when the project is completed.

    • Great. It sounds like I am on the right track for the purpose for which I have this new tool. I am so excited that classes start today in how to navigate this thing. It seems rather simple I am sure once I learn it I shall do fine.

      • I worked through the two hour tutorial which is a fairly simple ‘see this? try it now’ repeart-after-me system. I’m sure your class will show you many aspects that I’ll have to learn the slow way…and perhaps stuff that you might never use. 😀
        I just began a new novella last night and Scrivener makes the ‘laying out’ sooooo much easier than Word. Enjoy!

        • Thanks. I am getting it slowly. I know I am just at the beginning of the class, but, so far, I have learned more from the tutorial….but it was nice to already have terminology and such down when starting the class. We shall see what is yet to come.

  12. 1. That story about your son was hilarious. Laugh out loud funny, and I’m at work in a crowd of cubicles. They are ingenious little devils, those kids.
    2. I have notes and note cards strewn all over the place but do keep them organized in some fashion. I’ve thought about scrivener, and if I choose to go the e-book route, I will be getting it because I’ve heard of all the hassles with Word. I also like the idea of having it all in one place. My only concern is personal: that’s a lot of information to have on a tiny computer screen. I may get distracted/overwhelmed. I like to spread out (I’m claustrophobic, I wonder if that has anything to do with it?)

    • I have been through the tutorial and it seems the corkboard feature does allow you to somewhat spread out. I signed up for month long classes last and they start this morning at 9am…in 15 mins…we shall see how this goes. Thanks you for your interest. i will keep informed of my progress through my blog most likely.
      Yes, Bryan, my oldest, is somewhat of a nut and always has been…more about that later, stuffed nasturtium seeds up his nose one day and I did not find them until they germinated in there.

  13. He really buried the dishes instead of washing them? That’s crazy! I think it would have been easier just to wash them. Did he really think you wouldn’t notice them missing?
    I have been thinking about getting Scrivner, but something keeps stopping me…you’ll have to keep us updated if it does help improve your writing organization!

    • I will. i am in the midst of the tutorial, that was supposed to take an hour or two, but i am going slowly through it on purpose. I have not pick up my first assignment/lesson from the course yet, but I will later in this afternoon. I think I will post my progress through this periodically. so far, it looks like this will really help me stay organized. And that is a good motivator.

    • I am still trying to get through the original tutorial that was supposed to take two hours but has taken me two days. It is not difficult, it is just that I am taking it very slowly because I want to process and digest every detail. I looks extraordinary so far, and I am delighted. i can really see how this would have great value to a fantasy writer or one who does exclusive character profiling/sketching. The media friendly index cards and corkboard are ingenious. I am on my first lesson with the course, and I will keep informed of my progress.

  14. I use Scrivener and had problems with the back up to start with but I think I have a system in place that works now! I will be fascinated to hear how you get on with that tutorial course, sounds like a brilliant idea! Keep us posted. 🙂

  15. I bought the software for my PC. So far, I really like the it. I went through the tutorial, but that wasn’t enough for me. A few days ago, I bought a sort of “how to really use Scrivener” book from half.com. I’m using it for fiction and non-fiction.

    • Thanks for the comment. The lady who is teaching my classes wrote “Scrivener for Dummies”. She is taking us slowly through and I am trying to process and absorb as much as possible. Today I am on lesson two. Ha! I have a ways to go. I may need other reference books to get the most out of the tool. Thx for the recommendation.

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  17. Buring pots and pans in the backyard to escape having to do the dishes. Now that is either commitment, or someone hates doing the dishes more than I do. haha.

    As for Scrivener, I have it on my computer, tried to figure it out once, failed (even after my friend explained it to me), and haven’t touched it again. It’s nice in theory, but I do just fine with my Word documents. Looking at the picture up top, I definitely see why you’re wanting some organization! Good luck in figuring it out!

    • The tutorial is not helping me so much except to figure where all of the buttons bells and whistle are located. Gwen Hernandez’s course is making a huge difference in understanding the practical use. I will most like continue to write in Word, and use this for other parts of the novel writing process.

  18. I’ve been wanting to try Scrivener but haven’t made the investment yet. I’m pretty organized most of the time. I’m that person who has their closets color coordinated and everything labeled in the pantry. It’s a beautiful thing! LOL. I don’t have to search for what I need. But, my writing desk can sometimes get messy. I’m interested to see what you think of Scrivener.

    • I did another post about my first impression. It has great potential and I am learning more through the online classes than through the tutorial, but they both have their value. It does seem to make the writing process more formal and less fluid. Not sure if I am going to like that. I may do my writing on Word, like always, and then use Scrivener for other stuff. In a few minutes, i am going to import my first personal project that needs some revisions to it and see how that goes….so ask me Monday, after I have had time to play with this thing…if I still like it.

  19. Good luck! I don’t know anything about Scrivener. I have tons of papers, legal pads, books–many with Post-Its sticking out, if Ricky the Cat hasn’t pulled them out. Then I have various spread sheets and things from my publishers to keep track of contributors for my encyclopedia projects. . .I clear everything off the kitchen table at meal times. 🙂

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