Writer’s Tools: The Delights of Scrivener

Catherine Day, author, writer, novelist, Scrivener benefits

I absolutely hate learning how to operate new computer programs. In fact, I abhor it. I hate it even more than I hate kale, and despite kale propagandist’s attempts to convince me otherwise, I remain convinced that kale is a very, very bad thing. Masquerading as lettuce. Trying to sneak its rubbery ass into my salad. It’s not happening, kale. Keep walking.

(The fact I’m getting so angry about kale tells me that I really need to get out more…).

Anyway, learning how to operate new computer programs is worse than kale. I don’t like to think of myself as as technophobic, as to me, the term technophobe is reserved for people who don’t use or like to use any technology at all. I can definitely see the benefits of technology. I love my phone a little bit too much, the internet is the best, Facebook is an addiction of mine. So I prefer to call myself ‘technostubborn’. I appreciate technology, but I like the comfort of using software that I’m familiar with.

Learning how to use WordPress for this website? That was a struggle. I know it’s intuitive, I know it’s easy, I know it has been specifically built with technostubborn people like myself in mind, but it was still really steep learning curve because I hadn’t learned anything new in terms of computer programs in a very long time.

With the trauma still fresh from learning to use WordPress and setting up my website, I began to write my novel. Occasionally, I’d look at writing resources online to help me along. I noticed frequent references to a thing called Scrivener on blogs and in writing guides. I did a bit of digging, and it turned out that it is a piece of writing software. I couldn’t fathom how a computer program could help me write a book.  I mean, it wasn’t going to write the damn novel for me, was it?  So, in my scepticism I decided to ignore this thing they called ‘Scrivener’.

But the more I tried to ignore Scrivener, the more it began to intrigue me.

I wrote my first draft in Word. Trying to sort out various drafts and pieces of research and trying to locate files saved in the wrong folders and keep tabs on my word count was lots of fun (NOT).

When it came to my second draft I began to think that there must be some easier way. I began to think about all of the writers using Scrivener, and loving it. They couldn’t all be wrong, could they? One day, curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded it. I clicked in to take a peek, and immediately closed out of it.

‘Too many icons on the toolbar. Cannot cope!’.

And I went straight back to good old Word.

I felt a strange guilt at having even contemplated fooling around with Scrivener. My beloved Word, that had been there for me through thick and thin? I began to snipe at Scrivener a bit for turning my head.

So you have a thesaurus? Big swinging mickey, so has Word. What else ya got?


Well actually…

After watching a few Youtube videos, I tried again, and it was on the second try that I got it. I advise you to download and use it immediately. Don’t fanny about like I did.

Just do it. To make it even easier for you, the link to the   trial period download is here.

If I can learn to use it, believe me, you can too. I’m going to list the benefits of using it here, and link you to the videos that I watched. They’ll explain how to use it better than I ever could. I haven’t yet used all of its features, but I’ve enjoyed the benefits of the following:

1. Ease of access to all of your work on a particular writing project:

You can organise your work so that any part of it can be easily accessed as you write.  You can access every chapter/scene of your novel or your character bios and research all with a click from a tab down the side of the page. You can also move items in these folders around easily, allowing you to rearrange the order of scenes at will.

2. Backing up your work:

I’ve been there, done it, felt the slow sinking feeling in pit of my stomach. Losing work is the stuff of nightmares. I carry a memory stick on my keys, and backup my work every day, but Scrivener helps me to sleep extra soundly at night. It has multiple safeguards built-into it in terms of backing up your work automatically, but it also allows you to setup an extra backup to the likes of Dropbox.

3. Cork Board:

for plotting, storyboarding or brainstorming. I use it in the place of physical index cards, when I’m summarising my scenes and mapping character arcs and plot lines. You can then have a quick visual on where you are with your story. you can mark up your document as you go along with notes which appear on the right-hand side of the screen so that you don’t forget them.

4. Snapshotting:

A snapshot facility for saving previous versions of your work for comparison purposes, and you can split-screen pages to see versions of your work side-by-side.

5. Tracking progress:

you can track your progress as you reach your daily word count and you can pull the total word count of your novel when you want to see how you’re getting on.

5. Collating the novel and E-Publishing:

Putting your novel together is easy- you can change formatting for the entire document in a few clicks, collate it and email it in various formats/ print it easily. You can also convert your work into an ebook.

6. Templates:

There are templates for various kinds of writing projects.

… and everything else. They’ve basically thought of everything. They’ve even made space for you to save  ‘photos’ of your characters.

These are the links I used to get the hang of the basics.

1. Scrivener Instructional Videos:

The people that created Scrivener have a number of instructional videos on their website, and you can click here to access them.  I found the first one invaluable when I was getting the hang of it.

2. Hayden Scott, WIProgress

Hayden has a great YouTube Channel and this is a very popular Scrivener Tutorial .