March 2014 - Using Scrivener


Published Articles 2014

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Scrivener Overview March 2014 - First Draft

     Scrivener, I’m sure if you have talked to other writers you’ve heard the name. But what is it?From the web site: “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”
     For me it was a revolutionary way to look at my writing project/book/novel. From the moment I began using it, it transformed my writing for the better. I have been using it for three years on both PC and Mac.
     Armed with a 400 page Microsoft Word book/novel, I downloaded my free full feature thirty day trial ( After spending an hour with their tutorial I took a stab at trying it for myself. (Note: I don’t recommend using an existing project to get the feel for the program.) After another hour I had taken the unwieldy tome, and turned it into an organized project. With one glance I could see any chapter, the stage it was in, 1st draft, etc., what sections of the book were well represented and which weren’t, what characters were well represented….well you get the idea.


     I have all of my chapters color coordinated (left side arrow), (right side arrow) first draft classification. Above that you will see an area where you can add text that can be turned into your synopsis (more on this later). It allows you to put everything about your project in one place. Including web pages, files, screen shots and scans. I have even put the comments from my critique group amongst the edited chapters. In addition to the ‘book’ section I’ve got a section for ‘characters,’ ‘cut scenes’ and ‘research.’ Items can be dragged and dropped allowing you to quickly gather info for a project into one convenient place.
     I’m a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. If you’re more organized you might appreciate the cork board and index card view.


     Maybe outlines are your thing?


     You may have noticed a word count listed per section/chapter. You can setup goals per chapter/section or by project, with word and time amounts. If you have a deadline, for example, February 15, 2014, 5000 words. Entering that information into ‘Project Targets’ will show you how you are progressing toward your goals. A progress bar much like these shows up at the bottom of WIP.  


     Want to compare different parts of the same section/chapter or maybe two different chapters/section? The editor can be split horizontally or vertically.
     You can also skip around your project/book. It remembers where you were in each section/chapter.


     Blocking out the world and all distractions can be done in Composition Mode. Any image that you have on your computer can be used. Or it can be blank or simple black.


     Have an idea for your story but you are busy working in email? Scrivener’s ‘Scratch Pad’ floats around your desktop. As long as Scrivener is open the Scratch Pad will be available.
     Like with most programs you can save your work, But here you can also ‘Back It Up’ and make ‘Snapshots.’ I use them this way; since I’m in the process of editing my work, before I make any changes to a section/chapter I take a Snapshot of it naming it “original.”After changes are made and I get feedback, I take another Snapshot naming it “1st Draft.” These are great because they can be rolled back allowing you to view or work on earlier versions.
     I recently discovered if you have dictation capability with your Operating System you will be able to use it with Scrivener.
     Synopsis, helps you write that dreaded synopsis. As long as you have been putting something in the synopsis area for each chapter/section…you didn’t?That’s OK you can tell Scrivener to auto-generate one. It will take the first bit of each chapter/section and place it into the synopsis area. Then you can compile for synopsis leaving you with a good starting place to finish that task.
     Compile, converts the work from Scrivener format into a format that anyone can read/use. Formats available: PDF, RTF, Word, Open Office, TXT, Finale Draft, ePub, Kindle, Ipage(docx), HTML, MultiMarkdow and Print. 
     Compile is a robust tool, allowing you to create your own Presets/templetes. That are formatted to meet any submission guidelines, or for the most picky of readers.
     Is Scrivener just for novels? No, there are also templates for screenplays, plays, lyrics, poems, miscellaneous and a blank page for you to do what ever you want to do. 
     More information can be found in Youtube tutorial videos, a great forum on Scrivener’s site. Gwen Hernandez, literally wrote the book on Scrivener, and I find her tips a gold mine. I too have a blog of Scrivener functionality called Scrivener tidbit.
     I hope this overview, of the program whet your appetite to try Scrivener for yourself. At least you now know what all the hoopla is about.   

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