A Year of Scrivener

For several years I watched other writers worship at the Scrivener altar before I joined the congregation. Several things happened to move me in that direction. I was starting my new novel, and some messianic folks in Austin Novel in Progress testified as to their Scrivener experiences at a tent meeting. (OK, I made up the tent meeting part.)

Before I go further, what is Scrivener? It’s a comprehensive management software program for writers of just about anything: books, screenplays, academic journal articles, etc.

Scrivener, the product of a company called LIterature and Latte, puts everything at my fingertips and allows me to move scenes around with ease. When I’m at a place where I can’t recall a character’s age or hair color, I just click on the character sketch I created and there it is. In that character sketch, I sometimes include a picture to refer to. For example, I have a character who resembles Liam Neeson, but I can’t conjure pictures in my mind, so the visual reference is very useful.

I could go on and on about the powerful features of Scrivener. After using it for the past year, I must say it’s been well worth the steep learning curve. Like any religion, Scrivener has its own language: corkboard, inspector, compiler, etc. My advice to anyone who decides to join is to consult the tutorial videos on YouTube. I found them much easier to follow than Scrivener’s own tutorials. For starters, I recommend “Scrivener: A Quick Review of How It Works and Some of Its Coolest Features,” by Karen Prince.

Basic cost of the software is $45. Academics and students get s break. You can download a free trial at Literature and Latte. 

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.

Gift Ideas

Writers and readers on your gift list? See my post from a year ago, “Unplugged Gifts for Writers and Readers.”


Asking a writer what he feels about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.

–John Osborne

6 thoughts on “A Year of Scrivener

  1. Great blog, Leanna. I didn’t know you joined the Scrivener club. I’ve now written three novels utilizing Scrivener and I don’t know how I could live without it. Here’s a few features I find invaluable.

    Index cards – create a short summary for each scene and/or chapter and shuffle them around. It’s like index card all over the floor only their on your computer.
    Collections – putting a series of scenes and/or chapters together. For instance, if you have more than one POV character, you can create a “collection” for each one. Then you can read each character’s scenes in order to check for any inconsistencies.
    Document notes and chapter notes. These are a summary of facts for the whole book and/or a chapter – As you’re writing, you can check these out with a click to go back and forth.
    Research – save articles, photos, blogs and have them at your fingertips
    Character & setting sketches – describe each character and locale and refer to these descriptions at any time.

    I could go on and on and on.

    1. Good comparison: “like having index cards all over the floor.”
      Haven’t made use of Collections yet but I will.

  2. While working on my second novel in the “Pilot Error” series, fellow writers Lara Reznik and Brad Whittington began talking about Scrivener and how much they liked the features it offered. I decided to try it, and “backfilled” (for want of a better word) a complete first draft from Word.

    But when I ran into formatting problems and couldn’t solve them easily, I got impatient and put off getting to know the software, with the intention of using it from the git-go on the third novel. Full disclosure demands admitting that the decision had far more to do with my personal writer’s frustration than Scrivener’s utility.

    While the first page of the third novel in the series was still blank, I high-dived into Scrivener. Once I appreciated that it’s a project management tool, and that calling it a word-processing program totally misses the point, I can’t imagine not using it.

    The “secret” for me became readily apparent when the clue bird landed on my shoulder and tweeted, “Don’t try to learn how to use every feature from the beginning. It’s way too capable for that. Concentrate on one thing at a time and build on it.”

    Scrivener’s perceived value to me after using it for more than a year?


  3. I don’t use all the features of the program. It took time for me to recognize the value of the Corkboard and how to maximize its usefulness, which meant listing scenes in the Binder, not chapters, best served my purposes. Being able to see all the scenes “pinned” to the Corkboard enables me to detect continuity problems and move scenes around easily.

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