Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Ode to Scrivener

If I were asked which tool I find most important for writing, my answer would be my laptop. Duh, right? But my second most important tool, the one that makes it possible for me to happily plan, outline, draft, and revise, isn't such a duh.

It's Scrivener, a word processing program from Literature and Latte.


Scrivener is for writing, first and foremost, but it's also a management system for research, notes, and drafts. Like many people, I used to make notes and outline on paper or on my computer and then type my pages and do my editing in Microsoft Word.

Now my writing process has changed. I do all of my drafting in Scrivener, and then I export my work to Word.

Scrivener has virtual notecards, so the first thing I do when I outline a new story is to enter a brief description of each scene. Here's a screenshot of the notecards for my current novel:

From this screen, I can move the cards around and check out the flow of the novel before I start writing a word.

Then comes the writing. Scrivener lets you break down the draft into bite-size chunks or scenes, which works fantastically well for me. Each scene has its own notecard (visible on the right side in the drafting view), and each scene can be grouped into a chapter folder.

I find this chunk-by-chunk method a great deterrent to writer's block. Knowing I'm sitting down to write a finite scene is so much easier than trying to face endless blank pages.

Scrivener is also great for editing. Before, I would save each new draft with a name like "LongTimers v3.28." I ended up with dozens of files and the job of remembering which one had that descriptive paragraph I cut but wanted to put back. But Scrivener has this awesome feature called snapshots. When the little camera button at the bottom right of the screen is pressed, it saves a draft that's linked to that scene. I can switch to other incarnations of the scene easily from the same page.

The program also has folders and files set up for notes and research, which is fantastic for speculative fiction writers. I have all of my character and worldbuilding notes organized in one place--alternate timelines, character bios and backstories, continuity notes, and science notes. I even have a file of ideas for possible future books.

My Notes section of the current novel. I've got a lot of stuff in here!

There are tons of features I haven't mentioned (the ability to set word count targets for daily writing, outline view, flags and markers that can be used to indicate character arcs or multiple POVs, to name a few).

But in the interests of space saving, I'll close with this: Scrivener is only $45, it's available for both Mac and PC, and there's a free 30-day trial offered on the Literature and Latte website. I don't have any affiliation with the site, but I'm a very satisfied user. Try it. I have a feeling you'll like it.


  1. I'm glad someone is as in love with Scrivener as I am! Seriously, I can't imagine how frustrating it would be write in a regular word processing software now. Organizing everything by scene makes everything so much easier to keep track of.

    1. I couldn't agree more! I had to write on my iPad while away on a trip and no Scrivener made me a very sad puppy. I don't know how I did it before.