What is Scrivener – the search for a writers tool?
We normally assume that Microsoft Word is the tool to use when we’re writing, certainly if you’re in the Microsoft platform and certainly for a good while it was, but it’s got its limitations, particularly if you’re working on a big document.
I started searching for writers tools, I just went to Google one day and did writer’s tools, came across a whole bunch of them. There was one called Scrivener, which caught my attention. Scrivener is available on both Mac and PC, it was one of the few that was available on both platforms.
The first thing I couldn’t really appreciate was the price, it’s something like 40 pounds or something and it’s an amazing tool, it’s probably the best 40 pounds I have ever spent.
More than a word document
What it really does is allows you to write whatever you like without worrying about the section that it’s in so you can build up a document. Think of it this way, in Microsoft Word, you might have lots of mini documents in a directory, and then you have to go through them and work out where they are and edit them, etc to produce one big document.
Scrivener is actually a package where you create a manuscript and then lots of sub-documents below it and you can move the sub documents around. So if you think, “Oh, that page should really be higher up.” or, “It doesn’t fit there.” or, “I should split this into two.” You can easily split it into multiple documents and just manage the whole development of your manuscript.
Use it to write a book and blog posts
This was so useful when I was doing my master’s dissertation, which is a chunky document when you do something of that size. When I came to write my book, which was eight or nine times the size of my master’s dissertation, it was invaluable.
I would have never, ever finished the book in Word. A couple of things it doesn’t do is format your document as well as Word does. So you can export your manuscripts. In fact, you can select which individual documents you want to compile into an output file and then that output file goes into, you can import it into Word and then finish it off in Word.
So it’s a very powerful, highly productive tool, and I can see an awful lot of uses for it. So moving forward, I’m going to a Scrivener project, which is my blog.
All the blog posts will be individual documents, and I can see the word count and set myself a target of how many words it’s going to be and see the progress towards it.
I’ll build up a library of documents over time so it’s going to be a real core content management thing for me to create documents and also to later compile together.
Now, if you think of it this way, when you’re writing a blog, a lot of people just do a random post because it takes their fancy at a particular point in time.
What I think is a better way of creating good content is to have a story to tell over a period of time so if your blog posts contribute to, let’s just say one or two pages of a book every time you write something, and it builds up over time.
If you’re storing them in a tool like Scrivener, it makes it very easy to later on go and develop that into a book, and that’s the way that I have been writing my second book.
Who else using Scrivener?
It’s used by novelists, anybody who’s writing a large document, it’s used by academics because obviously, you’re managing documents, and really anybody who wants to write and wants to manage it in a lot more efficient way than you do it in Word.
There are an awful lot of bloggers that are now starting to use Scrivener, from what I’ve seen on the support forums because it allows you to manage the document, the production of your document and your content and everything’s in one place.
You’re not searching through hundreds of directories to try and find things, it’s all there. So really, if you are writing anything longer than a letter, then Scrivener is for you if you’re in the regular document production business.
If that’s part of what you do, then Scrivener is a tool that you should certainly look at. For 45, 50 pounds, whatever it is, it is a very good investment. Obviously there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but once you’re into it, you will not want to use anything else. I’m probably using about 40% of its capability.
Scrivener in action tips – get the motivation to write
You can create a manuscript, break it up into chapters, sections, subsections quite easily and then you can go and fill in those sections.
If you set yourself a target word count, for example, chapter two is going to be 3000 words for example, and you’re going to break it down into five or six subsections, you can set maybe 200 words for section one, 300 for section two etc.
You can see your progress as you’re writing, so it’s kind of a motivational tool for writing as well. Now you can do that in Word with the word count feature, but Scrivener manages it a lot better and it makes it visible.
There’s a little graph you can see to see your progress and it starts off as red, moves to orange and then ends up as green, which is quite good. You can also see the word count as you’re typing in the bottom right-hand corner.
It also allows you to organise your plot, or your script, or your story using cards. There’s a corkboard, I think it’s called, where you can plot your ideas out and structure your thoughts before you write, which actually is quite an important thing to be able to do.
Nobody really wants to start with a blank piece of paper and go, “Oh, what do I write now?” So if you can organise your thoughts first and see them visually, then when you get to writing it motivates you to write.
I’ve also used it for writing website copy. So I’ll structure my website in Scrivener because really a website is a collection of documents, and those documents have to take a visitor on a journey, and that journey has to be articulated, and so you take them through that. You can build up your story in Scrivener so you have, for example, your about page.
If I want a whole section on the about page and the sections that go on the about page, then I’ve got all my copy in one place, same for the home page, the product pages and everything else, all the copies in one place. If the website ever goes down and I lose everything, at least I’ve got the copy, which is the most important piece of any website, I would argue.
Obviously the technical piece to make it look nice, well you can recreate that. A Web designer can do that relatively easily, but the copy is the key piece. So I guess that’s the key features that I use with it.
I know other users who write novels and are very prolific writers, use a lot more of the features. And there’s plenty of videos and stuff on it, and the help is really good, and it should be at least 10 times the price for what they offer.