My Ode to Scrivener: The Top Ten Reasons It’s So Great

How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways…

I am a Scrivener fangirl. My love of this beautiful piece of software is, perhaps, slightly extreme. For me, it is more than just the wonderful tool that helped me to write, edit, and format my novel. It is, in a lot of ways, the thing that transformed me from “I wish I was a writer” to “I am a writer.” My novel is just about finished—it will be available within the week (huzzah!). And I definitely owe a giant THANK YOU to the fine people at Literature & Latte.

Before Scrivener, I’d been trying to write seriously and consistently since…well, always. My progress ebbed and flowed. Writing a novel seemed a daunting thing; staring at that fearsome blank Word document is like gawking up at the tor of a mountain when you’re still all the way down in the valley. It feels unreachable.

Perhaps I would have overcome this without Scrivener. I like to think that I would have—writing is my passion, after all. But the fact of the matter is that my commitment to my craft occurred in conjunction with my purchasing of Scrivener.

So, without further ado, here are the top ten reasons why I love Scrivener:

10.) Text Statistics

Seeing the number of times each word is used can help cut down on repetition. During editing, I realized I used the word “buzz” bizarrely often. Once I discovered this, it took a few CMD+Fs and I was able to replace with synonyms. And now my novel is not a bee.  Which is obviously a good thing.

9.) Set Goals

“Project Targets” helps keep me on pace by tracking my progress.

8.) Robot Voice

Scrivener reads my book to me. During editing, listening to the little robot man read my book helped me spot tons of clunky sentences, repeated words, and typos.

7.) Document Notes

This is one of those super simple things that nonetheless made my life SO much easier. It’s the little notepad that resides at the bottom of the inspector. I was able to jot down notes for myself that pertained to each individual scene. Things like “double check the name of the guy who announces people at a ball,” or “alter so-and-so’s dialogue to better reflect his character.” I could also use it as a little copy and paste island. During editing, the document notes function was crucial to my process. I went through and meticulously noted exactly what had to be done, changed, or tweaked in each particular scene.

6.) Research 

The ability to keep research in the same file as the novel itself is remarkably convenient. I took time during the plotting stage to create detailed notes on the history of my fantasy world, on my characters’ backgrounds, on the names of the martial arts forms, etc. I made a detailed map and pulled it up frequently during the writing to track my character’s route and see what towns and landmarks they would pass. Having all of this readily available and well organized made the task of writing itself much less frazzling. At times, I felt like I was writing a novel based on actual history, because I consulted my notes just the way I’d consult resources while writing a research paper.

5.) Labeling

Scrivener offers a host of ways to keep a work-in-progress well documented and labeled. I am able to ascertain, with a just a glance, what draft certain scenes are on (to-do, first draft, revised draft, etc). But that’s really just where it starts. With custom meta-data and keywords, I can label each scene based on characters who appear, point-of-view, setting, or subplot. I can then effortlessly compare scenes that feature the same character or take place in the same location.

4.) Split View

The split-view feature is so simple and obvious, and yet absolutely essential. Early on, I was able to keep notes or research open on one half of the screen while the other half was in cork-board mode. During writing, I could cross reference between chapters. Or I could keep my map open to check place names and spellings, or character notes to verify eye color. During editing, I was able to use the split view as a to-do list on one side of the screen. I could compare different versions of the same document.

3.) Compiler

Once my novel was written, I was thrilled to discover that the program that helped me write the thing also made formatting a breeze. It took me a little while to wrap my head around the compiler, but once I understood how it worked I was able to effortlessly create a mobi, epub, and PDF version, as well as a .docx version to send to my editor. The Compiler is wonderfully customizable. I wanted to add some professional touches to help my ebook stand out. I added images for scene breaks and visually appealing labels for chapters and parts.

2.) Index Cards

The ability to view the document in the form of index cards makes the planning process so much easier! There is a visual element to this that renders me downright giddy. I was able to swap scenes around effortlessly, which when writing a multiple view-point novel is invaluable. The cork-board transformed the book from a hot mess that existed only in my head, to a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces I could play around with. Amazing!

1.) Break it up!

Rather than writing my novel all in one loooonnng document, or having a slew of separate documents to sift through, Scrivener gives me the ability to work in chunks while still keeping all my chapters in the same place  I can easily flip back and forth between chapters, but while I’m working I can focus JUST of the scene at hand. Writing a novel is scary. Writing a scene is simple. Looking at the document this way made writing a book so much more doable.

So there you have it! For anyone who is serious about writing, the expense is 100% worth it in my opinion. I wouldn’t write without it.

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