Scrivener review: four screens

Should I buy Scrivener? A Scrivener Review

I was able to get a trial of Scrivener during the latest NanoWriMo. If you who haven’t come across it, Scrivener is a writing programme created especially for writers. After using for a month, I am impressed with it, so I have put together a quick Scrivener review. If you’re considering buying a copy yourself, do have a read before you do.

(A quick note: some of the links on this page are affiliate links. You can see more information here on how I use affiliates.  I would never recommend something that I don’t use or think would be useful to my readers. I love you all too much).

Everyone seems to love it

A lot of people on podcasts and writing forums seem to use Scrivener. They’re also quite happy to let you know about it. Therefore, before I tried it I knew quite a bit about the program. But I’m always a little apprehensive about buying something when there’s another, free option on the table. Until now, I’ve been using Word (or OpenOffice) for my writing.

After using Scrivener for a month I decided to buy a copy. The Scrivener review on this page, as you may guess, is my opinion after using the programme for a few weeks. I’m looking to make the best of the it though – if anyone knows any features I’ve missed then do let me know, and I’ll update this review.

An intimidating start

The first thing that strikes you about Scrivener is the different layout to a standard word processing document. When I loaded up the programme for the first time I was quite intimidated. Why would I spend time learning something new, when I could spend my time writing instead? The publishers have some excellent videos that really help with this though. After a quick look at their YouTube page I was ready to have a proper go at it.

Well-structured arguments

Scrivener cork boardI love structure. I love being able to play around with a story (or a blog post). Although sometimes it’s great to ignore it and write whatever you want, in whatever order you want, if you want an audience to follow your story, being able to play with structure is very important.

Scrivener allows you to do this with ease.

I think the reason that Scrivener is so intimidating to the uninitiated is because it is designed to be as adaptable as possible. You can break your text down into chapters, scenes or (should you be so inclined) paragraphs. You can then create separate notes for each.

For someone like me, who loves to mix timelines and stories it is perfect. I was able to organise my book exactly how I wanted. I knew that I wanted it to be 2 stories set alongside each other. By using the layout editor I was able to move the chapters around as needed and line them up.

In the past, I’ve only ever written in one, long, meandering word document. Moving chapters is a nightmare (one of my scripts in the past was better titled ‘copy and paste fail). The folder system within Scrivener is an absolute revelation to me. By dividing everything up into smaller pieces I was able to concentrate on the chapter at hand and make sure it was a self-contained little story itself.

Inspirational targeting

It might be a small thing, but I loved the ability to set targets within Scrivener. It is a small thing, and I’m sure it’s available on other programmes. But, as this is a blog about being a productive writer, this seems like a good place to point this out.

When I fell behind during NanoWriMo I was able to adapt the standard word count to give me a bigger target to aim for. Conversely, when I reached the end of the month and was ahead of what was needed, I could reduce it before I started writing to give myself a little break. The little bar turns from red to orange to green. By writing in Scrivener, rather than Word, I was able to immediately see my word count go up, and the sense of satisfaction that I got from that was huge!

Showing character

One of the things I am really bad at is keeping my characters consistent. This is never more evident than in my first draft. It’s really easy for me to add mannerisms or descriptions to a character in one chapter before adding something contradictory in the next one.

Scrivener stopped me getting to carried away by having an area where I could add photos, descriptions and mannerisms for each character. Photos are great for me. If I see an image of someone I want a character to look like, I find it much easier to describe a stock footage person, or someone from the news, than to create someone in my head. By adding a photo I am then able to keep referring back to that when I’m writing them.

Of course, I could do this within Word, creating a separate document for each character and adding the same information. However, what’s great about Scrivener is that it lets you put all this in the same file, with just a simple click to flick to it from any point in your writing. Sure, it might feel like procrastination, but at least it’s procrastination with research. (If you think that research is taking over your writing time, I have some advice on how to avoid that).

Location scout

Scrivener also lets you do the same thing for scenes. If you are looking for somewhere to describe, or want to add pictures, you can copy and paste until your heart’s content.

Bring it all back in

Compile using ScrivenerWhen I got to my 50,000 words, I needed to bring everything together into a single document. Scrivener did this with ease, bringing everything into one place and allowing me to save it in a number of formats. When creating something for kindle publishing, this should make a lot of things a lot easier.

So much to learn

As I mentioned at the start, I’ve used only my first impressions of Scrivener for this review. There are a number of layers of detail that I could delve in to, and probably will in later posts. It’s both the best and worst thing about the program. It’s both the most in depth, and sometimes overwhelming, program I use.

Pick it up

After my little Scrivener review, if you’d like more information you can find it on Literature and Latte’s website here. If you’re so excited you’re going to pick up a copy, you can order here (Windows) or here (Apple).

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