A Testimonial – How Scrivener Changed My Life

So, I was reading TL Conway’s blog today and she was describing the kind of organized disorder of her inspiration notebook. It sounded to me like she kind of thinks/plans like I do – in no particular order. She’s got a method for keeping herself organized and finding ideas later, but I have really struggled to do the same thing. I just can’t stick to a system and I’ve got these random notes all over the place and I just couldn’t stand it anymore! My natural disorganization was making my writing life untenable, especially since my current project required a lot of research on a lot of topics.

So, I tried Scrivener. And I fell in love. By the way, you can download a 30 day free trial so there’s no risk.

I should mention at this point that I haven’t actually gone through the tutorials for this program yet. I might have glanced at the set-up instructions when I started, but after that I just started clicking on stuff. I found it really intuitive and the way the sections work just makes sense for how I work – your milage may vary.

There are four main sections in the left-hand navigation bar: manuscript, characters, places, research. There’s also a template and trash section, but those aren’t really “working” areas for me. You can add both folders and individual documents into each of these sections using either the drop-down menus or handy buttons at the bottom. If you click on the main tab for each section, you get a “cork board” that shows a little card for each folder/document. You can move these around, color code them, put stamps on them (I just learned about this part) and probably other stuff, too. Here’s a screen shot of the Manuscript section of my current project:












As you can see, the cards correspond to the Binder window. Each card defaults to the first sentence of the linked document, but that can be changed easily. Then you can add a synopsis of each document for quick reference. You can see the “First Draft” stamp that I randomly added to my “slush” card for effect. My “Other Materials” card has other written stuff that isn’t part of the manuscript. I’ve used a card for each chapter, but you could do it scene by scene, too. And I saw a suggestion a few days ago to make a stamp for “action”, “exposition”, etc and label each card to help check for pacing. I love that these cards can be moved around, I can make notes about revisions or which chapters are done or whatever and I can see that easily when I check the cork board. I’m a visual kind of person and the labeling options appeal to my disorganization and tendency to forget things.

Then there’s the “Characters” and “Places” sections of the binder, which are set up the same as the “Manuscript” section. There is a basic character template in the program and I used it to make sketches for each character. It includes name, appearance, occupation, role in story, etc and the template can be adjusted and customized however you want. I think there is also a “places” template, but I didn’t use it.


I particularly like that I can add pictures to the “Places” folders – I really struggled to write places effectively in my first novel and I’m having far less trouble now. You an actually have more than one thing open at once so I can have the picture open while I write the scene with the place!

But my favotite part, the part that’s saving my sanity, it the “Research” section. Again, you can fill it with either documents or folders, so I can organize to my heart’s content. And you can import pictures or full websites! And you can have any of these open at the same time as the manuscript:

Ah… So good. So exactly how I think and work. Now, there’s lots of other cool stuff like formatting the manuscript for various e-pub platforms, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. I have also used it for non-fiction projects and find it just as wonderful. One big caveat, though – it’s only available in beta version for Windows. Whoops. There are some other great screen shots on the Literature and Latte website, and you can see more info on Scrivener’s features and download the free trial. I hope that was helpful and good luck!

















Filed under Research, Writing Tools

9 responses to “A Testimonial – How Scrivener Changed My Life

  1. Unlike you, I don’t usually need much organization; I pretty much just keep things in my head.

    A current project of mine, however, requires tons of characters, and while I’m currently using Yarny to get them all down, it’s really irritating that no writing software seems to let you add relations to your characters–essentially, give you a view where all your characters are in a circle, and colored lines or whatever would show you each character’s stance on the other. THAT is something I need.

    But enough about me; this is a comment! Really great testimonial, and I’d be sold if I had a Mac and had money for this kind of thing.

  2. I love Scrivener. I love it SO much. I don’t even know how I wrote without it.

    The only thing that would make it better is an iPad app for mobility.

    Gah, I can’t even. It’s just so amazing.


    • I know. I downloaded the free trial and messed around with it for a couple of hours and when my husband got home I started gushing like a fool about all the stuff I’d accomplished. I am such a distractible, disorganized person and I can’t even verbalize how much time Scrivener saved me. Poor PC users…

  3. Sasha Knight

    Scrivener is awesome! There are so many features I have yet to tap into. Every writer with a mac should have Scrivener.

  4. Goodness, you’re speedy! I love this post–thank you so much! As I read through it, I can see so much potential, just the character section alone is great. Alas, I still have the older version (1.0) from NaNo two years ago. But seeing all these amazing improvements only adds more fuel to the motivational fire. I need to get the upgrade, whatever it is for Mac right now.

    Okay, so far you’ve convinced me to stay w/Scrivener. 🙂 I’ll be doing NaNo by hand since I’ll be in IRE but I hope to get some things typed into a Google Doc, which I can then import into Scrivener. In theory, if everything goes according to my master plan (HA!), I should be able to hit the ground running when I return.

    Thanks again for sharing the screen shots. Like you, I’m a visual person so it was great to actually SEE how someone else organizes their Scrivener!

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