Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I've been promising a post on Scrivener for a while.

Last week I was adding a character into a chapter. I was trying to figure out how she'd enter the scene, so I jumped to a jpg map of the house I've created. Then I changed my screen view so I could see my chapter on the top of my screen, the house map on the bottom. Once I finished the scene, I pulled up my to-do list and crossed that item off. I did all of these things without ever exiting Scrivener, and without opening any other pieces of software. And it suddenly occurred to me: if it weren't for Scrivener, that would have taken twice as long.

I'm pretty stressed right now, overwhelmed with my revision... imagine where I'd be without Scrivener? A sea of sticky notes, pencil smears and piles of notebooks. And much much unhappier.

So what is Scrivener? It's a Mac program (sorry PC people!) designed specifically for writers. I can import text documents, images, and pdfs into folders. I have a folder for the novel itself, one for critiques I've received, one for resources, one for scenes and chapters I've cut. As I said above, I can manipulate the screen so I view two files at once. Scrivener also has a Full Screen mode that blacks out everything else (the internet, other files, Scrivener's menus) so I can concentrate solely on my text. I can tag characters and settings, I can mark a draft as rough, revised, or finished. For each file, I have a place to write notes, and I also have a notes section for the project as a whole. A feature called Snapshot lets me capture the text of a file, so I can rewrite without worrying I'll lose everything if I change my mind (and if I do I can revert back to my earlier version). I can view all of my chapters on the screen in front of me as note cards on a bulletin board (and move and switch them around, just like on a bulletin board, too).

I could go on and on and on. If you're interested, Scrivener has information on all of these features (with pictures) and more on their website.

Scrivener is like my brain. Or my personal assistant. Anything I think to upload is there, easy to find. Besides jpg maps of the house, I've included resources like a Chicago bus schedule, images of my characters, the first chapter of a book similar to Project Sparkle which has been a great inspiration (available for free online), a list of characters, links to online articles. As I told someone recently, if I were to imagine the perfect tool for my writing, Scrivener is pretty close to what I would have imagined. While I had to sit down with the tutorial and spend some extra time figuring out features, it has been fairly easy to learn. It's user friendly and does almost everything I can think to want. Plus, it can be used for any type of writing, academic, script, school.

You can download it online for a 30-day free trial. If you like it, it's available for purchase online at just under $40 (version 2.0 will be unveiled this fall). And no, I don't work for Scrivener, I have no affiliation with Scrivener. I had the trial version for three days before I bought the entire thing for embarking on Project Sparkle. It has streamlined and simplified my writing life. I'm totally 100% in love.


  1. And I'm totally 100% jealous! Thinking - is it worth buying a mac just for scrivener...

  2. Thank you for your blog Anne! Really appreciate you dedicating a post to Scrivener. Glad that it is aiding you through a stressful period. May the calm return soon. ;-)

    A note for Windows users; Scrivener for Windows is coming! You can join our relevant newsletter here:

    All the best,

    Scrivener, Literature & Latte

  3. Sue, I hope you see David's comment below yours. Looks like you're in luck! I was tempted to suggest buying the Mac, but then again, I'm a crazy Mac person. =)

    Thanks so much for your comment, David. I feel like I'm climbing my way, slowly but surely, back towards calm. =) And really really happy to rave about how much I love Scrivener.

    I'm sure you already know, but you're going to make a LOT of people very happy with the Windows version! Thanks for letting me and my readers know.

  4. How about Scrivener for iPad? Even a "lite" version would be very handy.

  5. Anne, I've been tempted by Scrivener, but I know Word so well that I keep telling myself it's just another toy. Yet everybody who has posted about it on the Blueboards rave about it. Are there any downsides at all?

  6. Anne, in my mind, comparing Word to Scrivener is like comparing Notepad to Word. It's apples and oranges. Scrivener does all the basics Word does, but a lot more besides. So I guess it's whether those extra functions seem useful to you. As for downsides... it's a little clunky at times in comparison to something that's gone through much more testing (like Word). The grammar check isn't as good. It took me a while to figure out exactly how to export something without having formatting problems. And of course, I do have to export anything I want to send to anyone because no one in my immediate circle uses Scrivener. But I think, like Word, if you're willing to learn how to use it properly, it works pretty well. Also, there's a users forum where people post questions. Actually, I find Word much more finicky in terms of things like formatting. And now that I have Scrivener, I hardly ever use it (why would I?).

    I really would encourage you to try the 30 day free trial. I mean, it's free! You could go through the tutorial in 30 minutes to an hour, see what options there are, have a play, and decide if it might work for you. I really did know right away that it would help organize my writing process tremendously. But if you're pretty organized already... maybe it wouldn't be so useful to you.


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