#WriteTip: Why Scrivener is the Best Thing to Have Ever Happened to Me

Sam av

I’ve been hyping this program for quite a long time now, and it’s TIME. It is time for me to tell you why I love this program so much.

Scrivener is a word processor (think like Microsoft Word) specifically aimed at novelists, though it also has its uses for journalists, bloggers, students, professionals, etc. For anyone that is planning on writing a long project, this program is indispensable. Of course, there are a few comparable programs out there, but for ease of use and ‘bang for your buck,’ my opinion is that Scrivener is King.

The reasons for this?

  • It’s incredibly easy to use
  • You can import existing files to start using it mid-project
  • It’s fantastic for chapter and scene separations
  • You can drag and drop entire sections in seconds
  • It will format your book for you for eBook, paperback, or other formats
  • It’s remarkably CHEAP for how powerful it is
  • You can get it 50% off for winning NaNoWriMo

How I Used to Write

When I first started writing, I, like many writers, started with Microsoft Word. But as you probably already know, Microsoft Office is very expensive. Furthermore, for writing novels it’s actually not very good. You have to become a formatting expert and know how to use pretty much every feature of Word, for starters. And, writing chapters is a total pain in the ass. Either you write the entire book on one document with section breaks – which bogs down the program and makes it difficult to use – or you make a new document for every chapter – which makes it difficult to edit, compile, etc.

My workaround was to combine the use of Word and Excel. I’d use Excel to do all of my planning and keep the novel organized, kind of like a map of the novel. And then I’d make a separate document in Word for each chapter. As I’ve said, this is a total pain. Google Documents made it slightly easier, as I could hyperlink my documents in the spreadsheet, so I could use it as a launch pad for the novel and go anywhere I wanted to fairly quickly.

Why Scrivener Blew My Mind

Scrivener was both of the things that I needed in one place. I watched a friend drag and drop a whole chapter from one place to another and my jaw dropped. I was already sold. She outlined the whole book with shell chapters, wrote the descriptions on the index cards marking each one, and then wrote within them. If I decide later that I want to move a scene, a chapter, etc, I can just grab that and move it – drag and drop. The sidebar containing the chapters became my Excel spreadsheet. The window for writing became the Word document.

Better yet, I could load up pictures to the Research section for inspiration, as well as upload or fill in sheets for every character and setting, which I was also using separate documents for in Word and Excel.

The Best Part, and Why This is Totally Worth the $40

Scrivener formats your book for you.

If you’ve never tried to format, it takes a ridiculously long time and a LOT of patience. Endless tweaking, just to get it to look right. Having a program take your words and doll them up for you is fantastic. It only takes a few seconds, and it will put my novel into whatever format I want, whether it be ebook or print paperback or just a PDF for sending to friends.

Complaints

I have trouble with simple formatting features like setting a permanent font and page indents. It seems like mine differ from project to project. It’s probably just something I haven’t figured out quite yet.

Frankie and I have also run into some issues like setting ‘Gutter Margins,’ which are margins that are wider where the book’s spine would be. These are staggered, meaning some pages have a wide left margin and some have a wide right margin, and Scrivener will do them for you…but only if you have the Mac version apparently. Frankie runs Windows, so sometimes she and I find some differences in what we are dealing with, and my Mac version seems to be slightly superior.

I also have not quite figured out Front Matter, but after watching this video I’m going to end with, I think I have a lead on how to figure this out.

Conclusion

If you win NaNoWriMo, you can get this for 50% off. That’s $20. It’s so worth it. Some people don’t love Scrivener, but at least 90% of the people I talk to who have tried it are rabid fans of the program (myself included). I love how organized the program is, and how much of the more nitty gritty legwork the program will do for you, like formatting.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is starting to take themselves seriously. There’s a certain air of sobriety that happens when Scrivener boots up.

It’s like, “Yeah…I bought a program because I’m going to write the fuck out of this book and things are starting to get serious.”

Because you just bought a program whose sole purpose is for you to finish this thing. You’re going to love it, though. Sometimes I just boot this up and stare at it, admiring the raw beauty of it.

It’s not because I can’t think of what to write, I swear.


S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!

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About oneofthedragons

Samantha K. Balk and F. R. Donaldson met on An Archive of Our Own, one of the many fanfiction sites online, when Sam asked Frankie to illustrate the fanfiction that would one day lead to Sam's first novel. They've been friends ever since! This blog was created as a way to share the oftentimes difficult journey any new author experiences on the uncomfortable quest of an introvert for attention to his or her most personal work. It is meant to remind you that authors don't just appear fully fledged like a George R. R. Martin, that all of us start out unsure and feeling inadequate. Feel free to ask us anything. Sam: sammykaye9@gmail.com Frankie: reluctant.fraggle@gmail.com

Posted on December 10, 2016, in #WriteTip and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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  1. Pingback: #WriteTip: Keeping Track of Your Series |

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