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Scrivener: The Writing Software For Writers

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Scrivener Mug

The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why use another writing software? Isn’t a word processor, like Microsoft Word, sufficient?

I, myself, have been using Microsoft Word for almost 25 years now for my writing… until 3 weeks ago.

While I was surfing the web, I read about Scrivener in a blog post. I was impressed, especially because many published authors recommended it. I downloaded the trial version, played around with it, and liked what I saw. In fact, it is without exaggeration that I say that I fell in love with Scrivener! A few days later I bought it. (Actually, I asked my wife, Jojang, to give it to me as my birthday present).

Scrivener Interface

Scrivener Interface

We can’t deny that word processors have revolutionized the way we write. But they have one major limitation: they assume that we work in a linear fashion. Basically, they assume that when we write, we know how our document will begin and end. Also, they assume that we will start from the beginning and continue through to the end. This may well be the case for short-form writing. But for long-form writing (novels, dissertations, manuals, legal briefs, research papers, essays, screenplays, etc.) — this is not the most effective way to go about it.

Enter Scrivener. Unlike your typical word processor, it makes writing, especially long-form writing, a much more manageable and enjoyable task.

How?

By assuming that many of us write in a creative, non-linear fashion. For one thing, it doesn’t require us to know how our text will begin or end. For another, it doesn’t require us to write from beginning to end. In fact, we can start from anywhere we like. And here lies the power of Scrivener: we can divide our text into small manageable sections, and arrange and rearrange them as often as we like to, without leaving Scrivener. In the words of Erez Zuckerman, technology writer for PCWorld:

Scrivener revolves around a single concept: No matter how massive a text is, it’s invariably made up of smaller parts. A chapter isn’t as scary to write as a whole book; a single paragraph is even more approachable.

Here’s how it works.

Scrivener Corkboard Mode

Scrivener Corkboard Mode

Scrivener uses the “corkboard” metaphor to give a bird’s-eye view of what you’ve written. Each section of your document has an index card attached to it. Among other things, you can write a synopsis and monitor the status of each index card.

In the corkboard mode, you can rearrange the index cards around. This makes it easier to organize your text. Needless to say, each index card is associated with a written text, which can be created by using Scrivener’s built-in editor. Double-clicking the small rectangle at the left-hand corner of the index card will drill down to the text associated with it.

Scrivener Outliner Mode

Scrivener Outliner Mode

Personally, I don’t use Scrivener’s corkboard that much. If you’re like me, you’ll like the outliner mode for organizing your document. The concept is the same to that of the corkboard. Only this time, instead of moving around your index cards, you work with your outline to rearrange the sections of your document. Also, by double-clicking each outline heading you can drill down to the text associated with it.

Scrivener Binder

Scrivener Binder

The binder in Scrivener is what keeps all the parts of your document together. (You can find them in the section of your binder titled “Draft”). Entries in your binder are linked to the index cards or outline headings. What’s more, a feature that I love in Scrivener is a section in the binder appropriately titled “Research,” where you can put all your research material – documents, web pages, images, audio, video, etc. There’s no need anymore to switch between multiple applications to refer to your research files.

We’ve only covered the basics and barely scratched the surface. Scrivener still has a lot of features, and it can sometimes feel like an overwhelmingly complex writing software. But don’t let it overwhelm you. If you keep in mind the basics, you can be up and running in less than an hour, especially if you watch this introductory tutorial video, which covers all the main features of Scrivener:

Scrivener Basics: An Introduction to Scrivener

By the way, Scrivener is available for both Mac and Windows computers.

— Matt

Official Website:

Literature and Latte

Reviews:

The New York Times

Our redeemer is Scrivener… software that jibes with the way writers think. As its name makes plain, Scrivener takes our side; it roots for the writer and not for the final product… The happy, broad-minded, process-friendly Scrivener software encourages note-taking and outlining and restructuring and promises all the exhilaration of a productive desk… Scrivener, then, is one of us, at home in the writer’s jumpy emotional and procedural universe.
—Virginia Hefferman

PCPRO

A brilliant, flexible package for serious writers, which helps manage the creative process from start to finish; it’s great value too.
—Tom Arah

MacWorld

I’ve dumped Microsoft Word in favour of a hit cult app called Scrivener… Scrivener is a shrewd collection of tools that everyone will appreciate equally, but exploit differently. It’s the perfect word processor for people like me, who write weekly and monthly columns for a variety of publications and websites. To a pal of mine, it’s the perfect word processor for writing a very complicated science-fiction novel in which a large cast engages in complicated schedules and agendas that all have to be tracked and coordinated with each other through the story. To another, it’s the perfect tool for writing comic-book scripts. You see, Scrivener isn’t an oddball niche ‘alternative’ product. It’s poised to start a genuine revolution.
—Andy Ihnatko

Organizing Creativity

[Scrivener] is simply an awesome, awesome, really awesome program. No kidding, I wrote ‘Organizing Creativity’ with it, which was over 400 pages long, had 138,105 words and 785,500 characters, and it was still very easy to find the thread or specific spots where I wanted to change something… when it comes to actual writing, Scrivener is just the reigning and undefeated champion.
—Daniel Wessel

 

 

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Written by MattAndJojang

July 7, 2014 at 4:25 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I’ve read about Scrivener, and had it recommended to me, but I’ve never really explored it. It just looked too confusing. Your post isn’t confusing at all, and lays it out in a way that makes the program seem appealing. Once I get caught up at work and have a little extra time to play around at the computer, I’m going to give it a look. Thanks!

    shoreacres

    July 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm

  2. You’re welcome, Linda.

    For the most part, I usually only use free and open-source software. I don’t really buy, much less rave about computer software. But I gladly did all of these things for Scrivener. 🙂

    You’re right, though. Because Scrivener is feature-rich, it could be overwhelming for some people. But remembering that it’s only a binder as well as a corkboard for the components of your document really helps a lot.

    Also, aside from Scrivener’s 10-minute video tutorial, I found the interactive tutorial that is bundled with Scrivener very helpful. The couple-of-hours investment you need to go through it is really worth it….

    — Matt

    MattAndJojang

    July 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

  3. My brother suggested I might like this blog.
    He was entirely right. This post truly made my day.
    You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info!

    Thanks!

    gorgeous wedding dress

    September 23, 2014 at 8:53 am

  4. Happy that you liked the post, gorgeous wedding dress. I myself got hooked on Scrivener. I’m a former I.T. professional. who’s been using (and even developing computer software) since the mid 80s. I’ve never been enamored with software the way I am with Scrivener. For almost 25 years now I’ve been using Microsoft Word. But now I’ve shifted to Scrivener . It’s really a much better software than Microsoft Word, especially for long-form writing.

    Thank you taking the time to visit our blog and for your kind words…

    –Matt

    MattAndJojang

    September 23, 2014 at 11:39 am


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