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Recently, my writing has reached new levels of success. I am writing more. I am staying more organized. And I owe it all to one amazing writing tool.
You’ve probably heard of it. Wondered if it is worth all the hype. Maybe you already have it.
If you don’t know what it is or if it’s right for you, I’ll help you figure that out. If you already own it and love it, stay with me. This is just the first post in a series of Scrivener tutorials, each highlighting a different tool or aspect of Scrivener. So even if you already have it, you may be able to learn how to use different features or be inspired to use features in new ways.
I haven’t had Scrivener for very long, and I’m still learning the ins and the outs, but I’m already obsessed with it. I’m even using it as I type this post. I know I have a lot more to learn about Scrivener, and I plan on learning about all of its amazing features and secrets and customizations. I’d love to share an epic post that goes into gushing detail about every useful feature, and maybe someday I will, but not today. I just can’t wait to share this amazing tool that has changed my writing for the better.
Think of this post as a what you need to know to get started. I’ll be doing more detailed tutorials as I learn about and discover my favorite features.
So let’s get started!
Is Scrivener Right for You? Everything You Need to Know
Scrivener is Useful for All Writing
I mean this wholeheartedly.
I would have used Scrivener in high school or college if I’d known about it back then. It can easily be a useful tool to write essays and research papers. Scrivener is a great tool for poets. It can be used to organize an anthology or collection. Same for a collection of short stories. Scrivener has dedicated project templates for Fiction, Non-fiction, and Screenplay writers, too. So if that is what you write, automatic templates are built into Scrivener just waiting for you!
It could even be used to organize the events of one’s life for a memoir or biography. I’m using Scrivener to write this post, and I keep all my posts organized in Scrivener. So it’s also great for bloggers. Scrivener also stores audio files, so transcribers would benefit from Scrivener. I bet even teachers could write and organize lesson plans in Scrivener. Scrivener also has cookbook templates if you want to create one of those!
There is little, if anything, that another word processor like MS Word or Google Docs can do that Scrivener can’t. And what Scrivener can do easily makes up for any features it may not have.
Some of you may be asking, what if I prefer to write by hand? I know some writers work that way, and I totally respect that approach. Scrivener may not be for you. But, maybe it still is. It could still be a way to organize research and other information. We’ll get more into this, but Scrivener makes it incredibly easy to file and organize pictures, research from the Internet, and other types of files. And when you do decide to transfer your writing from paper to screen (for editing, to self-publish, etc.) Scrivener might be just the tool you need.
How to Get Started with Scrivener
First, you need to decide if you want Scrivener for Mac or Windows. Then you need to decide if you qualify for the education license, which slightly discounts scrivener. It is available for teachers and students.
If you want to walk through this with me, you can buy Scrivener now or you can get a free trial which I’ll also talk more about at the end of the post. I’ll also include screenshots, so don’t feel like you need to make the purchase if you aren’t ready. We’ll also be talking about why Scrivener might not be right for you.
Once you get Scrivener, the first thing you’ll need to do is import an existing WIP or start a new project.
If you want to import a file, you can click File—>Import—>Files (or ctrl+Shift+J). Hovering over Import will also give you the option to import web pages, other scrivener projects, and several other files, but most likely you’ll want a word file or something of that sort.
If you want to start a new project, click File—>New Project. This will open a menu where you can select the project right for you.
Okay, now that you have your existing project or your new project, let’s talk features.
Basic Features of Scrivener
In this post, we are only going to discuss the Binder, Editor, and Inspector.
The binder is basically File Explorer, but it’s always visible and accessible. It makes it so easy to organize your writing with folders and subfolders or subdocuments. You could organize a novel with a folder for each chapter and subdocuments for each scene. It’s also incredibly simple to find the document you are looking for. I always had the hardest time remembering where I saved my MS Word documents. My filing system was a mess, and I had a hard time hunting down old files or saved research. With Scrivener, everything is all in one place!
You can also drag and rearrange the order of folders and documents. So, if you want to switch the order of scenes or chapters, it’s as easy as dragging the files into the correct place.
Typically the binder has a main folder that holds everything, a research folder, and a trash folder. But you can set up as many files and folders as you want.
I also love the binder’s icon feature. It’s helped me organize in a very visual way. There are so many different icon options to choose from!
The Editor is much like a normal word processor. You can pick your font, size, and spacing. It has bold, underline, and italics. You can control text alignment, color, and highlighting. You can even add tables and bullet points or numbering.
In the Editor, you can also choose among several style presets such as title, block quote, body, etc.
Perhaps the feature I’m most excited to use in the Editor is the Split Screen. I think the split screen will come in handy when I want to simultaneously look at research and my WIP. Or two scenes that are related. Or you could have a picture or saying that motivates you.
I prefer a horizontal split, but you can also split it vertically.
I’ll be doing a whole post on the Inspector so I won’t say much now, especially since you can choose to close and ignore it if you want. But it’s basically where you can add comments and footnotes, see the index card for the current file, and set labels and statuses to a document. I love the index cards, and use the comments all the time. I haven’t spent as much time with labels and statuses, but I already have a few ideas how I’ll use them.
Why Scrivener Might Not Be For You
I am super impressed with Scrivener and very happy with my purchase. But I definitely understand that it isn’t for everyone. So let’s talk about some of the drawbacks.
There is definitely a learning curve. It’s a new program with a lot of features, so it is going to take some time to get used to. I’m still learning new functions and finding new features almost daily. And sometimes I have to look up how to do something in the Scrivener tutorial or online. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of learning a new program, I don’t recommend buying Scrivener.
Because of the vast amount of features, I definitely don’t think I’ll use all of them. Some of them simply don’t interest me. Some of them don’t seem applicable to my style of writing. But I figured I’d use enough features to make the purchase worth it. If you don’t think you’ll use many of the features, because you don’t want or need them, Scrivener probably isn’t for you.
Maybe the features seem interesting, but you are worried they will distract you while you write. This is a very valid concern! Nobody wants to write distracted. That’s not as bad as distracted driving, but still not the ideal writing situation! 😉 If you think all the features will distract you, you can write in Scrivener’s full-screen mode. But it’s definitely a valid reason to think before you buy.
I’ve also had the occasional formatting issue when taking my writing out of Scrivener. You can usually cut and paste, but if you want to guarantee that formatting will be preserved, it is important to export any finished document. Once I figured that out, I stopped having formatting issues.
Be sure to check back for detailed posts on my favorite features.
Still not convinced? That’s fine! I’m very careful before I make a purchase, so I understand if you want to be thorough. Luckily, Scrivener offers a 30 day, non-consecutive trial. That means you can use it for three days, stop because you fall ill with the flu, and come back a week later and still have 27 days in your trial. With the trial, I completed their in-depth tutorial, and that was all I needed in order to know I had to have this software. There is a quick tutorial as well, but I highly recommend going through the full one either with the trial or once you buy it.