Initial Impressions of Scrivener

Many moons ago, I downloaded Scrivener and said I’d give it a lookover and then report my impressions of it. Well, life got a little insane, distractions occurred, etc… Admittedly, I fell back into the familiar of using MS Word when I wrote also.

Side note here for new readers; every bit of creative writing I do, as well as some other work gets done offline first and then posted to the blog or other sites. That way I have master or backup copies of my stories. Admittedly, some of my posts are seat of the pants work though.

Getting back on track, I have started looking Scrivener over more carefully as I start to write. I’ve wanted something that lets me plan more carefully, etc… since as my writing is slowly maturing, I’m moving away from seat of the pants storytelling to plotting and planning. So what have I found?

First, Scrivener has a fairly nice tutorial to get you familiar with the program. HOWEVER, I immediately got pulled away from the computer when I first opened Scrivener months ago. Somehow the hands on document that went with the tutorial went poof. Probably a glitch on my end vs a bug with Scrivener. It has slowed my learning down though. The tutorial is supposed to take 2 hours total and “make you a Scrivener aficionado” when you’re finished.

Best advice; make sure you’ve got time to work through the tutorial before you fire it up, even if you plan on taking short breaks while leaving the computer running.

Even being slightly hamstrung in learning, I’ve noticed alot of nice features in Scrivener already. Most of them revolve around note taking and organization of secondary or supporting material for your writing project. You can even store pictures and such in the project’s media folder. Editing notes, a corkboard to “storyboard” your project. There are even “cards” to keep notes on characters and places involved in your story.

Think that last part is not important? Akira Toriyama, the creator of the Dragon Ball series of TV shows and manga (comic books) has had to be reminded by his crew that he created certain characters already or had an event take place or power manifest in a character. He’s not dumb or senile by any means either. He just has too many past and present projects.

So let’s be real. Do you NEED Scrivener? Is it the greatest thing in writing since the magical Author’s pen in “Once Upon a Time?” 😀

Reality is if you are an EXPERT with Microsoft Word, many (if not all) of the editing and notation features that Scrivener has are available in Word also. They’re not as obvious to a user who isn’t an expert though.

You could also set up separate documents for Plat and Chapter Synopsis Cards, Character Cards, Place Cards, etc… or set up a database file in MS Access to do similar work, along with a Windows folder to hold your supporting media. There’s alternative options for nearly everything Scrivener does.

IF you’re a plotter or even a pantser who likes to take notes for rewrites, where Scrivener truly excels is the ability to neatly organize,edit and access everything relating to your story in one place. It’s all there without swapping programs and sometimes easier to access and manipulate than with Word and supporting products.

I have not had a chance to test it yet, but another feature that Scrivener has that I like is the ability to write your project in chunks or segments, and later rearrange and compile them into a finished project as you see fit.

In the past, I wouldn’t have cared about that feature. I wrote completely linear; start to finish. As I’ve gained flexibility and learned to write where inspiration has taken me, I appreciate that idea more than having to leave a blank space in a Word document for a gap in a story and later ‘cut & paste’ juggling several blocks of text. Kind of like the lock editor is handy here if you decide one paragraph works better in front or after another one.

I’m going to admit a slight bias against Microsoft also, as I’m on my forth copy of office bought in the last 8 years because they keep finding reasons to invalidate perfectly legal copies. “That version is old now”, “sorry we don’t care that your hard drive crashed, you can’t reinstall that copy”… blah blah blah. Another $150 or more down the drain to pad Microsoft’s profits.

So, one of the best reasons to buy and use Scrivener in my opinion is it’s a $40 program with minimal Digital Rights Management that does everything that a $100+ copy of MS Word will do, along with organizing your project and a trick or two from MS Publisher.

5 thoughts on “Initial Impressions of Scrivener

  1. One aspect of Google Docs that I couldn’t live without is social editing/viewing. How is Scriv’ on that count?
    I have a folder for each project, a Notes doc (plot, cast, research), Parts docs (to make the chunks more manageable), and Release docs (PDFs or DOCs or EPUBs created with cover images I can share direct or store for versioning).
    I’d like a better skeleton structure upon which to hang my parts. And a better spell checker / hint provider. But I need social editing as requirement #1.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, you MAY have hit on a couple of weaknesses here. I haven’t toyed around much with it yet to really put the spellchecker through it’s paces, so I’d be lying if I said I could give you an honest answer there. Also not sure if web based tools like Grammarly work with it yet. They might though.

      In terms of social editing and viewing, here’s what Scrivener’s help files say about exporting:

      What if you want to use Scrivener but are worried about being locked in? The Scrivener project folder format (the project is the entire contents of the folder ending in “.scriv”) is unique, so what happens if you want to move your work elsewhere? Fear not: you are not locked in at all. Simply select all of the files you want to export in the binder (everything if you so wish) and then go to File > Export > Files… Enter the name of the directory that will be created to hold all of the files, choose your preferred text file format and whether you want to include notes and meta-data in the export (which will include the synopses), then hit “Export”. All the selected files will be exported with the binder structure intact; that is, the virtual folders in the binder will become actual folders in File Explorer. You can even drag the selected documents from the binder onto your desktop or File Explorer. All files in the Draft folder will be exported as RTF and all the other files will simply be copied in their native format.
      That’s how you can get anything out of Scrivener. Generally, however, the files you have inside a Scrivener project are there to support your writing—the text you have been slaving over—writing, editing, cutting up, rearranging—in the Draft folder. The whole point of Scrivener is to produce that text, so at some point you are going to want to export or print it as a single document or manuscript.

      Seems like you could export to Google drive and then have anyone with their own copy of Scrivener import, read and edit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you’ve not used the social editing in GDocs, you might give it a try. It’s easily the best feature there. Two or three folks all editing the same document, with separate inline suggestions and comments.


  2. Yup, you’re definitely my “writing sister”. Did (and do) everything you discussed: pantsing👖 and everything.

    I was going to buy Scrivener a couple years back but got sidetracked. Had fun with the free trial when I attempted to write a book about certain women of the Bible. Once it ran its course (the book and free trial), I forgot about it.

    Will look into it again. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you’ll be happy you did. There is a bit of a learning curve, but that’s everything in life, As I’m moving away from “pants” writing, I’m really appreciating the organizational features I’m seeing also.

    Anonymole probably hit the only weakness in the program; collaborative sharing. Google Docs and similar are probably better for that, IF you don’t mind Google keeping copies of all your work, running it through every sort of analytics imaginable and then selling that info to everyone.


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