Scrivener is a piece of software that’s been designed with writers in mind and includes a number of features many will find invaluable. If you like to write on the go, but don’t want to lug around bundles of paper and books bristling with post-it notes, then Scrivener could be for you.
Alternatively, you may be a discovery writer (or pantser) who secretly wishes they could organise their writing. Or you may just be an outliner who wants one software package with the planning benefits of Excel and the writer-friendly features of Word, in one place – that’s Scrivener.
I started using Scrivener for my WIP, after I finished draft one in April 2013. I edited the paper manuscript and then transferred the remaining scenes into Scrivener, ready to start draft 2. So, nearly one year on, here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of Scrivener.
30 Day Free Trial: If you’re not sure, just give Scrivener a go for 30 days realtime. The trial doesn’t start ticking down the moment you download it. If you only use it once a week, you’ll get it for 30 weeks, as it only counts the days you use it.
Affordable: Once you do take the plunge, Scrivener only costs $40 (£25) for the Windows version and $45 (£27) for the Mac version. And you don’t have to give your card details to get the free trial, so it’s a real try before you buy deal.
Virtual Cork-board: If you like index cards, then this could be for you. If you don’t like index cards, then Scrivener
does them automatically, so you don’t have to. Each chapter and scene has its own virtual index card you can add notes to. You can also add blank cards watermarked ‘to do’ for scenes you haven’t written yet. It’s a great way to get an overview of your WIP without laying index cards on the living room floor (I have done that).
Colour Coding: Scrivener lets you add coloured tabs to your index cards, which can be assigned to certain characters, locations or sub plots etc. This allows you to see a certain aspect of your story at a glance and make sure a character or plot line isn’t taking over.
Everything in One Place: You can keep all those links, images for your characters and locations, sound files and research in one place. No need for other software packages to be open. No more alt-tab. All you need is Scrivener.
Session Target: I like the fact that I can set an overall project target and a session target. This is great for me because I like to hit a certain word count each session and Scrivener keeps tabs for me. At the end of a session, I can see how much closer I am to my target – for a word count addict like me, it’s gold. And I’ve only just discovered it.
Compiles Manuscript: Once you’ve finished writing, you can hit the compile button and it will stitch your document together into a final manuscript, complete with cover sheet and page numbers or convert it into a format for e-publishing or posting on the web.
Now for the cons…
Learning Curve: Scrivener comes with a lengthy tutorial and you will need it. This is one features heavy software package. The good news is, it’s fairly easy to learn the basics and then you can delve deep or not, as you prefer. I’d say it’s worth the Sunday afternoon I dedicated to getting started with Scriv.
Optimised for Mac not Windows: A warning to Windows users – the bells and whistles version of Scrivener is designed for Mac. The Windows version is like the poor cousin with a few teeth missing and maybe an opposable thumb. The lack of a ‘sync’ button to synchronise your files in one click is a bit annoying for non-Mac users. And from what I gather there are other flashy things that we still don’t have for Windows. That said, the basic package is there and still worth the entry fee. However, beware tutorials, as almost ALL the ones I’ve found focus on the Mac version, leaving you looking for drop down menus that don’t exist – gah!
No Sync for Windows: I know I mentioned it above, but I find the lack of a sync button a major oversight. It’s crucial for writers to be able to feel that their work is saved in all the places they want it saved. Mac users get an easy ‘sync to’ button and then can choose. I had to go onto the internet and find a tutorial, which showed me how to sync Scrivener with Dropbox. It works fine, but I’d rather have an easy in-house system. Here is a good tutorial on syncing Scrivener for Windows users.
Overall – despite my few dislikes about Scrivener, I would highly recommend this writing tool. Some people may get distracted by all the features. However, once you learn to ignore what you don’t need, Scrivener makes writing easy by organising you without you even realising it. When you get bogged down you can head to the cork board and check your index cards to see where you are or start tagging a certain character to see where they’re going wrong. Even though Mac users get more features, Scrivener is still a great tool and updates keep coming all the time. In short, Scrivener is my go to writing tool.