So…many of you have probably heard of the writing program called Scrivener. I’ve heard tons of talk about how perfect the program is, but I’ve always ignored the testimonials because it didn’t seem necessary. I mean, Microsoft Word or Google Docs works just fine, right? I was scrolling through the NaNoWriMo winner goodies page and saw a coupon for Scrivener, so I thought I may as well just give it a shot. This is what led to perhaps one of the most insane writing experiences ever.
What is this??!
That was my initial response when I opened the program. First off, it has WAY more features writing-related than anything Word or Docs and offer you. As soon as I opened it I was overwhelmed with confusion. And I’m a tech-lover! Heck—I even made this website you are reading this on. For some reason, though, Scrivener seemed complicated. I guess it’s because I had never seen a program like it before. I’d spent my whole life working on Microsoft Word and Google Docs (which are nearly identical besides the saving methods), and then switched over to such a weird-looking layout. It wasn’t the learning curve that scared me away, though. Along with this new program came a strange feeling of HOMESICKNESS.
Yep. You know that feeling you get when you’re away from home too long. Two days using Scrivener and I already was feeling sick of it. I wanted to go back to Google Docs and its simplicity that I’ve grown up with. I’m not being dramatic when I say that I absolutely despised Scrivener.
Since I wrote my NaNoWriMo book on Google Docs, I needed to transfer everything over. Now, here’s the issue: Scrivener offers a nice feature of simply uploading a writing project for you and organizing the rest by itself. I gave it a shot and noticed that every single paragraph had an extra tab spacing. So I started to copy and paste the chapters. Still, too many tabs. I did some research into this and discovered that Scrivener automatically adds tab stops for you, so I removed them, AND IT STILL HAD 2 TABS PER PARAGRAPH. More research. More experimenting. No fix.
So here’s what I had to do. Call me crazy if you have to, but I knew there was absolutely no other option. I went through my entire book one chapter at a time and removed every single tab spacing. I discovered that it’s actually a bad thing to manually make your own tab stops (editors hate this), so I guess it’s better I did it anyway.
Then I realized something else: all the notes on Google Docs do NOT transfer over to Scrivener like they do from Docs to Microsoft Word.
Basically, all of my notes from my read-through of Draft 1 were not transferring over. After a while of frustration and banging at my desk, I decided to give up on Scrivener. And now Act 1 of my story ends.
The next phase of my journey
Now back in Google Docs, I continued to work on editing, deciding to abandon Scrivener completely. I still thought of it once in a while, wondering if maybe I really should continue properly transferring my book over, but I shoved those thoughts into the back of my head. A week passed. Then I got an idea.
“I can make changes according to all my notes, and once each chapter reaches the second draft I can manually transfer it over and remove the tabs.”
With this new method, I wouldn’t need to worry over notes, and I wouldn’t have to removed ALL the tabs in my novel at once. So I gave it a shot. And here’s what happened:
I learned to love Scrivener
At the moment I’m still switching back and forth between Docs and Scrivener as I edit, copy/paste, and remove the extra tabs. I realize this process would have been a lot less work if I had simply written my book in Scrivener in the first place, but all that matters now is that I’ve finally made the switch. My hatred for Scrivener has made a turn into love. If you’re still skeptical over whether it’s worth it, it is. And if that still isn’t enough for you to make the script, let me tell you why Scrivener will save your life.
- You can move chapters around with drag/drop. No more looooong copy and pasting. This was the most important special feature for me.
- All chapter descriptions can be viewed in a corkboard view so you can easily see where your story is going/what elements are lacking.
- You can compile your book into manuscript submission format for traditional publishing, paperback format for self-publishing, and ePub format if you’re looking to sell online.
- You can make as many folders as you want with your own organized notes and even template notes
- Scenes can be separated from each other for easier management
- Notes can be left for both the current chapter/scene or for the entire manuscript
- You can leave notes on certain sections like you would in Google Docs.
- Scrivener saves a lot and has an automatic backup feature.
- I’ve never had issues with crashing like with Google Docs.
- You can have all your characters and places on the program, easy to access while writing.
- THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT: You can not only view the book’s word count, but the word count of each individual chapter/scene. If it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have noticed that one of my chapters was only 300 words, and the one after was 5000.
- You can set a status for each part of your book like “editing” or “to do” or “complete”
- You can set icons for different folders/chapters/scenes for easier organization
- Scrivener can basically be used however you want it. It doesn’t even need to be for writing. Any long documents would work great with it.
- You can set targets (word count goals) for your entire book or for sessions. This is a great one for NaNoWriMo.
- Distraction-free writing zone mode
- It has an app, so you can work on your book on your iPhone as well.
- One-time fee (not subscription-based, so you don’t have to pay every month).
And I’ve got to be fair, so here’s some things that I don’t like about Scrivener:
- Learning curve. I understand it has a lot of features, but the settings could have been made less complicated in my opinion.
- Formatting issues. Copy/pasting scenes added double the tabs and also undid all of my italics writing. The second issue isn’t as bad as it seems, though.
- Complicated syncing. It was a little bit of a crazy process to simply sync my book between my two computers. In fact I’m still trying to figure it out fully.
So here’s the breakdown… Overall, I am super excited that I’ve made a switch to Scrivener. It is by far the best program I’ve used for writing, and although I’ve gone through some challenges the end result is worth it. Once you get situated in it, both writing and editing become a LOT easier. Trust me on that.
Is Scrivener necessary? No. You can write a book just fine without it. But do I recommend it? YES! Especially if you like being organized and making your writing process a lot easier.
Keep writing, everyone! 🙂
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