screenshot of Scrivener website

A love note to the Scrivener App

As Nanowrimo approaches, I should talk about the app Scrivener, which I learned about the first time I took part in nanowrimo on their discussion board on technology tools for writing, which tends to be my favorite place to lurk. Many writers there raved about Scrivener, and the company actually offers a free month’s trial that works pretty well for the month of November, and winners of nanowimo usually get a discount to purchase the app, which is reasonably priced for all that it does.

To be honest, Scrivener is half the reason why I switched from PC computers to Mac, (though there is now a PC version). (The other half was the invention of the ipad).

The app was created by someone listed as Keith B., a writer who taught himself to code so he could create the software he needed to write. So not only do we benefit from the insight he brought as a writer, but also from his ongoing commitment to nurture it. If you are curious, you can find out more at his website Literature and Latte: https://www.literatureandlatte.com

There’s this saying that is certainly true for me and my almost 2 year old dog Cisco: I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

That’s the way I feel about this software—I want to be the kind of writer this software thinks I am—strategic, organized, productive, and creative.

I often find posts about Scrivener across the web, not to mention plenty of support on the website, so I’ll try not to recreate the wheel in this post. I will just say that I love that this app empowers me to organize and visualize my writing in multiple ways. I can sort and label my scenes easily, moving them back and forth (and sometimes in and out) as I change my mind (often) about the best approach to the storyline. I can link each scene to research, character notes, or setting notes either inside or outside of the app. I especially love that I can view these scenes as index cards, or, my favorite view, to see all the index cards on the left side of the screen and then one specific scene open for editing on the right side.

Plus there are many more bells and whistles that I am still learning.

A few cautions may be in order. The best way to use Scrivener is to start slowly, without trying to learn how to do everything. Just start with your first scene. Gradually discover more options.

The next is to say if you are happy with what you are using, and you aren’t a fan of learning new software, you don’t need to try it. But if you are like me and enjoy trying out different software as a way to manage your work, you might find Scrivener makes the work of the writer easier.

Caution three: There is an iOS version available that works on both the phone and the ipad. I like this option so much because I can view my project on the go, plus the IOS version is a bit more streamlined so that sometimes helps with focus. It’s really a lovely app. I did find that I need to take care not to open my project in more than one device at a time, though. Fortunately, the app gives you many ways to back up and catch conflicts, so I haven’t lost anything, but I think this has created some challenges for some users, so just fyi.

So this week as part of my prep, I’ve set up a special Scrivener file just for this project that I saved in dropbox so I can access it from any device. I will also copy each day’s work into a larger Scrivener file on my desktop. The app has a Project Target feature so I was able to set my goal for 50,000 words by November 30, with a daily word count goal of 1700 words. I put my current notes and ideas into the Research folder, which isn’t part of the word count. In the Manuscript folder, where the words will count, I created a bunch of blank scenes. For each scene, I put prompts in the notes section for possible plot points, such as “inciting event,” or “midpoint,” etc. Over the next few days, I will add other prompts more specific to the storyline as I envision it right now. During November, I will use those prompts as my starting point each day. I don’t necessarily write the scenes in order. Really, I just write whatever I can get myself to write that day! But it works out, one way or another.