I'm rather surprised there isn't a writeup about the software... Let's fix that!

Scrivener is an author tool designed to assist productivity by combining a writing platform (akin to Microsoft Word) with research and outlining tools. Literature and Latte created this useful software and does a fine job with maintaining it. It was originally designed for Mac, but it has a great Windows version which I personally use. You can get it for $40 but if you look around for discounts or you hit your 50K goal on NaNoWriMo you can pick up a full version of your choice for $20. For those who want to try it out, they offer a 30-day free trial.

The one complaint folks have about Scrivener is that it has a ton of useful parts to the point where it has a decent learning curve. The company has some video training but there are loads of tutorials on YouTube. Expect to spend some time with picking up some of the advanced functions, but if you cover the basics you can be up and writing in a day.

Scrivener has one thing I particularly like - excellent novel templates. A bit of Google-fu will find plenty of templates to work from, ranging from the Lester Dent Method to a Romance outline. I have a very complex template that has lots of built-in notes and multiple character arcs that I built from my own psychotic process and ideas gleaned from other templates.

I recently had someone ask me about Scrivener and other writing tools. They were interested in my opinion of their usefulness as an established author and whether they should purchase some of the tools folks are discussing on sites like Facebook.

Here's the funny thing. I almost always write using Notepad++, which is like Windows Notepad but with multiple tabs. I have 138 tabs open on mine as I type this. That's a lot of short stories, essays, and novel chapters in progress. I personally like writing with it because it takes away all of the formatting and forces me to just write the words. When I'm done with a short story, I normally paste it into Word, update any required formatting, and then send it off to an editor or a slushpile. If I'm working on a novel, I paste the chapter into Scrivener and update the formatting. This works for me because it prevents me from getting distracted with minutiae.

When I was re-starting my writing career I kept looking for books and useful tools to help me write. I would recommend authors focus on getting words on a page first and foremost and then look into other tools like Scrivener, the Marshall Plan, or the Snowflake Method of outlining when you're ready to try different things. Understand it will take away some of your writing time when you're learning something new. Apps and books won't replace word generation on a page. I spent a lot of money until I realized I should only invest in something because it accomplishes or fulfills a concrete need like helping me generate words when my carpal tunnel flares up (Nuance Dragon Dictate Premium 13 and a condensor microphone), book formatting (Jutoh, Adobe Acrobat Pro, and Adobe InDesign for my uses), or graphic novel art tools (Poser, Adobe Photoshop). I can afford the expensive tools because I no longer buy everything that looks interesting or nifty.

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a writing and composition software developed and sold by Literature and Latte. It provides a huge number of robust and easy-to-use features, which can be daunting to new users. It is available on Mac, Windows, but not available on Linux. It is designed to make writing much easier and faster by allowing the user to organize their documents in a heiarchy tree, tag, color-code, and open their notes side-by-side, as well as add custom meta-data. There's similar software out there such as Manuskript, but Scrivener is more intuitive to use and has more features (which is expectable, considering Scrivener is $50 and Manuskript is free). The Windows version is slightly behind the Mac version; the software was originally available solely for Mac, and they started development for Windows much later; the Windows version is still in "version 2" while the Mac version is in "version 3", but the company claims the Windows version will catch up eventually. The projected date keeps getting pushed back though, so don't hold your breath.


(Some) features of Scrivener

Scrivener is pretty feature-heavy, so I have decided to give each main feature its own subsection (as opposed to simply listing them in a couple of lengthy paragraphs). They're not listed in any particular order of best to worst, simply in the order that they come to mind. There are many small features other than these; these are just the major ones.

Note and document organization

There is a sidebar on the left-hand side that hosts all the text files, images, folders, documents, etc. of the project in a hierarchy . You can simply click and drag elements into sections or subsections for them to be listed under that section. You can group files into folders and then set an icon for that folder, there is a large list of icons to choose from. You can also put the documents in your manuscript into folders; it will still export any file in the manuscript section, regardless of the folder. The folder can be for an act-structure, sections, etc. You can right-click on any document to assign a "status" to it, which color-codes the document. When writing longform fiction, I personally color-code my manuscript documents based on what character it's written from the perspective of. You can also assign a "label" to each document, such as "to-do", "first draft", "second draft", and so forth. The label will appear on each document when in the corkboard screen. You can also create custom meta-data.

The ability to edit or view two documents side-by-side

You can split the editor right down the middle and open up any two documents in the sidebar with a singular click. In Microsoft Word you would need to open each file in the file browser, which doesn't sound like much, but being able to switch with the sidebar with just a click saves so much time and effort. You can have note or reference text opened up beside your main document. You can split the window vertically or horizontally. You can also open up an image or imported webpage. I personally appreciate this feature the most.

Various writing tools

You can highlight any word or phrase in your currently-opened text and search with a built-in Dictionary, Google, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, BrainyQuotes, and translate the text to another language. There is also a very powerful name generator, probably the best one I've ever seen. You can select from dozens upon dozens of nationalities and ethnic groups for both the first and last name, choose the gender, and character you want the names to start and end with, select the number of names to generate, and let it do its work. I've gotten great character names from this, such as Alexey Varenkov, Farah Nazarri, Yvonne Leski, among others. It also has a very good inbuilt name-meaning finder, in which you can enter a name and it will show the meaning in every nationality and culture that the name has a meaning in. For example, Nicolas has definitions in French, Greek, Jewish, and Spanish (all variations of "victorious conquerer" and "victory of the people".) You can also import your own lists of names in bulk simply by listing the names in a plain text file with a comma between them and then importing the file to be used in the generator.

A minimalistic fullscreen "Zen" editor

You can choose to edit your currently selected document in a minimalistic editor, which gets rid of all the various UI elements, sidebars, formatting options, etc. and just displays the text over a blank background. You can customize the width of the text-editing box as well as the display-size of the text. You can choose a color to have the background display as (I have mine set to completely black with white text so that it's easier on the eyes), or you can set the fullscreen editor to have any desired image as the background.

A "corkboard" mode

You can view all the files under a category or folder in a "corkboard" mode, in which it displays them all in index cards, lists their status "to-do, first draft, etc." and their "synopsis" metadata (which you can assign just by double-clicking the index card and typing on the card itself, as opposed to opening some bulky metadata editor from the properties menu). It allows you to see the progression of your text, and in my current project it allows me to see if anything needs to be added or removed between two sections.

Automatic formatting to industry-standard

The manuscript and front-matter folders of your text is automatically set up for export-inclusion, while all the other folders are not. You can select a huge variety of options depending on the type of project you're working on; ebook, novel manuscript, screenplay, etcetera. It automatically exports to industry standard, which means you don't have to do any of the work of formatting your pages, putting your last name and page number in the header, etc. If you're writing a screenplay, it behaves as a screenplay editor and not simply a rich-text editor; it automatically switches to the correct margins and indentations for the various elements of the screenplay and whatnot.


"Where can I learn more?"

You can purchase it from their website here

A link to information about the upcoming update to the Windows edition of Scrivener can be found here. According to the page, "If you buy Scrivener 1 for Windows now, you’ll get a free update to version 3 when it’s available." However, they also say "Existing users of Scrivener 1 will be able to purchase Scrivener 3 for the discounted price of $25 when the time comes", which implies the upgrade will not be free. Do with that what you will.

Scrive"ner (? ∨ ?), n. [From older scrivein, OF. escrivain, F. 'ecrivain, LL. scribanus, from L. scribere to write. See Scribe.]


A professional writer; one whose occupation is to draw contracts or prepare writings.


The writer better scrivener than clerk. Fuller.


One whose business is to place money at interest; a broker.




A writing master.

[Prov. Eng.]


Scrivener's palsy. See Writer's cramp, under Writer.


© Webster 1913.

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