Last year, I started using Scrivener as my primary writing software. I wrote this blog before the new version of Scrivener came out. I have the new version and it's great. Most of what I said here is still applicable.
Scrivener is a robust, powerful software program designed specifically for writers. Sounds great, right? Even better? It's cheap. Only $40.00. You can download a test copy or buy it direct from the website.
Here are some things I like about Scrivener.

1. The main window includes (from left to right) a working outline, a writing area, and labeling tools all in one view.
The outline is on the left. You can change the titles of sections, move things, and expand or collapse the outline all while you have your manuscript open in the main window. I create a file for each scene because that provides more flexibility when reorganizing. Here's a closer look. (The outline is really just notes to myself about the scene. They wouldn't make much sense to anyone else. They do make sense to me, though, I swear.)
The labeling tools are on the right. You enter a short synopsis of what's in this file--very useful when you want to scan what you've already done. For people like me with day jobs, catching up on the previous day's writing can be a battle and the synopsis is a great help. I use the labels to indicate the POV in the scene, the keywords to call out some important elements like the theme or secondary characters, and the whole set of tools to make my orderly soul feel happy.
2. The Corkboard is Awesome! You can also view your Scrivener files in the Corkboard. It's exactly what it sounds like. I use this view mainly when I'm working with my research and backstory notes. I also have some character inspiration photos. I don't really do casting, but I like to have a photo that gives me some element of the character. I create notecards for everything from factual research, to theme, to his and hers thoughts on family. It's tons of fun and a very creative way to think. (It's also easier to keep cards organized when they're in the computer. I don't have an office so my notecards always end up scattered between my nightstand, my backpack, and who knows where.)
3. Easy export to Word. I deliver my manuscripts as Word files and the export to Word is simple. I can answer questions about the process if anyone wants to know, but it's not hard. I've figured out how to format the exported file with the correct fonts and formatting including the header with page numbers!

4. Project Stats keep me on track. The Project Statistics are wonderful. You can see your progress toward an overall word count and keep track of the current session. You can also tell Scrivener which files to include in the stats so, if you're like me and you make lots of drafts of the same scene, you can only include the "correct" version. That means your word count doesn't get padded with lots of extra, but you can still keep all your drafts in the same folder and outline view in case you want to refer to one or include a different version.
In another stats view, you can see your overused words--what a great editing help! (Not that I ever overuse words...)

5. I can use the Outline view when I want "just the facts." I have a very linear brain and sometimes I just need to organize. In the outline view, I can use the synopsis and the labels I've set up to keep my manuscript in line. I don't always need to "think" this way, but the outline view is simple to use and powerful when I need it.

6. I have always wanted to write "out of order," but I was never able to do that comfortably in Word. Scrivener makes it work for me. If I've written three solid chapters but then have an idea for a scene that will come later in the book, I can write it, but because I have the outline always open on the left, I can keep my sense of the story progression. The scenes feel anchored even if I haven't written the steps between them.

7. It's easier to recycle scraps. When I write in Word and I cut a section out, I have to put it in another file. It's hard to remember what I've cut and saved. In Scrivener, everything stays in the outline on the left side. I can easily pick out bits and pieces to put back into the manuscript. This program seems to be excellent with "scrappy" thinking.

8. Scrivener saves automatically all the time. I don't need to explain why that's a blessing, do I?
So that's it. A quick overview of Scrivener and some of the things I like about it. If you have any questions or want to know more about the program, the floor is yours!

P.S. Scrivener comes with great video tutorials. Really easy to follow and understand. The Help and online forums are also good.


Ellen Hartman said…
I'm just moving this over from my blog on the Harlequin site. I posted it there last year and never updated here.
Lacey Devlin said…
Hi Ellen,

I've just started using Scrivener (I think I've used up one day of the trial) and there are a few things in your post that I haven't come across, e.g. being able to recycle scraps and counting only the words you want. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to figure those out too because they'd come in handy :)

Thanks for a great post!
Ellen Hartman said…
Hi Lacey,

You can see the option to include the words in the count in the third picture. It's in the box on the right side and in the picture it's called Include in Draft.

In the newer version of Scrivener, it's called Include in Compile. If you check that option the words count.

If you don't have that third column visible, in the View menu, click Layout, and then select Show Inspector.

The recycling comment just refers to the fact that all of the pieces stay in the Scrivener file so they're all right there on the left when I'm working. In Word, I'd save them in a separate file.

Hope your writing is going well!

Rula Sinara said…
I'm so glad you reposted here! I've been planning to check the harl blog link for this. I haven't had a chance to jump into the tutorial yet, but I really need to get on it. This sounds perfect for the way I work. I'm linear and can't write out of order either. I'll shout out if I come up with a question!
Lacey Devlin said…
Thanks so much, Ellen!

I think I'm in love with The Corkboard lol :) It'd be worth buying it just for that.
Christy Olesen said…
Hi Ellen, I caught your post on Scrivener last year on Harlequin and I downloaded the trial and before half and hour I bought it.
I tend to scatter when I write. I write liner and I'm a pantser, and I go back and forth between writing, researching, planning. This program keeps everything together. I like how I just click on a research folder to check facts then click on a chapter doc to continue where I was. I haven't explored all the features but I find something new with each MS.
When I cut some copy I like how I can put it in the comments where it's safe until I'm sure the scene works without it.
I arranged all the panes the way I like and saved it as My Novel Layout. I also like the Hero's Journey layout, which I use more as a reminder of story structure.
Ellen Hartman said…
Hi Rula,

The comments on the eHQ blog have some interesting stuff, I think.

Here's a link just in case you want to see them:

I hope you take a look at the trial, at least. It's a pretty amazing program if it works for your style. The freedom is really astounding for someone like me who can't skip around in other programs.
Ellen Hartman said…
Hi Christy,

You're smarter than I am. I had to listen to a whole bunch of people rave before I took Scrivener for a test drive. I wish I'd jumped on it sooner.

I haven't looked at the Hero's Journey template, but I've heard good things about it. Maybe tonight while I'm procrastinating!

Glad the program is working for you. It sounds as if you really put a lot more of it to use than I do. Hope your writing is going well.

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