Debunked: Top Five Excuses Writers Give For Not Using Scrivener

Here’s why Scrivener can easily become your one love for organizing your research and writing.

I came late to the Scrivener party, when I’d written half of my novel, A Habit of Hiding. But this writing program has been my one love ever since. We’ve been through some tough times together, and have always grown stronger for it. Now that I’m researching my historical fiction novel as I write, I can’t imagine keeping it together without Scriv (my affectionate nickname for my beloved writing parter). No longer must I hunt for what I’ve gathered. Scriv helps me store it all under one roof, and find it at a glance.

Nice and Tidy Thanks to Scrivener | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016

Better Than an iRobot Roomba: Everything in its place under the Scrivener roof  © 2016


I’m a believer in specific items suited to specific tasks—I’ve written much HERE about using Adobe Lightroom to tame the beast that is my image collection of 24,688 photographs, and I’m passionate about its merits. Scrivener is equally impressive in its far-less-costly and much-less-resource-intensive way. While most photographers in our universe use Lightroom, I’ve found far fewer writers using Scrivener.

Here are the Top Five excuses I hear:

1. It’s confusing to learn.

You’re afraid of learning something new? You’re a writer! You eavesdrop on conversations every chance you get, right? You dive into research like a pelican plunging into the ocean, don’t you? Aren’t you capable of losing yourself for days online just because you Googled one tiny stat for your blog?

2. I’ve been using Word forever.

And it never crashes on you, does it? Never announces you need a critical security update the instant you launch it, though your head is ablaze with the fervor of a new plot line, and your fingers are poised to pound out the words that are flowing like raging floodwaters?

3. I’ve got everything organized in folders and bookmarked in my browser.

And you can put your cursor on the proper folder every time, right? No hunting around, trying to recall which folder it’s in and where you filed it? No futile searches that won’t cough up the third chapter you discarded but now realize is better? And you never burrow down into the internet rabbit hole when you’re reviewing your bookmarks, right?

Your research before Scrivener | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016

Your research before Scrivener: Folders, notes and books galore  © 2016


4. That’s what Post-It Notes, folders, books and journals are for.

Don’t you have so many post-it notes stuck to your monitor that your view of those lovely words you’re writing is infringed? Aren’t you distracted from your latest plot twist when the ones that have been stuck there the longest lose their stickiness and float onto your keyboard? Don’t you waste a lot of time paging through all those journals and file folders, looking for the one nugget you wrote down on some napkin that will fully sketch out your antagonist?

5. My 642 color-coded index cards work just fine.

How many times have you crossed them out and rewritten them and then had to reorder them and then found you had to renumber them? And when you finally laid them all out chronologically on the living room floor (kneeling there, because they were too vast to fit on the dining room table), and rearranged them so many times your knees began to scream, the dog chased the cat through the room and messed them all up?

The bottom line is this. You used a binder in high school, didn’t you? Well, that’s what Scrivener is: One very powerful binder for all of your research and words.

Scrivener: Just like your handy high school binder

Scrivener: Just like your handy high school binder


What Scrivener is: One very powerful binder for all of your research and words. Tweet:

You’ll learn Scrivener by using it. That’s how you’ll learn to love it, too, since you’ll always be discovering new ways to use Scrivener. And you’ll come to appreciate it the most as your one-stop shop for all of your writing materials.

You’ll love how you’re able to focus on your words, because you’ve gathered everything—notes, research, websites, images, soundtracks, videos, random files, even texts copied from ebooks—under Scriv’s very sound roof.

Import Videos to Play: Like these waterfalls to ease writer's block

Import Videos and Play Them (Like these waterfalls that ease writer’s block)


You’ll soon be dragging and dropping files and sites and images (even videos!) into Scrivener with abandon, no longer having to hunt around for them or switch between applications or launch websites.

You’ll find yourself rearranging and organizing the color-coded index cards you’ve created for your scenes, chapters and ideas on your corkboard, and rewriting them on the fly. Your index card budget can be repurposed for redecorating your writing space.

You’ll be consulting your general notes and your document-specific notes distraction-free from those Post-Its that once circled your monitor like vultures looming for the kill.

Handy to Have Handy on Your Kindle App | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016

Handy to Have Handy on Your Kindle App: Your Guide to Scrivener  © 2016


There are lots of resources, most of them free, for learning how to use Scrivener, starting with the tutorial built right into the program when you launch it. If you’ve already got a manuscript in progress, you can import it into Scrivener and keep writing—that’s how I  learned it, in addition to consulting these sites:

Here are a few visuals to show you what Scriv does for me—besides tidying up my workspace faster than an iRobot Roomba:

The Corkboard: Putting the index card manufacturers out of business

Scrivener’s Corkboard, All Labeled: Putting the index card manufacturers out of business


Scrivener: A built-in editor to slash and burn wordy novels

Scrivener’s Project Statistics: A built-in editor to slash and burn wordy novels


Pro Tip: Copy research text from a Kindle app to a Scrivener doc, and its annotation comes along for the ride.   Tweet:

Multitasking: Scrivener at a Glance

Multitasking: Putting Scrivener to work with web imports and annotated Kindle text


Timeline for my Historical Fiction Novel: Drag and Drop into Scrivener

Drag and Drop: An Excel timeline for my historical fiction novel with a link to launch its file


What’s missing from Scrivener? Not much. But to be frank, there are two things I’d like to have built in:

  • A timeline-building function (As a workaround, I create my timelines in Excel, and drag the file icon into Scrivener for a direct link, or copy/paste it to preserve its tables as a read-only scaleable graphic)
  • A browser extension (For clipping and saving directly from websites, similar to the Evernote extension)

But rest assured, what’s missing from Scriv is minor, compared to how essential it’s become in our creative relationship.

When my debut novel, A Habit Of Hiding, finds its publisher and you’ve finished reading it (read an excerpt HERE), you’ll see this tribute to Scriv in my acknowledgements:

“And finally, my eternal gratitude to Scriv for your unfailing organizational prowess and your readiness to tackle any writing challenge. Your grateful author thanks you.”


Convinced? I’d love to hear how you use Scrivener in the comments.

You can read up on its features and download a free trial of Scrivener HERE (I don’t get a dime, I’m just one of the legions of fans). If you decide to purchase it, you can frequently find a coupon code for savings, or a better price from a reseller, if you hunt around online. Hat tip to the Daily Post for its weekly photo challenge, which dovetails so nicely with this writer’s One Love: Scrivener.

Jann Alexander's A Habit of Hiding_Book Cover

You can get a sneak peek of my upcoming novel: 

Read an excerpt from A Habit of Hiding here

For more on the art of writing, look HERE.


Get Popular Pairings each month:

65 replies

  1. Great post and advice, Jann. I have Scrivener and am not using it.I could say that it is on the To-Do list, but the truth is that it is low down the list. You have inspired me to get off my rump and learn to use it. I have been through the tutorials twice, but that’s as far as I have gone with it.

    After NaNo this year I got a discount on Aeon Timeline by Scribble Code). I have given it a half-hearted shot and it is actually quite nice. It may be what you are looking for because it syncs with Scriv.
    Ω

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I adore Scrivener! It has made my writing process so much more manageable, from first draft to all those revisions. It’s a great organization tool. I was skeptical at first, but if I can learn it, anyone can.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been using Scriviner for a while now. I run Linux, so my Scrivener version is free (as it is still in beta and probably will be for a long time), but the second I need to start paying to use it, I will be warming up my credit card. I can’t imagine writing without it anymore. It is absolutely awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I started writing with Scrivener. I tried a few times using word or something else, but I found that it couldn’t keep up with the way I thought. As I would rough out a chapter, I would make notes in another chapter. If I changed the action in one chapter, I would have to remember to deal with it in another.

    Scrivener works the way I think. I can jump all over the place or I can do heads down writing without breaking the mood and having to think about the technology.

    I was hooked right off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your description of Scrivener’s versatility is spot on. Each of us work differently, yet fans have the sense you describe so beautifully: “Scrivener works the way I think.” Terrific point about the ability to change things at a glance, too.

      Like

  5. As soon as they have a seamless way of swapping between Mac and iPad I’ll be back. They’ve promised an OS version for years; meanwhile the tablet not the desk has become the norm for many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was longing for an iPad version too, but I’m not sure how the many functions Scrivener offers on the desktop will translate to an iPad (especially a mini, which I have). I’m hooked on using it on a big iMac screen since I can see so many views side by side and all at once. But I’m intrigued by the iPad app possibilities.

      Like

  6. I just started using Scrivener, Jann, and I love it too! Got the free trial for 45 days and now I’m hooked. Haven’t gotten nearly as far along as you as far as implementing all the tools, but my favorite thing so far is what you said—everything is there at a glance. I no longer have to shuffle back through pages or files to find something I wrote several chapters ago. Also LOVE the ability to break everything down into scenes rather than chapters. That has helped a ton.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All true, Colleen, I second that! It’s great to be able to stay in the Scrivener world and not become distracted by opening other software or going online. Glad you’re jumping right in, let me know what tricks you discover and love. Next on my list is to start using tags effectively. Seems like that could be helpful during edits of a novel or just during the writing stage.

      Like

  7. An option for timelines might be Scapple, also by Literature and Latte. I haven’t actually tried it myself, and it’s more of brainstorming software than timeline software, but it might be worth a look. You might find it useful in other ways instead!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been using Scrivener for 5+ years. Great app. Two primary projects: 1. Seminary curriculum: including weekly teaching notes, courses, professors, etc. (nice to have hundreds of files sorted and easy to find and continue writing and expanding); 2. Blogs: I maintain four blogs, and this allows me to sort, rearrange, and focus my writing. In addition, i have written two published articles and one major presentation. If i need to I can export to .docx or .rtf files, and have never had a problem. Scrivener is top notch (along with Nisus Writer Pro), and my experience reflects Jann’s.

    Keep in mind that I come from an era using a 1919 typewriter through high school (true story). Never took typing classes, but managed to get 4 years of college, plus 9 years postgraduate education all before computers. I still have every note and every paper written for the postgraduate education. When I retire (I’m old enough now, but…) I hope to put all of that intro the computer and major sections into Scrivener.

    Very nice article, Jann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re really putting Scrivener through its paces! I’m impressed with all the ways you’re using it. Good to know it’s capable of handling what sounds like a huge database you’ve built. Getting all of your typed work into digital format sounds daunting, but Scrivener is certainly up to the task. Your 1919 typewriter wouldn’t be one of these, would it?
      “Where Old Typewriters Go To Die”
      https://austindetails.me/2015/05/28/old-typewriters/

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good ideas in this thread. I used Word for many papers and articles and for my Thesis and hope never to repeat that nightmare again. I use Scrivener to organize post ideas and to write posts for my blog and I am beginning to use it for my dissertation. Hoping it can save me some stress.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. My hangup with Scrivener is its labyrinthine and inadequate Compile feature, which despite its complexity still describes itself as “Export…for final formatting in a dedicated word processor.” The amount of “final” fixup can be startling, even for simple short stories. For example: having compiled my story as a Word file, I find that it has no concept of styling – section breaks between source files are dutifully marked with # as requested, but as plain text, not as a heading style. The failure of the software to produce clean, professional output as demanded by typesetters and book designers — I’m talking about the simplest conventional novel, not a medical textbook — is a deal breaker. After struggling with it, I’m sticking with Evernote, Dropbox, and a careful hierarchy of folders.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was initially stymied by Compile, on my first-ever attempts with a novel I hadn’t properly set up with each chapter in its own folder (I learned my lesson). I haven’t had a need yet to do much more compiling with it, finding that exporting it all back to Word was the output required by my copy editor and agents. Still, the bennies of its features make it worthwhile for me to figure out whatever perplexes me. The more I use Scriv, the easier it gets.

      Like

  10. Do you really think all the great novels written before Scrivener would have been better if written with Scrivener? Whatever floats your own boat, Jann. IMO, writing software may facilitate getting books written, but can’t do much to make them better books.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scrivener, computers, typewriters and journals don’t make a writer talented. But authors writing the great novels before the internet age didn’t have access to the massive amounts of research from many sources that we do today. That’s what makes Scrivener relevant—corralling all of that so that writers can focus on writing this century’s great novels.

      Like

  11. I’ve been using (and loving) Scriv for years and I’m still learning new tricks. Everything—books, blog posts, blurbs, bios—goes on Scriv where they can been kept, found & organized! One word: Indispensable.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’ve never used it, but from what you’ve written and the comments, I can see why you love it. I see you mention Lightroom. You prefer that to Photoshop evidently. Do you have a minute to tell me why? I’m thinking about getting one or the other before my photos get any further out of control.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy to offer insights about Lightroom v. Photoshop, Janet! Sounds like Lightroom will be the best choice for corralling all of your photos—that’s what it’s for, to act as a giant library (database) for all photos in their original state, and you’ll have the ability to do almost any image edit you desire right within the Lightroom environment. It won’t alter your photos; Lightroom just saves the alterations you make, and applies them on export. You’re able to automate common functions to apply to batches of images, and it has powerful search options. Photoshop, on the other hand, is many things to many people and allows massive creative alterations, but isn’t a dedicated library. Perhaps you can download a Lightroom trial and check it out? Let me know what you think.

      Like

  13. Been using Scrivener since the PC beta. I have it on both my PC and my Mac. Never did any formal learning, just playing as I go. Kind of like football. Reading and watching are okay, but you gotta put on a uniform to learn what you can do.
    I use mine for fiction writing, blog writing, recipes, research holding.
    I color code my fiction cards based on what type of scene it is.
    I can see if characters or special words are shining enough or not.
    I have pictures of my characters so I don’t change their eye color mid-story.
    I’m an organization freak, so this has been perfect for me.
    I LOVE Scrivener, and try to convert people if they ask my opinion on what to use.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love Scrivener and did find quite a learning curve. I took a couple of courses offered through Udemy that were quite helpful. I would also point out that you get to use it free for 30 days, non-consecutive days that is.

    Like

  15. Interesting post. I once thought writing software like Scrivener was silly, but once I started using writing software I saw the benefits. However, I won’t use Scrivener because I found a free alternative. yWriter gives me everything I need without the gimmicky bells and whistles of Scrivener.

    Like

  16. Lightroom and Scrivener are my two favourite programs. I used Word trying to make progress writing my book. The bigger the manuscript got, the more depressed I became: the usual Word problems of unwanted format changes etc.. Scrivener changed all that and I never look back. Now I’m an evangelist for it, and recently converted my wife. http://www.humanbottleneck.com/thanks-scrivener/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Jann,
    Look at all these interested people! I have heard of Scrivener, but have no idea what it is. If you would like to write a guest post for my readers explaining what Scrivener is, and how it could help bloggers, you would be welcome.If you are interested, let me know. I write at a blogging tips site.
    Janice

    Liked by 1 person

    • Had not heard of TimeGlider, Paula, I’ll be checking that out. Thanks. I’ve found that once I got past the pain of creating a timeline template in Excel, it’s working okay for me. Of course, every time change I make is a manual change on the spreadsheet. So I’m glad to know about that option. Appreciate it!

      You know, lots of bloggers swear by Scrivener for their posts. I’m not one of them, yet—I’m content with the system I have on WordPress.com. But I’ll be looking into it for the guest post. Thanks for your comments.

      Like

I'd love to hear what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s