Scrivener: Should I Do It?

I would like to hear from people who use Scrivener and love it, and also from people who have used it and didn’t care for it.

I have written novels and short stories using good old Word. How would Scrivener assist me as a writer to get things written, and how does it do it? What problems does it solve that standard word processing programs like Word or Google docs don’t?

Thanks in advance! (I hope this topic is okay).

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100% okay! I’m curious what people say.

I haven’t used Scrivener yet because I’m waiting for Scrivener 3 for Windows to come out of beta releases. I may cave in and spring for a Mac just to run it eventually, though. It’s been awhile since I watched the videos and researched it to decide so I don’t recall the exact reasons. I do remember the broad strokes which is that it has great tools for organizing the worldbuilding aspects of your novel as well as scene management. I vaguely recall that where it really shines, in version 3, is when you are editing and revising your drafts. I understand that it does a decent job of formatting your writing for various print and ebook. I hear that part is not as easy to use as Vellum but, once you learn to do it, it does a nice job.

I’m going to leave this as my reply for now and go back and refresh my memory later on more specific details that stood out for me. I’ll reply again later with those in a day or so. I’ll post some links, too.

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I’ve not used Word, but I’ve used Scrivener for year and love it. From the ability to plot using the corkboard function to the ability to import webpages for research and to add notations in the sidebar of my novel when editing it’s all awesome. I also like to use the split screen feature when I’m revising a novel. It’s also really easy to change your novel’s format so you can load it onto an ereader for a read through or for editing. I haven’t looked back since I got it and can’t imagine using anything else. Now, I’m not sure how many of those features Word offers.

Hopefully the version I have works on Windows 10. If not, I guess I’ll have to buy another copy to have on the new PC.

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One day, I shall be so adept . . . I use Word only because I’m used to it and there’s really only a few things I need from a processor. Most of my pre-writing occurs in a 3-ring binder, on sticky-notes, and with my beloved pocket diary. I do; however, see the utility for organizing multiple stories or keeping up with a lot of research.

Update to my initial reply:

Alright, after a little refreshing of my memory, there are just too many awesome tools in Scrivener to detail. Custom metadata, linguistic focus, snapshots, revision mode, placeholders being just a few.

What I’ve rendered it down to is that comparing Scrivener 3 to Word or Google Docs is like comparing a screwdriver to a toolbox full of tools. If we are just comparing screwdrivers, then Word is probably just as good. The question to really ask is what other tools are you using to create your novels besides just drafting them and how much do they cost when added together?

Writing a novel involves planning, organizing research and metadata, writing, editing and revising, formatting for various print and electronic output formats for upload to various services and maybe a few other things. Scrivener has tools for almost all of this.

You could use Word plus other tools to accomplish many of the same things that Scrivener integrates into one application. ProWritingAid seems to be adding a lot of linguistic focus tools to analyze your writing as you revise to their service which might be better than Scrivener’s linguistic focus options. Vellum and calibre are other options for formatting your output. I talked about yWriter in another topic where you can enter a lot of helpful metadata for your scenes to better manage details in them. Scrivener has tools that could replace Evernote and some of the other outlining and research management tools you might use.

I’m not aware of any tools that have the split screen abilities of Scrivener or revision mode. Revision mode color codes your text so that you can see which draft you added particular sections. Along with the comment tool and Snapshots which saves a state of your manuscript before you make changes, allowing you to revert back any time, you can more easily trace back when you made certain changes in direction and continue them or go back. Someone else mentioned the corkboard for planning and outlining.

There’s a lot more.

My favorite really is the custom metadata. I believe in yWriter, the metadata is fixed but with custom metadata you can define your own categories of data to track in your documents. For example, tagging every scene with its location would allow you to quickly filter and search for every scene you might need to update if you later realized you had to change information regarding that location’s details for some reason.

Word is a word processing application. Scrivener is a box of writing tools.

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Curious about this myself. I’ve been told it’s not a friendly interface for visually impaired people, but that was a while back.

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I’ve started using an app called Papyrus Author. Most of its feature’s are free to use. It’s pretty cool.

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I do not like Scrivener on Windows because it has a tendency to corrupt/lose files. After the second time, I switched to yWriter. yWriter has fewer features, but it has NEVER lost or corrupted a file.

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I’ve tried Scrivener but, for me, there are too many bells and whistles. It has a high learning curve and it never felt like a comfortable fit for me. I found it a bit distracting. I’m considering giving Dabble a try. I’ve heard it’s less cluttered and easier to use.

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Dabble looks interesting.

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It does sort of take charge, don’t it?

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For me the two features that prevent me from using it is the inability to import and export comments from and to Word documents (Word being the defacto standard for working with an editor), and the fact that the Linux version is basically discontinued.
I know the SF/F author Charles Stross has found it very useful on occasion.

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I’ve been using Microsoft Word since 1986 - meaning longer than I’ve been married. I’ve used Scrivener only for three years, but even for a technophile like me it was a bit of a learning curve. So while I puttered around it with my novel (still on it) and my blog (switched back to BBedit text editor o my Mac). The big change came for me, when my non-fiction pitch was picked up by a major publisher and I began interviewing entrepreneurs and working on the book, I did it fully on Scrivener. As others have mentioned, working on the outline, book sections (3), chapters within each (24 in all), footnotes, and the meta tags and labels made a HUGE difference.

Could I have done this on Word? Yeah with heckuva lot more effort and even then some things would not have been possible. The way I’d approach Scrivener is to focus on what I need, rather than on learning EVERYTHING the tool has to offer - to be fair, they could have done the writer (user) discovery of features more seamless and as needed. I still use Word for writing syllabi and other business proposals but would heartily recommend Scrivener for anyone working on ANY book-length work. My resolution for November is to move my blogging on to Scrivener 3 on the Mac.

Yes, I did have to switch back to Word once the copy editor and proof reader at Harper Collins got on it, but I could NOT have done the book and gotten it ready on the pre-pandemic timelines without Scrivener.

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I’m liking Dabble so far. Only thing I don’t like is the price.

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I have used Scrivener for years. The one big drawback – for me – is that it lives only on your one computer and I really like something more cloud-based. (This led me to give Dabble a try, which I really love. This is a cloud-based program which has some great plotting features. BUT once I start revising I move right back to Scrivener.)

Yes, there are A LOT of features on Scrivener, which can make it feel overwhelming, but it’s really hard to beat it when you’re writing, and especially revising, something as large as a novel.

My favorite features:
– Each scene card can be color-coded however you choose. There are pre-set labels for each color, but you can change them to whatever you want. I’ve used this to show different POV, different timelines, etc.
– In addition to color-coding a scene, you can also mark its draft stage, which gets watermarked across the card. This is one more way to visually see where I am in my revision process. (These can be customized as well to read whatever you like.)
– Each scene can ALSO have a ‘keyword’, which can be displayed along the edge of a card. I use these for my different themes or plotlines, so I can visually see where they each pop up when viewing the cards on the corkboard.
– And all these different things can be filtered and searched! Which means you can pull all the scenes from one plot thread or all the scenes marked 1st draft.
– SNAPSHOTS! I’ve only recently started using this feature and it’s great. With one click of a button, Scrivener saves your scene exactly as it is. You can then go in, make changed, even start from scratch, and the older version is visible on the right sidebar for comparison.
– Adding a scene into the middle of your WIP is as easy as clicking to add a card in the right spot. You can even jot down some notes on the card and come back to it later.

Are any of these features absolutely necessary for writing? Nope. In fact, Dabble doesn’t have any of these and I still love it. But they make revising so much more manageable. Searching for a plot thread is no problem and you can see at a glance all the less visible parts of a story.

I think people get overwhelmed by Scrivener because it IS so customizable. That is a huge plus once you get familiar with the different features, but even just using them as-is can help organize and manage the messy process of writing.

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