Scrivener: Why You Should Use It / by Kenneth Buff

Okay, so over the weekend I posted a link to a video series that gives a fairly detailed overview of how to effectively use Scrivener to format ebooks and print books. But I think some of you out there may need a little more convincing to even make the jump from Word to Scrivener, and that's what I hope to convince you to do in this post.

So, let's start with what Scrivener is. It's a writing program. Just like Word, only it's much more user friendly and has many more uses, and it's cheap ($45, an incredible deal for how much it does). Like any new program, for you to be able to use all the extra bells and whistles (which I mostly don't use, FYI) you'll need to spend a little time playing around with it, but if you just want to fire it up and start writing, you can do that without reading any tutorials or watching any videos. It's simple. Here's a screenshot of my latest work in Scrivener to give you an example of what it looks like:

So if you look on the left you'll see where it says Manuscript. That's the bread and butter section. That's where you write your book. Scrivener works as a digital binder, giving you multiple files for each chapter. That is really irrelevant to you though, all you need to know is that pressing Command+n creates a new page that you can then start your new chapter on. This makes editing your work later so much easier, and also makes formatting your work easier as well (importing Word documents into Scrivener is also easy, but requires a little extra work to delete all the manual line breaks and what not that you've probably put in it in Word). Another really cool thing about the manuscript line is that the titles you have listed there will become clickable links when you format it into an ebook, so everything you see there will be listed in the ebook, and if it's a print book those chapter names will be listed in the index (if you choose to put in an index, which as easy as a click of a button).

The character and place templates are also really useful. Prior to Scrivener I of course used Word, but Word being a really crude writing tool, it had no place for me to put my character information, so I used physical note cards. Which worked fine, but after six books the note cards really start to pile up (I'm also a really disorganized person, so anything physical made out of paper gets messy in my house quick). The built in templates have really helped me to keep my world's clear in my mind, and to keep all that information in a nice central location. Here's a screen shot of the character template:

Here's a screenshot of the places template from my upcoming novel, Dick and Henry And The Temporary Detective:

You can get as detailed with it as you want, I was simply using it to keep the places straight in my head. You can also make sub-categories if you want. For Dick and Henry I made a list of the good guy characters and the bad guy characters.

My absolute favorite writing feature is the full screen mode (which is accessible by the click of a single button). Using it blocks out everything else in your screen. There's no word count, or anything else present, though you can add these features if you'd like. You can also move the mouse and see your current word count for the page you're on. You can click project and then project targets on the top bar on the Mac version and then look at your word count for the entire project. This brings up a bar graph showing your progress towards your chosen word count goal (this can be edited at any time). Here are some screen shots of these features:

Full screen mode in Scrivener. If you prefer the white page you can write in the binder mode. I personally prefer the full screen mode.

Full screen mode in Scrivener. If you prefer the white page you can write in the binder mode. I personally prefer the full screen mode.

Project targets.  Can be viewed in full screen mode or in binder mode.

Project targets.  Can be viewed in full screen mode or in binder mode.

So that's the basic gist of writing in Scrivener. There's also some note card features if you want to storyboard on Scrivener, I don't use it, but lots of people swear by it. The biggest reason you should use Scrivener I haven't even covered yet, that is something for another blog post. But I'll go ahead and touch on it here. The biggest reason you should use Scrivener if you're a writer is because you should be self publishing. In today's world there's no sense wasting time querying agents when you can be making more and getting your name out there by DIY. I'll give you my thoughts and advice on this in a future post, and I'll cover formatting with Scrivener in another—which is where you get more than your money's worth with Scrivener (you can easily make any file type you may need your book to be with Scrivener).

But for now, that's all I have. Gotta get started on my word count for tonight.