Learning Scrivener: Part 1

I purchased Scrivener last week, a program designed to help writers organize their projects and hopefully make better time of writing. It’s gotten rave reviews.  An author friend on Facebook posted that it was 50% off at Amazon (regularly $40).  It was sold out within a matter of moments, but I checked back the next day and found it available again at the same price. So, I bought it!

Other than Evernote, I’ve never used anything beyond a notepad and pen or Microsoft Word when it comes to writing. I don’t necessarily like MS Word, but I’m familiar enough with it that it makes writing comfortable for me. It’s kind of like when something is broken around your house and you learn to work around it or without it. You adapt, although your life might be more comfortable if you just fixed it.  So, I’ve decided to try Scrivener for my next writing project.  I’ll be blogging about my experiences along the way to hopefully shed some light on this program for other writers.

After you’ve purchased the program, and definitely if you are purchasing it from Amazon, don’t delete the confirmation email that Amazon sends you.  It contains a registration code which then gets you a serial number you’ll need to register to get the full program. Otherwise, you’ll only have a trial version for 30 days. Once you are all set there and have opened the program once it’s downloaded to your computer, there’s a brief introduction and then you get to go through a tutorial.

The tutorial takes about an hour, and as of this post I’m about a fourth of the way through it. All I can say is shut yourself in a room and be prepared. Try to get in the right mindset as if you are taking an online course or something. It’s very interactive, but it’s also a lot of reading. Several times, I had to stop and reread certain parts just to get a feel for what I was supposed to be learning. Here’s a snapshot of the main window of the tutorial:


Scrivener is unique in that it has an outline of subcategories down the left side which it calls “The Binder.”  Think of this as the way you can organize your documents into files on your computer. The tutorial starts by showing you how The Binder is organized.  It is set up into three parts: Draft, Research, and Trash.

Some of the features I like that I’ve learned about so far include the program autosaves your work, so you don’t have to constantly hit the save button for fear of losing anything.  You also can’t accidentally delete something.  You can move it to the Trash bin but it stays there until you empty the trash.  There’s also a word and character count in the footer that automatically updates as you type. Navigation between scenes or documents is also easy using arrows in the header, unlike MS Word where you basically have to have multiple saved files open in different windows.  Notice there’s a word highlighted in the snapshot above?  You can highlight your place in one document, then go to another document or research, and the program will hold your space for you when you get back.

So there you have it.  That’s what I’ve learned in the first three steps from the tutorial that I have found useful.  More next time as I continue on…

Do you have a program that you like to write in? What do you like about it? Do you already use Scrivener?  What do you or don’t you like about it?


  1. I tend to use Open Office, although I have used Final Draft for screenplays. I actually downloaded the Scrivener demo a few days ago and am working through the tutorial now. I am not sure if it’s something that I’ll keep using or not–it seems awfully complex for the kind of writing I do.

    • The one main problem I see is that since it’s not a uniformly accepted format, you’d probably have to transfer your manuscript to MS Word anyway if you were going to submit professionally. Most agents, magazines, publishers, etc. only accept .doc formats. And yes, it does seem awfully complex. I’m weeding through “Inspector” section and keep thinking it’s a big waste of time.

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