Writer’s Resources: Scrivener Revisited

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Back in October 2013, I was introduced to a new writing resource – Scrivener – and I was so taken by it, I came straight onto here and had to share my joy with my fellow writers at finding such a powerful tool for our trade (read my original review here). Given this month is all about getting inspired and getting writing, thought it might be a good time to do a refresh, recap and updated review.

Recap – what is Scrivener:

For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, Scrivener is a programme designed specifically for writers. Designed by the geniuses at Literature and Latte, it is a virtual storyboard/corkboard based resource and allows writers to organise their work from initial plot bunnies through first drafts, editing, proofing, formatting and even doing promotional material all from a simple, user-friendly dashboard. It replaces the traditional fifty word documents, files full of photos and research and scraps of paper and puts them in one organised binder.

Licences are $40 (at the current exchange that’s around £30 in England speak). For that you get the full package, including tutorials and automatic updates.

Two years on…

I’ve now been working on Scrivener for so long I’ve actually forgotten what life was like without it. I don’t know how to write without it. For me, it is a program that goes from strength to strength. A lot of the bugs I complained about in my first review have now been sorted. It runs faster and smoother. There have been a couple of upgrades. The compile function is now a lot stronger and gives you more options and as a result more consistent results. In the early days, I would either have to compile to word and then spend a day formatting before transferring to Kindle or spend days getting increasingly frustrated, compiling dozens of times with little changes until it finally behaved and even then just give up on some of my desires because I got the impression it was just never going to happen.

Now, I more or less compile the first time and it looks the way I want it to. It imports metadata, contents links, cover art… they’ve added templates for all the usual pages at the beginning (dedications, copyright, title page etc…) so even that is a breeze – just add your few lines of data and boom!

For me, the Corkboard remains its strongest asset. I’ve gone through two massive editing projects since converting to Scrivener and I can honestly say I think the only reason I got to the end was because of its Corkboard function. Instead of colour-coded post it notes all over my walls linked with strings, I could just move things around on my screen to play with plot progression, spot dead weight and find the sections that needed editing the worst. I love the ability to save different versions of the same chapter and flick back and forwards between revisions. Now, instead of a harddrive full of nearly identical word documents as I try to decide which edit I like best, I can just flick back and forth between the “snapped” versions with no fuss or faff.

As I say, I’m working on my most ambitious project to date in the form of an eight book series. I cannot express how helpful Scrivener has been in organising my timeline (that lasts around 2000 years over the eight books) and weave all the characters stories in and around each other and then re-organising that into the order I want to tell it (because Lord knows writing it chronologically would have just been too simple) without losing any plot strings.

There are still a few weaknesses. Its thesaurus function is still pretty weak and they could work to enhance the editing functionalities (like word frequency tools) but I still recommend it to anyone in the writing business. Scrivener remains a powerful tool that helps make writing just that little bit less stressful. It’s the electronic version of the comfy sofa that you know won’t let you down when you curl up with your notepad and pen to scribe the world’s next bestseller. 100% Maxi recommended.