Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday Review—Scrivener for Windows

by Lynn Huggins Blackburn

I wrote my first novel in a Word document. It never occurred to me that there might be a better way to do it.

Editing said novel was, shall we say, challenging.

Somehow, I had deluded myself into thinking I would never forget exactly which page the tiniest detail lived on.

Trust me. Write 400 pages and you will forget. You will scroll through chapter after chapter trying to find that detail. You will regret not being more organized.

You might cry.

But there is hope!

I first heard about Scrivener at BRMCWC. I sat enthralled as the instructor — a well-respected, multi-published author — shared with us her approach to novel writing. And then — despair!

Scrivener was only available for Mac.

AAAAGGGGHHHH! I’m a PC. No Scrivener for me. I thought I might cry.

But hope springs eternal! In the fall, I learned that Scrivener for PC was coming to a laptop near me. And, even better, the beta version would be released just in time for intrepid NaNoWriMo participants to test drive it.

Here are a handful of the things I love.
  • Video tutorials. I’m very visual and the video tutorials were well worth the time. If you download Scrivener, start here.
  • Word count. In Scrivener, the word count is at the bottom of the screen at all times. Trying to meet your goal for the day? A swift glance will tell you how far you have to go. I’m a simple girl and this made me very happy!
  • Scene organization. My entire novel is in one file but broken down into however many sections I want. I can label my scenes in whatever way works for me—Chapter 2, First Kiss, Breakup, Vacation, etc. And I can add to or re-organize scenes with ease—no cutting and pasting.
  • Notes. My favorite feature for the draft phase. Your fingers are flying, smoke rising from your keyboard, when a plot twist appears on your screen. Your characters decide to vacation in Toronto. You've never been to Toronto. What do you do? Do you stop everything? No! You type on. And in the convenient "Document Notes” section, you leave yourself questions—How long does it take to fly to Toronto? What’s the average temperature in July? The Notes feature is far more user friendly than adding comments in a Word document.

There’s much more, but Scrivener tells me I’m over my word count for this post already. Next month, we’ll talk about the beauty of Scrivener during the revision process.

Side note: This means I’m actually going to have to do some revisions. My internal editor is thrilled!

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boatshe writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of two amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.

*Additional Note - Here's the link to Part Two of the Scrivener Review


  1. Another great post, Lynn. I will be downloading Scrivener today!

  2. I've never heard of Scrivener. Looks like I need to look into it! Thanks for the tips!

  3. Well, I went back and looked in my applications, and sure enough, I found another example of me downloading software after someone said I needed it...and then never even trying it.

    You've convinced me, Lynn. I just visited the site and downloaded the new version. Now, where do I go to find the button that automatically downloads the instructions into my brain?


  4. Thanks, Cathy! This is a great time to give it a spin.
    Ellen - I'd never heard of it before Blue Ridge. :-) Just one of the many things I learned there!The beta version is available as a free download so you've got nothing to lose.
    Vonda - you made me laugh!! Definitely watch the tutorial videos - it will save time in the long run! :-)

  5. Just as I was getting serious about working on my book again, you give me this helpful post. Will it be as helpful for non-fiction?

  6. Good review, Lynn. Look forward to the next installment. One question: does it handle imports of documents from other sources? Example: I've started a novel in Word, and am three chapters along. Can I import what I have into Scrivener and have it divide it up or do I have to type it directly in?

  7. I'm not a writer, but I am a fan of yours. Therefore, I thought it was a marvelous review...really marvelous.

  8. Kay - Scrivener has a variety of templates - everything from a blank template to poetry and scriptwriting. The only non-fiction I've used it for so far is blog posts, but I would think it would be fantastic for keeping your research and notes with the appropriate chapters of your book and for organizing your work.

  9. Kenneth - You can import your work from Word very easily. As far as I can tell (I don't claim to be an expert!), you'll need to import the file and then just cut & paste your 3 chapters into 3 separate folders - from then on you just create a new folder or file for each chapter or scene. I played with it and it took about 5 minutes. Hope that helps!

  10. Like you, I was disappointed when I found Scrivner and saw it was Mac only. I've been using Power Writer. It has some of the features of Scrivner, but has a few annoyances. Since it is never updated, the problems are never fixed. I'm glad you shared this. Now I can get all geeked out and start playing with it.

  11. I'm off to download Scrivner! I remember Scrivner being a handbook for writers. Was that highschool or college?? I think I still have that thick book somewhere...
    Thanks for this amazing review. I use Word too, but will give thsi a try.

  12. Thanks for the info, Lynn! And Edie, thanks for referring me to Scrivener! I'm downloading now and preparing to start my journey with writing fiction! :)

  13. Eddie, April & Alycia - I hope you enjoy it. It is still a "beta" program, but the tech support has been quick to fix any glitches...if you have any problems, they'll want to know so they can correct it. Have fun!