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Scrivener Tips for Writing Your Novel

Scrivener is my jam.

Like most, I started creative writing with Microsoft Word. That venerable word processor is still the industry standard but, when it comes to organizing, researching, drafting and revising a novel, Scrivener is hard to top.

Scrivener’s origins go back to 2005 when writer and programmer, Keith Blount, offered the beta version in the NaNoWriMo forums. He, since, has formed Literature and Latte with a feature-packed Scrivener as the flagship product and regular NaNo Sponsor.  It truly is a “Complete Writing Studio.”

Here are some of the unbeatable features:

  1. Research: type in your notes or import PDFs, web pages, doc files and pictures.
  2. Planning: Index Cards hold your ideas or pictures
  3. Word processing: the central text area is where the bulk of your writing goes. One folder will contain the core of your novel; others can contain anything from character and setting sketches, timelines, to family trees.
  4. Distraction free mode: only the text screen is visable but you can set a  customizable background.
  5. Outline mode: View the Index card synopsis here as a line-by-line list of scenes.
  6. Scenes: your story scenes go in folders and files contained in the virtual binder. Move the file or folder and you’ve moved the scene within the book.
  7. Compiling: select and process scenes as doc, pdf, final draft (for screenwriters) and more.
  8. Templates: character and setting templates come with the program but adding your own is as easy as dragging the file you want to use as a template into template folder.
Scrivener Tutorial
Scrivener Tutorial from Literature and Latte

At $45 for Mac OS and $40 for Windows, Scrivener is far from the hundreds of dollars you’ll drop on Microsoft Word.  NaNoWriMo participants get a 20% discount and winners score a 50% discount. You could  download the full-featured software for a 30-day trial during NaNoWriMo, but recognize there is a learning curve.

I could go on but any effort I’d make would pale in comparison to the many tools out on the web. Instead, I’ll point you to their wisdom.

Literature and Latte: The Scrivener creators website includes a wealth of documents and videos. Their forums are active with programmers and users engaged in lively discussions. The link to their NaNoWriMo 2015 Trial Edition (30-day trial) plus a NaNo specific template and training videos is here.

Some wonderful posts on novel writing with Scrivener:

  • SF-writer Alexander Kulaev’s series on optimizing the software for NaNoWriMo.
  • Corrine Jackson’s How I Use Scrivener post
  • The Write Practice has a nice series of articles
  • SF writer, Jason Hough, blogs about Scrivener in part 1, and part 2 and has a wonderful Bootcamp  video here. His approach is particularly good for tracking stories with multiple POV characters. Here is his video on revision.
  • Sara Toole Miller has a good novel prep series

Free templates

  • Jamie Todd Rubin blog includes posts and free templates
  • Carol Norrington has a template geared toward organizing and outlining
  • The massive World-building Leviathan template is here
  • K.M. Weiland has a website full of writerly tips and this template
  • Literature and Latte’s free 2015 NaNoWriMo Template as mentioned above includes word count target tracking. Scroll down for the Mac of PC version.

Books and some classes for free or  pay:

  • Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener For Dummies blogs has tips on her blog under Scrivener Corner. Gwen Hernandez offers several inexpensive classes at $25 each.
  • Author, David Hewson, wrote “Writing a Novel with Scrivener” and includes a template on his website here
  • Simply Scrivener: start here with free content in Table of Contents section and for pay content under Scrivener classes (from $200 for 25 classes to a $120 ten-day revision course.) This is a bit pricey, but the free content was worth a mention.
  • Some have elaborate sites and videos to advertise their classes. I stayed away from those that did not also have good free content on their blogs. I’ll leave it to you to search for content specific to your particular needs.

Blogging with Scrivener

Disclaimer: I am not employed by Literature and Latte or any other sites listed in this post. I receive no compensation from any sites or products mentioned. I have posted  things I’ve tried, liked and think may be of use to other writers. 

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