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Scrivener - yay or nay?
CY Reid
Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 8:20 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 52

I've been checking out Scrivener, the Mac (and to some degree, Windows) program allowing you to duct-tape together your research, notes, flashcards, manuscript, separate chapters, and what have you. This is in addition to a word-target feature and countless other amazing little buttons and areas that I've not yet discovered.

However, I'm still internally crying out for the simplicity of Word, a note app and Chrome, because Scrivener seems incredibly complex. Do any BookCountrians use it, and if so, how do you feel about it? Is it too complex? Not complex enough? Does it help you organise yourself as a writer?

Danielle Bowers
Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 8:42 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280

My biggest beef with Scrivener and programs like it is that there is no real easy way to port to Word then BACK again. There are always formatting issues porting back and forth.

I use both Write Way Pro and Scrivener.

For organizing my research and character bibles, I adore Scrivener. One of my projects relies heavily on real American history and all my research needs careful organization. The ability to embed file within file is a blessing. I can create a folder then toss several dozen child files who all have child files of their own. It's a beautiful thing for research.

For my character bibles I created a fact sheet template for each character and added to that are child files. The child files are usually something like...wardrobe. Every time I mention an article of clothing warn by a character, it gets cut and pasted into that file too. Same with jewelry. Instead of flipping through pages to see what Cinderella wore to the ball, boom...there it is.

I'll make location bibles for the same reason. Each location gets a file and if it's a real place I'll throw photos for reference. Maps.

I still don't use Scrivener 100% of the time. I prefer simple Word files for actual writing. If the conversion to Word docs back and forth were better, I'd never use anything else.
Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 9:10 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

I mentioned this to you on twitter, but I figured I would comment here as well.

I am branching just beyond Scrivener a bit, because I find I've used soo many programs, and this might give a little more insight to why I feel as I do about scrivener (and other proggies)

I have used quite a few different programs over the years -- word, open office, scrivener, storybook, writeitnow and a few others.

I will go one by one on what I like and don't like and with a little information on why. I'll even rank them out of 5 stars just for fun. I'll specify which OS's I've done this with.

Scrivener: 3 of 5 stars.

It is a nice enough program -- it does a lot and can quickly generate manuscript format. It is fun to use, but it is very complex and has a lot of overhead. Works for Windows or Mac -- I've only used the Windows version though. What I don't like about this program is that the format is not-friendly to other programs. Once you put it into scrivener, you MUST use scrivener to get it out. This is a problem with most of the programs out there, but seeing as the mac and windows versions don't share the same feature sets, Scrivener gets difficult to port around.

There is a very high learning curve for Scrivener, in my opinion -- just to use it, they recommend watching a video to show you how its done.

I have a copy of scrivener -- the beta trial version. So far, I haven't been soon thrilled with it. It does not have a time feature, which is really very necessary for me when writing and plotting epic high fantasy. I have to be able to tell time so I can judge the path of the moon, the seasons, etc.

I also find it is a memory / cpu hog, something that constantly annoys me. On my system, it took up about the same amount of horsepower as word did. I don't know if I fiddled with a setting to cause this, but it doesn't feel like it should be eating as much resources as it does.

Storybook: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favorite of the lot, but it has the issues of open source. It can work on virtually any OS (It isn't expressly made for mac but you CAN use it on mac, I have done it.) it is small, so it easily fits on a USB drive. If you want to uninstall it, it doesn't leave unpleasant traces of its presence, so if you have rights to install on the computer, you can use it without harming anyone's system.

It has a moderate learning curve, excellent reporting (Timelines, where characters are when, etc) and it is simple in its basic functions. No video required to learn it, you can just tinker with it and quickly figure it out. I was able to be working with it within minutes of installing.

I use Storybook to plot and plan but you can write directly into it.

Word: 5 of 5 stars

This is the processor for me, it has all of the features I need, the latest versions are quiet and stay out of my way, letting me focus on just writing. I have my options set up where it leaves me alone and lets me do what I need to. 2010 is extremely stable, rarely crashes, and if it does, has stellar recovery tools. I have lost no data since using 2010, which is a huge thing for me. No corrupted files either.

OpenOffice - 3 of 5 stars

I used to be a huge Open Office fan -- until it turned into Word from 1997 or so... constant crashes and corrupted data. I hope they streamline OO.o again, but at this point in time, I view it as too risky to use on work I really want.

WriteItNow - Mac - 3 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I've used WriteItNow, but it was a good little program when I did use it: Ran quickly, did the basics very well, and had a few extra toys to make it worth the small investment. That said, it has been a few years since I've used this program, so I don't know if it is any good anymore.

Abiword - 1 of 5 stars

I would avoid this program like it was the plague. Corrupted files are a norm, and it does not handle large file sizes well. It also had issues with manuscript format when I used it. I abandoned this program several years ago after four different linux installations (four different computers) continuously had problems with file crashes and corruptions. Did not handle imports very well.

These are the programs that I could think of off-hand. I have used more, but I don't remember them well enough to make any further commentary.
Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2011 3:31 AM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241

Love Scrivener. But I've never written in anything else but Word, so I am pretty tickled by the whole idea os special novel-writing features.
Tara Kollas
Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 1:41 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 19

I stuck with Pages for the MS I'm currently querying. I import to word and then save on the PC my husband uses, so I have a more recent version of word for submissions. I have two WIPs, and I'm debating using Scrivener for the one that I've invested less time in.

RJBlain, thank you so much for your reviews. I've downloaded the trial version of Scrivener, but you are right about the learning curve. What appeals to me is the ability to save little character traits/habits/etc. that I can keep open on the cork board while I write. We'll see if it actually pans out. I've only finished the first part of the tutorial. That's a lot of time I could spend writing.
E D Johnson
Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2011 9:27 PM
Joined: 6/11/2011
Posts: 18

I have not seen it mentioned, so I thought I would toss in a couple of pennies here. I have used most, if not all of the tools mentioned on here, with essentially the same reactions to them. I think Scrivener is complex but useful; however, I am NOT a wealthy writer yet. Therefore, I lean on free tools (or tools that I have already "paid" for such as Word).

yWriter is the one free tool that I have started to REALLY enjoy (though it lacks some complexities - http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter.html). It lets you build character bios, location information, item details, and notes of that nature (including pictures of all of those things!). Chapters are split into scenes, and in the scene screens, you can set which POV you are using, who all is present, where the location is, and such. A helpful feature to ME especially is the Words Added Today feature (bottom left corner) which tells you how many words TOTAL you have added today between all your scenes, chapters, etc. and takes into account any chunks you may have deleted. That makes it doubly useful for TRIMMING word count, which it also keeps track of on a scene-by-scene and chapter basis. Helpful for locating bulge!

I have found two things that yWriter does NOT do at all or well. Time Lines - Not gonna happen, or if it is, I haven't found where. And the exporting is atrocious. It will export as HTML, RTF, or Text, that's it. A tremendous amount of editing goes into each section that I export to post here, because it jacks up the double spacing, the indentations, and line spacing, every single time I do it. I even tried C&P, and it just does not work well.

All told though, I give yWriter a 4 out of 5 stars though, because when it comes to the actual WRITING part of things, it houses EVERYTHING I need it to keep handy in one place. Oh, and with it running, it takes 31 megs of RAM and almost no CPU after loading, which these days is INCREDIBLY light!
Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011 1:57 PM
Joined: 7/18/2011
Posts: 25

I find Scrivener most helpful when I'm going back in and adding little bits to specific scenes. In Word, I would have to scroll around try to find that scene. Also, I've created collections in Scrivener for each of my characters, so I can go in, look at a character's arc, and any changes I make are then reflected in the "binder"/manuscript.

These two features have been extremely helpful! I tend to write all over the place instead of chronologically.

However, Scrivener's paragraph formatting seems to be very basic. Somtimes, it's a little stubborn with indenting and spacing. So far, I haven't found a way to "select all" and apply the same formatting to the entire manuscript. (Unless I'm missing something? I'm working off the Windows Beta, so maybe it's not there yet?) I find that at the end of a draft, when I convert to word, I then have to fix all of the formatting before saving it as a PDF. Additionally, if I make even the slightest changes to these sections later on, I have to do all of the formatting over again the next time I import.
Eliza Wyatt
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 9:10 PM
Joined: 9/25/2011
Posts: 3

My love of Scrivener is that, as a plot junkie, I can look at my story scene by scene. The research and notes are... well, nice, but I think what I really wanted was the little '3x5 card view', and that's easy enough to learn, easy to implement, easy to drag and drop at will if something needs to come sooner or later.

Right now I'm writing the last of my rough draft of my book in Scrivener, and really loving the scene and chapter placeholders for upcoming events. Since I have about twenty subplots, juggling all these in Word would have been a nightmare.
Lisa Hoekstra
Posted: Monday, October 3, 2011 4:57 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 89

Hi All!

I'm so glad this discussion exists... I was recently trying to find an app for my ipad (so that while I worked on my computer, I could use my ipad as a reference tool). I wanted the app to have my character bios, scene break downs, plot lines, etc. etc. However, they have yet to develop a good app for that (surprising, no?) - so I decided to reverse the process, write on my ipad and use my computer as the reference tool.

Last night I downloaded Storybook (Thanks for the suggestion RJBlain!) and spent a good three hours inputting all of my hand written notes; so far I'm finding it an interesting tool and will most likely stick with it for the remainder of my current WIP... It's not complicated and they have great tutorials on the website if you get stuck or don't understand something. Unfortunately for those, like me, who are on a budget, the more useful tools are only available through the "Pro" program, which looks to be about $26.52 (though I couldn't find if that was USD or CAD). Not a huge cost and I will probably invest in the Pro in the near future.

Other than that, I'm a Word and handwritten notes girl. Even contemplated buying cue cards and using those to organize everything! lol

Carl Rayer
Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 3:39 PM
Joined: 5/20/2011
Posts: 6

I'm a Scrivener fan, so beware my bias. I think it's a fantastic tool - and it allows you to build up a project for a novel (or of any long manuscript), including research material, character sketches, locations, as well as different versions of scenes all within a single file. Etc. Scenes you can mark with logical statuses (1st draft, 2nd draft, final). You can set writing targets for a session, and it also has a full-screen mode for distraction free writing sessions - a theme now for a lot of new software.

It is not a replacement for Word-type word processors - these are usually to be used when you've finished the editing of your text and now wish to format it in a particular way. 

I use the Mac version, but presume the Windows version has at least the above functionality.

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:12 AM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 6

I'm among the Scrivener fans. A little over a year ago I switched to Mac just to get the software. I'll never go back. 

I started my novel with Word and wrote the first three draft with it. I had a file for each chapter, and created an Excel file to keep track of word and page count. I converted to Scrivener and imported every Word document without a problem. Granted, the formatting controls of the earlier versions were cumbersome, but the new releases have resolved those issue. Earlier this year a perspective agent asked I consider changing the opening of my novel. I loved the idea, but required a complete rewrite. With Scrivener rearranging scenes and chapters was as simple as moving index cards on a cork board (virtually). Granted there is a LOT to the software, but I found it easy to just jump in and start writing. The more I use it the more I learn. Throughout this process I've found innovative features that make keeping track of my monster manageable. Incredibly, the agent accepted my novel and she is waiting for my final draft.  Yay me.

An additional comment about Scrivener I like to make.
As a fan I follow them on Twitter and keep tabs on their forums. The creators listen to their customers and a LOT of the features they have added are based on our inputs. It's refreshing to see a developer listen to their customers and tailor the product for them.

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 6:00 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 44

I love Scrivener for Mac. I dabbled with it for Nano in 2009 I believe. And when they upgraded it, I had gotten the newest version. The only thing I had trouble with is compiling my manuscript. It didn't work out for me for the first version. Haven't tried it in the newest version.

D J Lutz
Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 9:14 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 130

Had a gift card for Amazon so I bought Scrivener for Windows. Indeed a steep learning curve, though there are a few short tomes out there that help lower the angle. I am writing the scenes in Word and then transferring them to Scriv in order to facilitate shuffling. My big hope is that the compiling will result with a nice format when it's all done. More to follow...

Ayuda Mei Amoir
Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 9:15 AM
Joined: 6/4/2013
Posts: 35

hey CY Reid saw your post and as I am new to Book Country and a user of Scrivener. The program is a bit complex I agree there but if you are looking for a program that can help you go from idea to finished project to send out into the world you cant have a better program in my opinion. Exporting and importing through Scrivener can be a bit tricky but once you have tried it a few times it does get easier. Ultimately its about trying all programs out there and going with the one that works best for you as a writer, what works for one person may not work for another.
Serena Louise
Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 2:54 PM
Joined: 6/10/2013
Posts: 11

I've downloaded the free version of Scrivener for 30 days and haven't used it very much.
I wrote my entire book on Microsoft word 2003 and haven't had a problem with it. Even editing with someone else is superb because you can track the changes along the side and add comments for yourself or if you are editing someone else's work. The only thing about Word is that I find formatting difficult. I've used Scrivener only to format my book and nothing else so far. It took some getting used to to figure out how to keep my italics safe and not underlined when moving it from scrivener and into a word file. Still I managed it with some messing about.

That being said, I can't figure out how to do the exact same formatting in word, even when I open the document that has been formatted by Scrivener for me. I'm not an expert at it, but I've gone through the formatting toolbars and everything to no avail. So that is the only reason why I use scrivener. 
It's a handy thing, even if it's just for the formatting element, it saves my time and looks very professional!
The rest I can all do on Microsoft word. I particularly enjoy using the full screen effect, which is similar to the one on Scrivener, to block out everything else and just sit with my notebook and my keys to write my plots. 
I find using the simple, good old fashioned tools that are outlined in word, which is famous for being a work of art since its creation, much easier than downloading a ton of other programmes, and even paying for them, when Word is basically all I need (plus it comes with powerpoint, excel etc so it's perfect for my studies too!).
Microsoft word is THE programme for me. It's always been reliable and it has never crashed on me. My computer has crashed and versions of my work, including the original, has been saved and secured during the fall. I love it. 
Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014 6:19 PM
Joined: 7/18/2014
Posts: 120

I found this thread and did some looking around the net, and finally downloaded Scrivener after watching YouTube videos and reading reviews. I purchased Scrivener about an hour ago. I am sold.


I spent a day going over the interactive tutorial - several times - and am currently moving a novel from Word a chapter at a time into Scrivener. I rename each chapter (ex. 1. Ted is kidnapped, 2. Frank is hired) and then each scene in the chapter gets its own name. It makes it easy to go back and check on something.


At this point, I'm probably using a small fraction of what Scrivener offers. The tutorial sits in the background and allows me to go back and check or practice if necessary, and it is necessary - often.


What a great piece of software, and for a remarkably small price. In addition, it isn't limited to just one computer. You, your spouse, your kids can legally load, register and use it on their computers.


I won't be ditching Word, but I can already see that it won't get a lot of use anymore.



--edited by ChuckB on 8/23/2014, 6:23 PM--

Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 1:04 AM
Joined: 8/29/2014
Posts: 7

ChuckB is right, I didn't think so I looked into it and was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong and he was right, thought there are conditions.  All must be the same OS and at the same house, students at College need their own but they have discounted Ed copies, 12.5% for Windows and 15% for the Mac.  Plus a discounted Win/Mac combo, almost 18% off.  Its really cheap compared to M$ even if your buying both versions.  I'm looking forward to the trying out the Linux Beta.


 Though I wonder at the fact they charge you for both versions since its developed in Qt which allows for cross-compiling.  That means one set of code 3 platforms you can compile for (*nix/Mac/Win) but that's just one programmer wondering about that.  I've done the 1 code 3 platforms coding before.


 If it lives up to the hype, I think I'll be happy with it.  I'll share what I think after I try it and if I recall to come back to this thread.

Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 2:07 PM
Joined: 7/18/2014
Posts: 120

Right, nobody. I didn't check the conditions, but they're very liberal. I've got it only on my laptop at the moment since that's what I tend to use most often. It is nice to know, though, that I can legally install it on my desktop and my wife can add it to her laptop and desktop should she so choose.

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