Monday, 2 February 2015

Investigating Scrivener

Okay, so last week I mentioned my Star letter in Writer’s Forum magazine, which discussed the topic of Scrivener, and several of you got in touch to ask me more about this writing software. Now, clearly, I can’t go into a lot of detail in one blog post: indeed, there are entire blogs, books and training courses dedicated to the software. But hopefully I can give you some clues on how to go about finding out further information.

I’ve been using Scrivener for a little over three years now, and I’m no authority on the software. But I like how it works for me, which is what is important.

Scrivener has been created by a writer (who now spends a lot of his time developing the software!). It is not page layout software (like Word), but software designed to make it easy to create, edit and move text about, as well as being a receptacle for all of your research. For big projects, like non-fiction books and novels, having all of your research together in one place is great.

But Scrivener is so flexible, you can use it for any kind of writing. I have all of my articles in one file. All of my short stories are in another. All of my walking routes are in another. All these blog posting are in another file. 

However, Scrivener’s flexibility can work against it, because it can do sooooo much, so it can be overwhelming. The trick is to learn only what you need to know, when you need to know it. In other words - rather than change the way you work to make it fit with Scrivener, you should learn how to make Scrivener work the way you work. 

For example, last month, when I was creating the eBook version of The Complete Article Writer I learned how to get Scrivener to create a Table of Contents. (Five mouse clicks was all it took! Brilliant!) But I only learned how to do it when the need arose (and I’ve been using the software for over three years now).

You can find out more about the software by visiting Scrivener is available in Windows and Apple OSX formats.

Watch the ten minute overview video. ( This will give you an insight into some of what it can do. 

Download the free trial. This gives you 30 days free use of the full programme. And just to be clear on this, it is 30 separate days of use. So if you downloaded the software and open it for the first time today (2nd February), and then you open it again on 12th February that 2 day’s worth of use, not ten. 

Compared with other writing software (remember how much Microsoft Word cost you?) Scrivener costs $45 (approx £33). However, don’t think you can ditch Microsoft Word - you can’t. Scrivener is software that helps you to create your text. You do not email editors Scrivener files. Instead, you export them from Scrivener. Again, this is where Scrivener’s flexibility can become overwhelming. You can export Scrivener text in Word format, rich text format, pdf format and many other formats, including Amazon Kindle, ePub and even some movie software format. So last month, from the same file I exported The Complete Article Writer in Word format to send to Createspace to create my paperback book. Then I exported the same text from Scrivener in Amazon Kindle format to create the eBook version to upload. 

When you buy Scrivener it comes complete with a manual in PDF format. Although the manual is a readable document, don’t sit down and read it like a book. Instead, a better book to buy is Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies.

If you enjoy writing novels, David Hewson, author of the Nic Costa crime books, has written a guide to using Scrivener for writing your novel. Or rather, he’s written a guide as to how he uses Scrivener for writing novels. There is no right and wrong way to do this! His book is called Writing A Novel with Scrivener

Gwen Hernandez also offers useful tips and tricks for Scrivener on her website at:

Scrivener won’t improve the quality of your writing - but it may help with your productivity. Don’t expect to master Scrivener in a week. I’m still learning several years on! There’s also a fantastic forum where many devotees will try to answer any queries you have. (I’ve used them a couple of times and have always had problems solved.)

So, if you want to know more about the software click on the links, and make the most of the tutorial videos. The software won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it might just help you feel more in control of your writing.

Good luck! 

PS - no I'm not being paid by Scrivener to say any of this. I just like using the software!


  1. Hi Simon. I found your article interesting as I am currently running the Scrivener trial and recording some of my findings on my blogsite I downloaded the trial package at the same time that I started writing my second novel and have used it in the developmental stage of a short story. Thus far I find it user friendly (the tutorial was less so and I may invest in the book you recommended) and other writers I know seem to like it very much.

    1. Keep going, lindybee! Good to read you're finding it useful. Yes, Gwen's book is definitely more readable than the manual.

  2. Thanks for the mention, Simon! :-)

    1. That's okay, Gwen. I found your book immensely useful.