Introduction to Scrivner

Scrivner is an amazing tool for writing fiction. Heck, I’ll even say, it’s the best tool. It far exceeds any writing program I’ve ever used and that includes the much loved (and maligned) Microsoft Word. Scrivner is a word processor developed by Literature and Latte. Yet, it’s so much more.

Ask any writer and you’ll get a mix of different answers. You’ll sometimes hear it be referred to as an organization tool or a filing cabinet, depending on the age of the writer. You may even hear the word compile tossed around.

The truth is, as a writer, Scriver is the exact opposite of death from a thousand cuts. It’s orgasm from a thousand kisses. It’s a collection of tools that clears the “virtual desk” of distraction and allows you to write your story.

But yet, so much more.

The Problem with Writing Books

A long long time ago, I wrote the first draft of a book called Killing Time. The draft went nowhere but it did show me that using a general purpose word processor was a huge pain. First, the longer I wrote, the larger the file. As the book grew in size, my computer decreased in speed. Not to mention the large file size.

I also struggled with the sheer weight of a manuscript. As I added page after page, the sheer size of the manuscript seemed to crush me. I wanted to feel light and airy but instead, I was burned with the core of a dead star.

When I wrote my second book, I changed tactics. I broke out the book in sections and I created a document for every section. I organized all the files into a tree-like structure. After which, when I went to read my work, I’d copy and paste all the file into a singular file that I’d print out and get my final word count.

My pre-Scrivner method of writing a book

This made for a better first draft experience, but a terrible revision tool. I ultimately switched focusing on just chapters, but I ran into more process issues. It reached a point where I researched developing my own custom writing software to solve the problem. Translation: I stopped writing.

Scrivner to the Rescue!

When I first heard of Scrivner, I wasn’t interested. Year ago, in high school, I used Microsoft Works to write my stories. Years later, I found my stories but I was unable to open the files. It infuriated me that I could no longer access my own files. The same thing happened with Final Draft. So I decided to only use open formats.

Scrivner uses its own file format, but that file format is actually accessible. It’s not a black box. If Scrivner is called to the rapture, I can still access my stories (and related data). Consider me interested.

Better still, Scrivner allows you to develop your story in small bite sized pieces. Instead of managing dozens of individual word files and pasting them together into one document, Scrivner does it all. This is what it means to “compile” your story. You are taking all your small bits and combing it into a single document.

This is an example of a character biography I put together for my book. I always include pictures so I can visualize them in my head.

On top of that, it provides a singular place for research, character biographies, and even earlier drafts. It’s an incredible writing tool. At this point, I’d love to see some AI integration, but that’s a topic for another time.

My current book’s organization in Scrivner

FYI – I see myself as a “clean room” AI user. That is, I use AI for tasks to support my writing such as research, prompts, and even character sketches for inspiration. My actual prose is 100% original and written by me and me alone.

Concluding Thoughts

Scrivner is an excellent tool. It will take your writing to the next level. Better still, in a world of never-ending subscriptions, Scrivner is a one time purchase. At the time of writing, the software costs $60 which is an incredible value. (I’m not sponsored by them).

Do you use Scrivner? What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s worth the admission price or do you use another writing tool? Let me know in the comments!

By Brian Moakley

Brian Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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