Scrivener, from a Windows Perspective

Last week I talked about how I wanted to write an article on Scrivener by Literature and Latte (that name is amazing by the way) but didn’t learn enough back then to give a proper impression. I’ve given it a week while working on my second book so I could look at it with the perspective of working on a current project. When it comes to writing, I have always used MS Word as most writers probably start with. Now that I’ve had some time to play around with Scrivener, I can say it’s pretty amazing.

Now the first thing I have to talk about is that the official release for Windows was way behind that of the Mac version. There was one feature, the Page View, that was missing from the Windows version which made it frustrating to use. It could be my own ignorance but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. I prefer to go by page count as a method of measuring the length of a chapter because it gives me a feel for what the physical copy would read like. But aside from being able to measure the length of a chapter visually, not being able to see what your book actually looks like was a major issue for me. However after smashing my head against the program for a while, I found that the beta currently on the website has this feature. Seriously “Page View” is incredibly important.

The features that Scrivener brings are super useful for those of us that aren’t the best at organization. My books have chapters within parts and one of the cool things about Scrivener is that this is actually a template format that comes with the program. You can even import your current work into the program and it will sort it out into the individual chapters if you start every chapter with the word “chapter”. Though when I did this, I had to go back and re-enter the word “chapter” for each chapter. This was very minor as I went through each chapter to title it in the index anyway.

This feature is really useful as I often struggle with the order of events in the editing phase. When things happen is vitally important for a coherent story and being able to easily drag chapters to different positions is incredibly helpful. In fact when I was going through each chapter and labeling them, I found a chapter that was supposed to take place way earlier. In MS Word I’d have to find where it needs to go, cut and paste the chapter into the correct location, and then correct the formatting nightmare that comes with copy pasting chapters. With Scrivener I found that I could just drag it into the correct location.

Scrivener Index

I can’t explain how much I love this feature.

This helps to create an organization structure which helps out with the Outline feature. The Outline feature is amazing. You can color code it, classify it as what it represents in the book, and even label it as “done” or “needs work”. When editing my story I always found myself relying on memory whether or not I had completed a chapter or if I needed revisit it and change something to compliment what I had changed later on in the story. The color coding though I find super useful as a writer who likes to jump from character to character perspective. Being able to color code chapters really helps to quickly see what character is the focus of the chapter. As a bonus its also helped me to recognize who may be getting enough character development and who needs more time (more chapters) to develop correctly.

Scrivener Outline

Its pretty cool being able to take a quick glance at the status of a chapter. But this also feeds into what I think is my favorite feature of Scrivener. Its an outline view referred to as the Corkboard. Here you can do so much that I am incredibly excited about. Essentially what it does is it takes each chapter and creates a post-it note for the chapter. Here you can still see the color coding but you are also given a bit of space to write in notes, a summary of the chapter, or possible revisions planned. To say this is an exciting feature feels almost like an understatement. When it came to organizing my story in MS Word, a lot of it had to come from memory. I would have to re-read the chapter to know what I wrote, open up another word document, and jot down the the chapter title and any notes I had made. It was INCREDIBLY tedious and a pain to have to go back to my outline, search for the chapter, and revise my notes. But having it here, in a quick and accessible manner helps so much for the brainstorming and editing process. Legitimately my favorite part of Scrivener.

Scrivener Corkboard

Now there’s a lot more features with Scrivener that makes writing a lot easier and frankly a lot more fun (for instance various tabs to record character descriptions, notes, research, images, anything to your heart’s content really), however there is something to address about the program. It is not a free program and the cost of the program is $45. Now I do think its worth the money for sure, but I feel it wouldn’t be right for me to say without further explaining why.

For myself as a writer, I am terrible when it comes to organizing my thoughts and recording my ideas. Editing has always been a nightmare for me and often takes as long as writing the actual book itself. But with just the core features of Scrivener, I found that it’s really helped my workflow and made editing a more fun and enjoyable experience. Do I think everyone needs this? Probably not if you’re already a very organized person and are comfortable with your own system. However if you’re like me and value ease of use organization but kind of suck at it, this is definitely worth trying!

You can get the trial here and see for yourself!

HOWEVER

Scrivener seems geared more towards MAC OS and the Windows counterpart I found rather lacking and frustrating (see page layout rant earlier). If you’re using Windows I highly recommend creating an account and then downloading the beta. That’s the one I’ve used for this impressions article and would suggest for anyone wanting to give Scrivener a try but is working on Windows, give the beta a try first.

Hope this quick look helps! 🙂

– Raphael

Sidenote and shameless plug: my book, The Legend of Nariko: The Mark of Silverfrost, is available on Amazon as a Paperback or as an eBook. Check it out here! 😀

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