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Scrivener Review: Top 7 Reasons I Use Scrivener

Updated on April 15, 2016

Scrivener Trumps Word

I'm not trying to be a hater: Microsoft Word is a great software.

It's classic, like a good apple pie. When you want something sweet, it's reliable, familiar, and gets the job done. But sometimes, you want a tiramisu. And Scrivener is definitely the tiramisu of writing software.

I know, I'm probably way too excited about Scrivener. But before I finally bit the bullet to see what all the fuss was about, I was hoarding Word documents in a folder, unsure of how to label them. My ideas for stories were strewn about in various notebooks and sketchbooks...to put it simply, I was a mess.

Scrivener helped change my bad writing habits, with no effort on my part. Scrivener's features are built to revolve around the organizational needs of a long writing project, and it's amazingly effective. Before Scrivener, I had never finished a novel (but had started too many to count). After I got Scrivener, I wrote two novels and about a dozen novellas in the last three years.

Now that's productivity!

I'm writing this scrivener review for all the skeptics...because I use to be one of them!
I'm writing this scrivener review for all the skeptics...because I use to be one of them!

1. The Corkboard

You may have used an actual corkboard to organize your writing projects in the past. Just like a real corkboard, you can use this feature to plot out scenes on index cards and then move them around to see how the story might pan out if the sequence of events were slightly different.

But unlike with an actual corkboard, your virtual index cards are connected to actual documents. This means if you move a card around, you can go back to your manuscript-in-progress to see how this new order actually flows. And if you don't like it? No worries. Move the index cards back to how they were, and it's like nothing ever happened.


The Corkboard Feature

2. The Binder

The binder is like a real-time outline that you can change and update with quick drag and drops. It's located to the left of the document you are working on. It's essentially a list of the titles of each scene, as organized in their proper chapters and sections.

Each scene belongs to its own document, which is what allows you to move around or delete scenes without worrying about how it affects the other aspects of your manuscript. I personally love the binder, because it helps me keep my eye on the ball. I create the "chapters" and populate them with empty scenes before I even get to them, that way I'm always aware of where I'm going when I'm writing.

Additionally, it helps me keep track of how many words I generally write per scene and per chapter! Seeing the word count broken up like that is always very encouraging, as I can see how every little bit adds up in the long run. I now no longer can say to myself, what difference does working today make?

The answer is: a HUGE difference!

The Binder Feature

3. Target Settings

I absolutely adore being able to set my word count targets. As someone with a busy schedule, it's all too easy to tell myself that I've written enough when I truly haven't. One of the best ways to motivate myself is to set a target in Scrivener.

This feature is actually relatively simple, but I find it's so effective in motivating me. To use it, simply hit shift+command+t and the target window will pop up. You can set a draft target as well as a session target. As you write, you can pull up this box to see how close you are to hitting either of these targets. My favorite part is the fun bar beneath each target which changes color from red to orange to green the more you write!

How to Set Targets

4. Importing Pictures

Using images in Scrivener is way easier than it is in Microsoft Word. You can drag and drop, which is the first best thing. I know you can drag and drop with Microsoft Word, but I find that it doesn't always work, and it can interfere with the text formatting.

With Scrivener, you can organize the photo under whichever file you'd like, and it doesn't have to interfere with your text if you don't want it to. Which is great, because sometimes you just want a visual cue to help you imagine a character, or as a visual prompt for setting. I like to store these photos under the research section, but you can put them in the character tab or even directly into the text if appropriate!

How to Use Pictures in Scrivener

5. The Split-View Mode

If you've ever been in the middle of a scene only to struggle to remember what you named that dang cat earlier, you know the pain of being a forgetful writer. No matter how many notes you scribble or documents you fill, sometimes you miss a small detail that can ruin your flow.

Scrivener's split-view feature allows you to look at two project files side-by-side, either vertically or horizontally. So if you need to reference an earlier scene, all you have to do is enter split scene mode and click on the needed file! This feature is a lifesaver time and time again for me.


Split-View Mode

6. Scrivenings Mode

If you're wondering what your entire project look likes to far, you can enter the Scrivenings Mode. This combines all your project files to give you a quick preview of what your final product may look like. I try not to abuse this feature, but it is nice every once in a while for motivation! It looks much more official than a Word Document. But then I have to remind myself to get back to work...

7. Auto-Save

I couldn't help but save the best for last. Honestly, this one can go without much explanation. Scrivener auto-saves your project so you don't have to! It does it quite frequently too, so I've never actually saved anything manually with Scrivener (and I've never lost a word either). Now if only I could get my Word Document to do that for me...

Do you use Scrivener? If not, what do you use to get long writing projects completed?

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