I've been using Scrivener since 2006. It was one of the apps that first drew me to the Mac, and it's kept me glued to the platform ever since. At the time I adopted Scrivener, I had been struggling for years to write fantasy manuscripts in Microsoft Word. Word simply failed me, time and again. It was bloated, expensive, performed poorly, and had zero features to assist with long-form writing --- and that was on my PC, the Mac version was even worse. Why Word is the de facto standard in the publishing industry is truly a mystery to me.
At the same time I was also going through my formative years as a professional technical writer, and I was learning to program web apps. Technical writing taught me the value of breaking down very large projects into more manageable chunks. Programming exposed me to Integrated Development Environments (IDE), which excelled at managing the thousands of files that make up part of a program or web application's source code, and 'compiling' them together into a finished product.
Scrivener is like an IDE for writers. It takes the tried-and-true principle of chunking a project to make it easier to write, while giving you the tools you need to properly structure and turn the cognitive mess we writers produce and turn it into a manuscript you can share.
Scrivener is a complex, professional tool. Yet, thanks to my time with the app, I've come to take it for granted. I know it intimately, and at one time or another I've used just about every feature it offers.
With each release Scrivener's long-list of features grows, and so too does the complexity of the app. As I pen this blog post, Scrivener 3's manual is in excess of 800 pages long. For many writers looking to get started right now, the learning curve looks insurmountable. Indeed I see many a new writer, and experienced ones alike, struggle profoundly with the app and this is a great shame, because I believe it's the best long-form writing software ever created.
So, I'm launching a series of tutorials I hope will stomp that learning curve down to a more pleasant bump. Rather than look at features in isolation, I hope to frame Scrivener through typical use cases, and look at the app holistically. Where needed for illustration purposes, I'll be drawing examples through my use of Scrivener, as an author, world-builder and blogger.
I will be using Scrivener 3 for macOS, simply because that is the platform I know best. I have no beef with MS Windows --- though I’m wont to launch the occasion jibe thereupon --- and much of what I describe should be applicable to Scrivener 3 for Windows, which is currently in beta and promises feature parity with its Mac counterpart. More than likely I will also cover Scrivener for iOS, which I use regularly and of which I am quite fond.
What I won't claim is that my way is best practice --- my use of Scrivener has grown with me, and there's no such thing as 'writing best practice'. Scrivener has changed the way I approach writing, but at the same time, Scrivener is malleable enough for me to shape it to my needs and quirks. Everyone has a different process, but if my practices can assist or inspire others to find theirs, then all the better.
Stay tuned for the first part in the series!
After breaking Scrivener for iOS with two massive project files, I vent my spleen about Scrivener’s biggest weakness.
On the eve of Australia's winter, I undertake 30 days of world-building to create maps, locations, organisations and more. Throughout the month I'll also share my templates and tips for world-building in Scrivener.
I try Ulysses for several weeks and give my impressions as long-term Scrivener user. I'm impressed and ask myself if I could use it for my writing.