I read a lot of writer and author blogs, and one piece of software that continually crops up as a ‘must-have’ for writers, is Scrivener. Whilst it’s essentially just a word processor, it has a range of features that really enhances it for writers (particularly those writing books) which may account for the pretty hefty price tag: Scrivener retails at £34.99 in the Apple Store here in the UK.
Intrigued, I decided to download the 30 day free trial offered by Literature and Latte (the company that makes it), to see what it was all about, and whether it’s worth paying so much for what is essentially a word processor.
The upshot is, I absolutely love Scrivener, and am now majorly tempted to buy it once my free trial runs out! There are just so many useful features (and I certainly haven’t discovered all of them yet!), so I thought I’d do a quick run down of the ones that I think make Scrivener worth the price tag, and I’d love to know whether or not you like Scrivener, or think it would be useful if you’ve never tried it (and I seriously recommend that you download the free trial if you’ve never used it before!).
So here’s what I liked about Scrivener:
You create Projects, not Document
The main attraction of Scrivener over the likes of Microsoft Word or Pages is the ability to create ‘Projects’, as opposed to single documents. When working on a big project such as a novel, it can get pretty confusing and frustrating having all your chapters and notes strewn around your Documents folder, and so with Scrivener’s Projects you can have all of them in the same place, and are able to flick through them all with ease.
You can also easily separate the material you want included in the actual draft of the manuscript, and the research which you want easy access to, but don’t want included. For example, with the novel I’m writing, I have easy access to my character profiles and the random fragments of the novel I have already written for later in the story, but they won’t be included in the actual manuscript because they are in a separate folder.
Another way that Scrivener can be super helpful to writers who want to refer to their research or outlines as they write is through the split screen mode. For example, in the image on the right, I have the section of my novel that I’m writing open at the top, with the character outline for the character who I’m writing about open at the bottom, which is immensely helpful!
When you start a new Scrivener project you can choose from a range of templates including fiction, non-fiction, scripts, poems and lyrics, meaning you can easily format your work, whatever it is you’re planning to write. Personally, I’ve mostly been using the blank template, as it sets you up with a simple Draft and Research folder, but it’s nice to have other options!
Surprisingly, one of the things I’ve found that I like most about Scrivener is one of the simplest: the ‘Compose’ function. When in Compose mode you simply have the white page you’re writing on down the centre of the screen, with a plain black background behind.
Writing in this mode means less distractions, and I found myself getting a lot more done by using it as I don’t have easy access to all the icons and programs on my computer. Compose mode for me has become ‘writing mode’, and I seem to get really in the zone when I use it. This probably won’t be the main attraction to Scrivener for most writers (and I know you can get other, cheaper programs to do this), but it’s handy to have nonetheless. The Corkboard
One of the main things that separates Scrivener from other word processors is how easy it is to get an overview of your project. For each section that you write you can create a quick synopsis, and then view the entire project from the Corkboard.
Another thing I liked with Scrivener was having access to my ‘Project Statistics’, which allows you to not only see the Word Count and Character Count of the section you’re working on, but also the entire draft. I also particularly loved being able to see not only how many A4 pages my project would be printed out, but also how many pages of a regular paperback book it would be. As Scrivener is used by so many writers to write their books it’s pretty handy to know how long your book would be in paperback as you go along.
The draft of the novel I’m currently working on for example is 7,959 words so far, and would be 28 A4 pages and 22 pages in a paperback book (so obviously I still have a long way to go!).
Sometimes writers need goals to motivate them and really push them to get writing, and Scrivener makes this easy with its ‘Project Targets’. Through Project Targets you can set yourself both Draft Targets and Session Targets.
Your Draft Target is how many words you’re aiming for the completed project to be, and your Session Target is how many words you’d like to write per session. It’s basically like having a little NaNoWriMo built into your word processor!
Easy conversion to ebook format
This is one function of Scrivener I obviously haven’t used yet, but is definitely very useful for anyone writing a book, especially if they’re considering self-publishing. It can cost a lot of money to have a manuscript formatted into an ebook ready for upload to retailers such as Amazon, and so despite the price of having to buy Scrivener, you could save a lot of money in the long run by being able to do this for yourself.
Scrivener has tonnes more features that could come in useful for writers, but these are the ones that really make me tempted to buy the software. So do you use Scrivener? If so, what features do you find the most useful, and do you think it’s worth the price tag? If not, are you tempted, or do you think it isn’t worth the money?