In several Minnesota NICE meetings we have heard references to the Scrivener writing program. Some people seem to be intimidated by its huge capabilities. But you don’t have to use all of them to find the program useful. I am by no means an authority, but I love what I can do with Scrivener. In our August Minnesota NICE meeting I led members through a hands-on session to get to know Scrivener and hopefully get over their confusion. Obviously, this blog won’t work for a hands-on session, but perhaps I can start you on your way.
The thing I like best about Scrivener is how it organizes all my materials for a project in one place. Old computer files for previous novels included long lists of files and folders to open individually. My research pictures weren’t even in the folder, but a separate photo program. In Scrivener, chapters, revisions, original versions, research, planning notes, critique are all in one place—one single icon in Finder.
You can purchase the program for an excellent price at Writer’s Store. Or try this site for a coupon to reduce the price. You may have to use the Literture and Latte page to apply the coupon. The Writer's Store page includes a getting-started video that shows some of the basics of how to set up a project that I demonstrated at the meeting. The program’s opening screen includes hands-on tutorials that I highly recommend. You will want to download the free 30-day trial and import your project so that you can stop the tutorial from time to time and try the same thing with your own material. Don’t expect to master it all the first time through, but ten minutes is enough to start working in Scrivener.
Import the chapters of your current Work-in-progress by highlighting “Manuscript” in the binder, clicking <file>, <import> and selecting the files you want. You can do them all at once, and PRESTO! You are good to go in Scrivener. Be sure the file name is a descriptor that will cue you into the content, then write a one to two sentence summary on the index card in the column on the right (called the Inspector) that you can use in Cork Board mode to review your whole project at a glance or print a jump-start on the synopsis you will need when you are ready to start submitting the manuscript.
Besides the basics shown in the Writer’s Store video, the Scrivener fiction “binder” includes a folder for characters. When you click <add> it pulls up a template for analysing your character. You can use it as is, edit the template, or create a new template for more in-depth analysis. I use their template for minor characters and quick reference and my own in-depth template for main characters and anyone I feel I need to understand better. If you like to post photos of your characters, you can drag them into the index card of your character sketch.
There is also a template for setting analysis. Again you can create your own and add photos in the index card, in the document or in picture files.
If you use Evernote for research you can import an Evernote Table of Contents to your Scrivener research folder and link straight to your notes via Internet. (I use the free version of Eernote. You can always upgrade if you find you are using too many bites.)
Of course, your manuscript is the most important part of your project. Scrivener allows you to divide your project into sections as small as you choose. You will want to label each with a descriptor (rather than Chapter 1, etc.) so that you can see at a glance what is in each portion. An “index card” holds the synopsis. Not only can these “index cards” be viewed and manipulated on the corkboard for an overview of your project, but printing them is a jumpstart on that synopsis your editor is going to ask you for.
It is also easy to open two documents at a time using the Quick Reference feature. That way you can have your outline or research in front of you as you create a scene. Or you can compare parts of a longer document.
The “Introduction to Scrivener” video doesn’t even mention the icons on the bottom of the “Inspector” (on the right of the screen), which include features I use all the time. That’s the part that holds comments—my own or from my critique partners. That’s where I can take a “snapshot” of the document with comments before I start revising. That earlier version is never lost and can be easily compared with my current version. I can even roll back to it if I decide I don’t like the newer version. I can enter metadata and keywords if I choose or ignore that feature if it’s not useful to me. Remember: You’re not a failure if you don’t use everything!
Start with the basics—writing scenes and chapters in Scrivener. Later you can go back and review the tutorials and add new skills. When you find yourself thinking, “There must be a way to…”, google it. You’ll find half a dozen teachers ready to demonstrate how to use that feature. Here is a link to Free mini-courses to get you started.
Of course, the desired end of your project is a complete manuscript. The <Compile> feature allows you to instantly format a manuscript for submission, an e-book for publication or a pdf for print-on-demand. The default setting is for a pdf--which you can’t tweak, so you must have it set up correctly before you hit <Compile>. Or you can <format for> MS Word and do your own tweaking. I googled “format to compile in Scrivener” and found these detailed step-by-step instructions. When the time comes, I think I can manage that. Or I can click on <manuscript>, highlight and cut and paste the whole thing to a Word document to format the old fashioned way. I’m not stuck if I can’t figure it out in Scrivener. Remember: Use what works for you; you are not a failure if you don’t master it all.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives. She currently writes and does freelance editing from the Northwoods lake home she shares with her husband in Wisconsin.