A Brief Glance at Scrivener (Software Review)

December is finally upon us, huzzah!

This time of year is always a little stressful for everyone, mostly due to the dreaded 25th, where many are expected to book flights, buy gifts, and hopefully break even come next month. I’m lucky to not have many of those stressors this year, but there’s a trade-off:

The due-date for my upcoming books is looming overhead, and until then, I’ve got to be a word-cranking machine if I hope to have the best final drafts possible.

I’ve used plenty of text editors. From the default Notepad and TextEdit, to Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. There’s loads more in between, all focusing on different preferences and aspects of writing. Some are feature-heavy with lots of settings and formatting capabilities, and some are for writing in a simple, distraction-free environment.

But, having tested most of the available options, I think I’ve found the one that works best for me. That option, being Scrivener. Now, just to be clear, this isn’t a paid promotion or any of the sort. This is my honest-to-god opinion based on using the software for my latest projects. So let’s get into this:

On first glance of the software, my immediate impression was “whoa, this is a lot.” And it definitely is. Opening a blank template displays a large set of options, menus, and even a file tree. Previously I had been using LibreOffice and Pages to get my drafts together, so looking at this new interface was jarring to say the least. But, I wouldn’t let that discourage you. There’s definitely a method to the madness, and once I got used to it, the workflow proved to be one of the most useful and efficient environments to work in.

Honestly, the complex-looking interface is really all I can complain about, and even then, it’s a nitpick. One detail I noticed between all of the recommendations I’d seen for Scrivener, was that many of the authors who use it are mostly novelists or working in non-fiction. I’m in a bit of a different field, that being fiction short stories. I feared the non-linear and chapter-focused capabilities wouldn’t lend well to the form of a short story, mostly because I write the first drafts in one sitting without an outline or a need for chapters.

But I was immediately proven wrong. The claims I heard definitely rang true: it’s not so much you having to work within the confines of the software, as much as the software is designed to conform with your individual preference and purpose. I was skeptical as to that being possible, but it couldn’t be more accurate. Using the file-tree as an example, it’s easy to set up your own configuration of folders and files to match the structure of whatever you want to write. If you just want a single folder with all your chapters, it’s possible! If you want your manuscript in many parts with many files filled with individual scenes or vignettes, it’s possible!

Immediately I saw the possibilities. Whether you want to compile a book of poetry, write and store research for a non-fiction project, or write short stories, you can easily get the workflow you need. On top of that, Scrivener allows you to write a synopsis for individual folders and files, meaning you can easily use a method similar to the “snowflake method” to develop a long form piece. You can plan as much or as little as you want, then dive into the writing itself. All of these features also allow you to organize and re-arrange your work as you see fit.

One question I found myself concerned over, was “what can this software do, that the tools I already have can’t do?” Well, the answer is pretty straightforward. You can do the same things in your everyday text-editor. You don’t have to have Scrivener to write a chapter synopsis, or write your individual chapters in separate files and folders, but doing so is a much slower, less intuitive process. Scrivener was obviously created with all of those details considered, so the process is especially streamlined. For appearing overly-complex on the surface, Scrivener makes managing projects much easier. At least, that’s what I found.

I’m very pleased with Scrivener, and the reason I’m happy to recommend it as much is this: it does everything it claims to do. Having used it to write and re-write my upcoming books, I can safely say it’s made the task a more organized and enjoyable one.

Check out Scrivener over here: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

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