Creative Writing, Gwen Hernandez, My Dream Guy, Scrivener, word processing

5 Top Tips For Writing With Scrivener

Scrivener’s not simply a word processing package, it’s a project management tool for writers. It allows you to store all your research, ideas, images and metadata in one place—the same place you’re creating your manuscript. It saves you from drowning in a sea of notes made on the backs of envelopes, or in half a dozen different notebooks (if you can find them). When your book is finished, Scrivener can export it in any number of forms, including compiled and ready for publishing online.

Once you can navigate the Scrivener system it’s brilliant, but to begin with it can be daunting. You can find out more about the possible downside here, but now I’ve been working with Scrivener for a while these are my top tips:

1. There’s no substitute for diving in and tinkering. Use the free trial facility available from Literature and Latte. Press all the buttons, switch from view to view, drag and drop, and try out various forms of compilation to create different types of document for publication or upload. You can customise the system, so that each time you start a new project the fonts and formatting are exactly as you want them. Take your time to become familiar with the whole Scrivener experience. It’s lovely to open a new project and start typing, knowing you’re free to work without having to fight the system. Which leads me to…

2. Never try to learn a new system such as Scrivener when you’re working to a deadline. Learn first, write later. Or write using your normal word processor (regularly saving to flash drives or the cloud, of course) then import it into the Scrivener project where you store all your research and ideas. I did this when I was working on my latest short romance, My Dream Guy. I wrote the first draft in a single document, using Pages for Mac. Instead of giving each chapter a title, I put a hashtag (#) at the end of each one. When imported into Scrivener, the system automatically created a new file for each chapter.  After editing my work in Scrivener, all I needed to do to format it ready for publication was hit Scrivener’s “compile” button and—bingo! One ready-formatted manuscript, ready to go.

3. RTFM—Read The Flaming* Manual, which in Scrivener’s case rather handily shows up each time you open the package. It’s there, along with interactive and video tutorials, visible on the front page, and for a reason. Use it. The video tutorials provided by Literature and Latte are great if you’re a visual learner—the type of person who needs to see things done, rather than simply having them explained in words.

4. Scrivener For Dummies, written by Scrivener Wizard Gwen Hernandez is an invaluable book, although in common with every other trouble-shooting system for computing I’ve used, if you don’t know why you’re stuck, it won’t be much help. You need to know the exact questions to ask the index, and the terms to use. I found fiddling about free-form (see Tip 1, above) and then cross-referencing the effect I achieved with this book was a great way to learn. I’ve always got my copy within reach. As a result, it’s covered with notes, and remnants of those two vital components of a writer’s life, tea and cake. Gwen Hernandez also has a Scrivener Corner on her website, with loads of useful tips (and no cake crumbs). You can find that here.

5. If all else fails, type your question into a search engine. You’ll be amazed how many articles and YouTube videos have been produced by enthusiasts. A word of warning: because these people are enthusiasts, you may find the instructors go too fast, or skip over exactly the details you need to know. More than one of these personable geniuses uses the phrase  “you’ll know how to do that already….” about the precise part of the process you want explained. The screenshots these video artistes use are often tiny and indistinct, too, so use these only if you’ve got 20/20 vision, a degree in mind-reading, and you’re willing to take a chance.

Have you tried working with Scrivener? What’s your favourite tip?

* other words beginning with F are available…

Gwen Hernandez, Ian Skillicorn, RNA Conference, Scrivener

Scrivener: Writing Heaven, Procrastination Hell–or Vice Versa?
By Olga Palma
Scrivener is a piece of software designed specifically for writers and it’s the newest, sharpest tool in my writing kit. I’ve only been using it for a couple of days, but it’s already revolutionised my working process. I’m neither related to, nor paid by, Scrivener’s developers, Literature and Latte, by the way. I just thought the application has already done so much for me, you might benefit from it, too.

I told you about my trip to the RNA Conference here. During Ian Skillicorn’s Going Solo talk on self-publishing and promotion at the conference, he spoke about the expense and variable results associated with using untried formatters from small ads to produce copy for Amazon and other ebook publishers. Someone from the audience championed Scrivener’s “Compile” feature. I, and a lot of other people there, were intrigued so I checked out the Literature and Latte website as soon as I got home. 

Computers are a complete and total mystery to me. OH sets them up.  All I do is switch them on at the mains, type, and control-save occasionally. That’s it. That’s the full extent of my technical know-how, and yet within minutes I’d managed to download Scrivener, and dive in to the 30-day free trial. 

I was hooked straight away. At first sight it’s a bit overwhelming, but asking a question on Twitter brought me loads of encouragement and news of  the invaluable tips produced by Gwen Hernandez. Scrivener’s own tutorials walk you through from stage to stage, and Scrivener for Dummies (naturally!) fills in any gaps.  

I’m fully immersed in a new Scrivener-based work-in-progress now, complete with project targets, typewriter scrolling (no distractions, apart from a backdrop photo of the novel’s setting) and my fully developed and organised outline only a click away whenever I need to call it up.

Is there any downside to Scrivener? Yes, and it’s an enormous one. It’s the very fact this application brings so many brilliant features, wrinkles, devices and downright blessings to your fingertips. It would be the easiest thing in the world to spend so long setting up your perfect template, devising metadata, collections and all the other tweaks and refinements you can make to your workspace paradise, you never get around to doing any actual writing

At the start of this blog I called Scrivener the sharpest tool in my writing kit, and like my favourite kitchen knife, there’s one big risk attached. In my experience, the risks in both cases are far outweighed by their advantages. 

My advice is, go for the free Scrivener trial but make sure the first features you nail are the ones under the tab marked “Project”. Set up your “session” and “project” targets, then this app will calculate how much you need to do, and by when. It re-calculates automatically, so you’re faced with a new objective every day. During your writing sessions, the sliders move from the orange danger zone into your green target area. Then (and only then!) you can go wandering off-piste on the Scrivener trail by watching one of the many YouTube tutorials, or by visiting Scrivener on Facebook and Twitter.

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on!