Scrivener – First Impressions By Virginia Law Manning

This month I made a New Year’s resolution to learn about Scrivener’s benefits and decide if it was worth the investment in time and money.

Here’s what I discovered:

Cost—Scrivener costs $40 to download. They offer a free 30-day trial and free online tutorial. (It’s 30 days of actual use, rather than 30 consecutive days.)

Learning Curve— It took me under four hours to complete Scrivener’s tutorial. For the most part, I found it pretty straight forward. FYI–I’m not particularly tech-savvy.

The training is a written document (not a video), but you complete exercises as you’re learning. Later I printed the 52-page PDF for reference.

After finishing the tutorial, I found it easy to upload and format my 5,000-word manuscript into Scrivener’s Binder system. The longer the manuscript, the longer this will take you.

I had little difficulty using the simple features, like Snapshot, but I’m still struggling with some of the more obscure ones like Meta-tags.

Benefits—Scrivener admits it’s most useful for first drafts.

If you’re writing a book with many scenes, the program makes it super easy to rearrange their order. This ability comes from Scrivener’s organizational Binder system and Corkboard view. It’s as easy as rearranging slides in Powerpoint.

As you work, you have the option of selecting a particular scene, chapter or the entire manuscript to edit, export or print. At the bottom of the screen, Scrivener provides the word count for that selection. Useful if you want all your chapters to be equal length.

Scrivener also acts as a storage space for all my research (Excel files, movies, audio clips, etc.). Here, in the Research folder, Scrivener provides Character and Setting profile templates. They aren’t elaborate, but I can customize them. And I can view my research, while I’m writing, by taking advantage of Scrivener’s easy-to-use, split-screen technology.

My favorite feature is Snapshot. At any time, I can take a Snapshot of a scene or chapter. These Snapshots are saved automatically and labeled with the date. I can add a title and later access these Snapshots with just two clicks. Scrivener’s Split-Screen technology allows me to compare a Snapshot to my current version. Reverting to an earlier version takes one click. The only negative is that I must remember to take the Snapshot before revising.

I also like the Comments feature. I’m writing a chapter book. In red, I’m highlighting all the words that are above my target audience’s grade. Then in the Comments I’m indicating what grade these words are considered appropriate for. In yellow I’m highlighting words and passages that my critique group members have suggested I change, but that I’m still unsure how to fix. There are as many colors as I need. When I export or print, I can tell Scrivener to remove the Comments/highlights.

Scrivener also lets me indicate a Status for my scenes, for instance, first draft, revised draft, final draft. Or I can add a Label. I might create a Label “Anger” and then use it to identify all the scenes where my protagonist gets frustrated to see if there is a satisfying build and arc.

I’ve just started using this program, but I’m already singing its praises. If you’ve been using it for a while, let me know what your favorite features are. Anyone use those pesky Meta-tags? If you’re just starting out, pick a month when you have the luxury of time. It’s probably not something you want to take on during NaNoWriMo.

Good luck and let me know what you think!

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12 Responses to Scrivener – First Impressions By Virginia Law Manning

  1. anitanolan says:

    Great post, Virginia. Thanks!

  2. Heather Pierce Stigall says:

    Thanks for posting, VIrginia! Do you have a pc or mac? And if anyone else here reads my comment, has anyone used Scrivener for their picture book manuscripts?

  3. Virginia Law Manning says:

    I use a pc. Scrivener download is available for pc or mac. Either version is $40.

  4. Thanks for the post Virginia. I did download Scrivener several months ago. I too had difficulty with the Meta-tags and the more advanced features. The other problem I had was converting it to a Word document which you would need for submissions. Could be I was doing something incorrectly. Since I was close to completing a ms, I found it more confusing than helpful, but I can see where this software would be great when outlining and researching your topic. My next big project I think I will start with Scrivener right from the beginning…

    • Virginia Law Manning says:

      Chrissa, thank you for your post. The first time I tried to export my file to Word, I had difficulty because it put every chapter in a different folder. But the second time, I had no problem. This is what I did. On the left in the Binder section, make sure you are on “Manuscript.” Then in the top toolbar, under File, click on “Compile.” A little menu box will pop-up. Under “Footnotes/Comments,” I checked the boxes to remove both “Comments” and “Annotations” because these are just notes for me. Then I click on “Compile.” It will ask you where you want to place the file and what format–for example, which version of Word or PDF, etc. It doesn’t open the file in Word then. It saved it in the appropriate file for you. I hope this helps!

  5. At my Meetup.com writers group in Philadelphia, we have heard good things about the program. Very well written posting! I am working on an adult thriller, so this is especially useful. My first stab at adult fiction. Thanks!

  6. kateywrites says:

    Virginia, I clicked over from 2015 Chapter Book Alchemist to read about your Scrivener experience. I have been considering giving Scrivener a try since I bought my new laptop last fall. I’ve been working mainly on PB’s since then, so never really felt the need to get it. Now that I am working on Chapter Books, as well, it seems like a no-brainer. Your review was extremely helpful – thanks!

  7. Thank you for the thorough review, Virginia! Now I am curious about trying it out myself!

  8. Great review, Virginia!

  9. Thanks, Virginia! I just downloaded my free trial since I’m doing research for a new project and starting a first draft. It looks like it will be really helpful 🙂

  10. Thanks for the helpful review!

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