Is Scrivener Worth the Hype?

I first heard of Scrivener back in 2010, when a friend in my creative writing class deliberated whether to shell out $49 of his precious student budget.

“It helps you organize everything,” he said. “Your research, chapters, character profiles. You can even format assignments for that screenwriting class!”

I wondered if Scrivener would unlock for me this buried realm of prolific creation, allowing me to transform from a thinly-spread college student into the writer I envisioned. Of course, no program offers a magic solution, but a decade after my first download, I can’t imagine using anything else to organize my creative writing projects.

What makes Scrivener so buzzworthy?

Open Scrivener and you’ve pulled out the ultimate binder on your project. Instead of juggling documents across multiple word processors or apps, as well as keeping a notebook and set of index cards pinned to a cork board, you can access these functions all in one place. You’re finally seeing everything at once, as it’s easy to rearrange as your project evolves.

Scrivener creator Keith Blount notes what he feels are the most important features of the software: splitting up a manuscript into smaller parts, assigning synopses to each section which you can then rearrange, and the option to view multiple panes at once within the program.

These features make up the basis of what has writers swearing by Scrivener, but the more I use it, the more I fall in love with other abilities as well. For starters, I’m grateful that it never crashes or slows when you’re working with a lot of text, something I found difficult with Word on occasion. The look and feel of the program also allow me to separate my creative writing from the memories of work and school associated with a standard word processor; I can pull up a project and relax into a creative headspace.

As someone who tends to have multiple projects on the go, I also love that it completely separates my projects. I no longer have notes for multiple stories haphazardly crammed into the same notebook; everything related to a project lives in its own little Scrivener territory.

And when the writing process feels particularly impossible, it helps to make use of the goal-setting function and enter “composition mode” to minimize distractions, knowing the ability to peel back your project to previous drafts is always there if needed. And when a project is complete, I love that I can export it in a professional format for instant gratification.

Do you need to take a class to use Scrivener?

The more features a program has, the higher the learning curve. Even so, I’ve found that without training, you can still fumble your way through using Scrivener well enough for the cost of the program to pay off in no time.

The way Scrivener is set up allows you to learn as you go, but there are other layers of use that you might not uncover for ages (or ever) if left your own device. Think of a program like Excel; you can create a simple spreadsheet with minimal trial and error, but did you perfect a pivot table without a little outside help or research? Scrivener will most certainly be useable to you from the start, but with some extra effort can become a creative workhorse.

If the idea of learning a new program seems overwhelming and you don’t want to take the time to research or experiment with settings yourself, a class or the Take Control of Scrivener manual might be the best route to mastery. Don’t fear a little self-research though; you can look up any particular issues or functions as needs arise. Part of the beauty of Scrivener is that there’s no way to “mess up” your work, so even if you uncover a better way to use the software later on, it isn’t too later to adjust the project accordingly.

The bottom line

Is Scrivener a wonderful tool? Yes. Does it take some adjustment? Also, yes. If you’re even a little curious, I’d recommend the free trial.  You don’t need Scrivener to organize your writing and if you already love the system you have in place, stick with what works for you. But if you’re up to your neck in sticky notes and are willing to spend on a writing tool, you may find it’s worth every cent and more.

  • Posted by Julia McAlpine
  • May 19, 2020 7:21 AM PDT
What makes Scrivener so buzzworthy?




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