Scrivener Addict: Why I Won’t Go Back To Word for Novel Writing

I really can’t remember why or how I found out about Scrivener, or as I like to call it “The Novelist’s Friend”.  I downloaded it back in December of 2011 and use it every day.  Many of my friends who really know me look at me with raised eyebrows and crooked mouths when I mention it to them, but I will not use Word unless I have to (mostly on my job as a teacher) and will never go back to using it again for personal writing.

I used to be a Word lover.  I used to spend hours working within the confines of its parameters.  I wrote my first novella and then my first novel using it.  However, when I discovered Scrivener the writer within me awoke like some kind of ravenous beast.

Word can do anything Scrivener can do and I will not argue that Word is a lacking program (It is not.  It is in some ways too comprehensive).  As a novelist, I would rather spend all my time writing rather than fiddling around with all the steps and technical details.  I want something that works like pen and paper.   There are actually several reasons why I like Scrivener better than Word for writing novels, but I will only list the ones that set Scrivener apart:

1.  Ease of Use – I can pretty much do anything in Word, but there are usually several steps to doing those tasks that Scrivener has displayed on the screen at start up or features it offers that are at the click of a mouse.  If you are not a tech savvy person, then Scrivener is for you.  It has a Scrivener document included which is one of the best basic tutorials I have ever read.  It is step by step, interactive, and will get you up and running in a matter of thirty minutes.

2.  Research Organization – I have spent meticulous hours researching my latest novel, and find that being able to store all of that research (i.e. maps, web sites, Mindnode brainstorming sessions, character bios, photographs of settings, master outline) in one place and not have to exit the program or my text to access it has been a welcome feature.  It has also forced me to organize all of my work in a neat little package rather than having several windows open with all of this information scattered about my desktop.

3.  Metadata – Scrivener has the ability to help a writer mark how many times a character is mentioned in each chapter.  In long documents this is key to helping the author avoid redundancy, keep the descriptions of those characters uniform, return to events in the sub-plot that may not have been outlined (Where did Ralph kill the two vagrants anyway?  Oh! Chapter 2!) and mark how many times each section has been revised.

4.  Formatting Control – Scrivener allows an author in a very user friendly way to “compile” an e-book, a paperback novel, a manuscript for submission to a literary agent or several other formats with a few clicks of the mouse.  Users can also fine tune the document to be produced in whatever style they desire while maintaining the ease of use that is so attractive to non-techies and techies alike.  If one is a techie, then it is also fun to play with the parameters of the finished document, as Scrivener gives the user a multitude of options to personalize the style and format at will.

This is my favorite thing about Scrivener. I have set the background "paper" to black, the text to a comfortable green, the page width to something that is pleasing to my eyes on the screen and faded out the background image of my computer. I could write for hours like this... and I do.

5.  Full Screen Composition Mode – Above all, I love this feature the most.  Often writers who use laptops or computers (like me) become distracted by all the other stuff that clutters our desktops.  This composition mode allows the writer to choose a background and the color of the type as well as the size of the text.  It also allows for fading the background desktop image in behind the text, adjusting the page width and other functions so that all one sees on the screen are the words coming out of the writer’s mind.  It also moves the screen automatically to center on whatever the writer is typing at the moment.  I find it relaxing.  Once I pop in my ear buds and get a nice stream of classical music from iTunes, I am ready to go.  I am plummeted into the world of my novel without anything to get in my way.

Speaking of plummeting…

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

7 thoughts on “Scrivener Addict: Why I Won’t Go Back To Word for Novel Writing

  1. Quick question: does it export into something other people can read? For my wriitng group, for instance, I need non-Scrivener-owning writers to be able to open the file. Does it export to Word or PDF?

    Other than that, it sounds great.

    1. Laura, you can export it to just about any format, including Word PDF RTF, HTML. When I post excerpts or chapters to my blog, I just copy and paste. No need to export, even.

  2. I started using Scrivener in August of 2011, and so far I’ve completed my first self-published story, my NaNo Novel, and three other longer stories, one which will be published in May. Last night I completed the very first novel I ever attempted, and I placed this monster in Scrivener a few months ago to make the completion work easier. As you say, I won’t go back to Word after using this. Scrivener is far too easy to use. It allows you to set up your work, and the write.

  3. Never having used Word for serious writing, and not at all for many years now, I can’t comment on how easy it is or isn’t to use. For me, the hidden codes that make formatting for Smashwords would be enough to turn me off it. One of Scrivener’s advantages is that it has so many features that are useful for a writer and that the ones you’re not using are tucked out of the way, not cluttering up the screen.

    That feature that moves your text to the middle of the screen is typewriter mode. I tried it and it drove me crazy. Ditto, green text on black — much too hard on the eyes. But I do love Compose mode. Especially that you can change the font size without having it changed in regular mode. I do all my final proofing in Compose mode.

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