There is no right way to write a novel — and that includes the writing program you employ.
But if you've long grown frustrated with the limited capabilities of traditional word processors, I would love to introduce you to the epic writing app that has revolutionized my writing process over the past several years: Scrivener. The program itself has a bit of a learning curve, which is why I'd like to share ten of my favorite Scrivener features with you now. But first, what is Scrivener exactly?
Scrivener is an app designed specifically for writing, organizing, and editing long-form projects such as novels, research papers, television scripts, and plays. Its interface combines a typical word processor with advanced file and folder organization; easy note, research, and reference tools; and other fantastic features we'll discuss below.
The program itself can be purchased for a one-time fee of $45 USD for Mac or Windows or $19.99 USD for iOS (ex: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), though you can first download a full free-trial of the program that lasts for 30 working days. If you only use the program a few days a week, your free trial will last for months.
If you think you may be interested in giving Scrivener a spin, take a look at some of the core features that I find to be its biggest selling points, helping me streamline my writing process and build better stories:
#1: HOUSE ALL YOUR FILES AND FOLDERS IN ONE PROJECT.
Let's start off with a bang! One of Scrivener's best features, in my opinion, is in its core set-up. Scrivener files are called projects, not documents, because a project itself can house endless files and folders in an easy-to-navigate sidebar called the Binder.
Gone are the days of housing an entire manuscript in a single document or shifting between dozens of files to find the right set of notes. Every last scrap of your work has a home in a single Scrivener Project, making organization and navigation a breeze.
#2: CUSTOMIZE THE TOOLBAR FOR EASY UTILIZATION.
The Scrivener program features a bevy of tools and capabilities. Understanding these options can be tricky at first, but once you get to know the program, you can easily utilize and navigate between tools by customizing the Toolbar that runs along the top of the Scrivener interface.
#3: SET WRITING GOALS WITH PROJECT AND DOCUMENT TARGETS.
Do you thrive off the healthy pressure a few goals and deadlines can provide? Allow Scrivener to hold you accountable by setting targets for individual documents or for your project as a whole! You can even activate progress bars and push notifications to help you keep on track.
#4: VIEW AND WORK ON UP TO FOUR DOCUMENTS AT ONCE.
With Scrivener, you easily view your notes while you write or reference multiple chapters at once by splitting the Editor to view two documents at a time. You can then add yet another two documents to each Editor's Copyholder — the virtual version of spreading notes across your desk!
#5: IMPORT ENDLESS RESEARCH FILES FOR REFERENCE.
Beyond merely housing all of your chapters, scenes, and notes within a single project, Scrivener also allows you to import and organize nearly any form of research, including text documents, images, audio and video files, webpages, multi-markdown files, and even other Scrivener projects.
#6: GET FOCUSED WITH COMPOSITION MODE.
Easily distracted by the internet, or even all the features Scrivener has to offer? You can easily tune them out when the time comes to simply sit down and write by working in Scrivener's full-screen Composition Mode. Substance and simplicity? Yes, please!
#7: COMMENTS, SYNOPSES, AND NOTES — OH MY!
Get organized and capture all of those wayward thoughts while you work by making use of many of the features found in Scrivener's secondary sidebar: the Inspector. Give your document a synopsis, take notes on your progress, and leave comments on specific lines of text to remember down the line.
#8: MAKE REVISIONS WITHOUT REGRET.
No need to create a new document to start your next draft or fret over regretting any changes you may make to your work. With Snapshots, you can take a picture of your document before revising. If you later decide you don't like the changes you've made, you can easily view your old work or even revert back to the version of your document featured in your Snapshot.
#9: ORGANIZE, OUTLINE, AND IDENTIFY FILES WITH EASE.
Scrivener includes countless features to help you stay on top of the complexities involved in writing a novel. You can easily outline and re-order your story using Corkboard and Outliner modes, mark files with Labels and Statuses, and even tag documents with particular Keywords for easy searching.
#10: COMPILE AND FORMAT YOUR MANUSCRIPT FOR EXPORT.
Want to export your manuscript as a PDF? Format it as a .mobi or .epub e-book? Prepare it for paperback printing? You can easily select and format specific files within your project for export by making use of Scrivener's compilation features.
These are some of Scrivener's most beneficial core features, yet there are countless others that lend to the program's appeal. I love making use of Project and Document Bookmarks, Collections and Quick Reference, Project Statistics, and the easy back-up options that ensure I never have to worry about losing my work.
If you think you'd like to give Scrivener a try, make use of these easy links:
- Download a thirty-day free trial.
- Purchase Scrivener for Mac. *
- Purchase Scrivener for Windows. *
- Purchase Scrivener for iOS.
* These are affiliate links. I may make a small commission on any purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.