Scrivener Again

The last time I wrote about this word processing program made especially for authors I’d imported an MS Word file for a book I was working on. I had an overall favorable opinion, but the newness of the program and the fact I’d begun in Word caused me to go back to the original program to continue working on that project.

Then a depression hit, brought on by a stream of rejections, publishers not living up to contracts or going out of business, and the teaching job sucking up all of my time. It was the longest dry spell since I began writing seriously in the late 1980s. The lack of creative outlet fed the mood I was in and I’m sure I haven’t been the most pleasant person to be around the past year or so. However, I have a new project I’m pretty excited about, to the point where I’d like to be left alone for long periods of time to do nothing but work on it.

So, when I sat down to start it, I decided to use Scrivener from the get-go. Surprise! The creators had made some updates to the program during my down time. They made it even better. Here are some of the features I’m finding most useful at this early stage of the novel.

Character Sketches

These pre-formatted pages prompt the author to answer questions such as Role in Story, Physical Description, Personality, Background, Habits, etc. It’s extremely handy to have all these sketches available in the menu on the left side of the screen for easy reference at any time. A simple click on the character you need to recall the hair color of, then a click back into the document takes you right back to where you were.

There is a similar pre-formatted option for Setting Sketches that is very helpful, too.


As before, the program provides a place where an author can dump and organize a collection of research material that, like the Character sketches, is easily accessed via the left-hand menu. This particular novel relies more on personal experience than research, but I know this will be invaluable on other projects.

Part/Chapter/Scene Breakdown

This one was questionable. There was a time, long, long ago, when I wrote and saved every chapter as an individual file. That goes back to the necessity of doing so on my old Smith-Corona PWP-3 word processing machine. It continued into my WordPerfect days, and even early MS Word writing, and always caused a nightmare with page numbering, and merging files into one document would screw the format in unbelievable ways. I can’t speak to the exportability yet, but I’m liking being able to break this particular book down by part, chapter, and scene.

Clicking on the Part option in the menu will let you access the chapters in that part via drop-down, but it will also show you the cork board with index cards on which you can put a synopsis of each chapter, or notes about revisions to be made later, or whatever. Under Part you can click on Chapter and get a new cork board and new cards for each scene in your novel. Ordinarily I only have one scene per chapter, but for this project I have the main action in third person limited point-of-view narration as one scene and have social media posts, text message conversations, newspaper articles, etc. before and/or after the narration, so I set those off as separate scenes. It’s proving to be very useful.

Sample Output

I haven’t used this yet, so I can’t say anything about it, really, other than I think it’ll be pretty cool. When the time comes, it appears I can output my novel as a standard manuscript that can be opened by MS Word to be sent to agents or publishers. But there are also options for Paperback Novel and ADE E-Book to accommodate those of us who have turned to self-publishing to get our work in front of an audience. Eventually I’ll be putting these features to use, though hopefully I’ll only need the Standard Manuscript option with the work-in-progress.


Another feature I haven’t tried yet, but look forward to exploring. I’ve written one movie script (an adaptation of my novella Murdered by Human Wolves) and used Sophocles for that. Sadly, the creators of that little program are long gone and my 2003 version of the program is clunky now. Scrivener offers formatting for movie scripts, stage scripts, comic book scripts, and radio scripts, in US and UK versions.

Going over the menu on the top, there are dozens of options I haven’t explored yet. I can’t imagine beginning a new project in a plain word processing program like MS Word again. I can’t remember now what I paid for Scrivener, but it was on sale at the time and less than $30. It was definitely a great investment.

Literature and Latte is offering a free 30-day trial version of Scrivener if you want to try it out. I’m not getting any kind of kickback if you decide to buy. I’m liking the software and I think if you’re an author you might like it, too.

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