A Novelist’s Tools: Scrivener Software

Do you remember the archaic and clichéd image of the 19th century woman ducking into ye auld hat shoppe to find some frothy headpiece that would placate her frustrations? That’s so not me! Oh, I used to wear hats, at least to church. Didn’t every minister’s wife do the hat and white gloves thing? Fortunately for my hairdo, hats eventually became an optional adornment — and disappeared from my closet.


No, next only to a book store my “thing” is always a stationery store. I love browsing for fresh notebooks, handling pens to find one that my fingers find just right, and checking out anything that might make my novel writing more pleasurable, less frustrating.


So when one of my NaNoWriMo winner’s bonuses turned out to be a significant discount on a popular writing program I had to check it out. All the reviews on Scrivener seem to be positive so I finally succumbed to the fluttering “Shall I get it?” butterflies and clicked on “buy now” and “download”. Now I’ve done it! I have my hands on another toy — something else to spend time exploring instead of writing. But I’m hoping it will soon be like a new pen — a comfortable and productive new writing tool.


Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers.” At present it is only available for the Macintosh platform, OS X 10.4 or higher.


Edit Multiple Documents
Create limitless documents in the same project and edit them separately or merge them dynamically and edit them as a whole.
Virtual index cards store a synopsis for every document you create. Storyboard and rearrange your project by moving them around on the corkboard.
A fully-featured outliner helps you take control of the structure of your work.
Use a powerful keywords system to keep track of characters, themes or ideas.
Full Screen Editing
View your text in full screen for distraction-free composition.
Export your finished draft to your favourite word processor for final formatting, including support for footnotes, annotations and images.


Questions: What tools do you find indispensable for your writing? Do you use the ‘Scrivener’ software or any other writing software? Have you any recommendations or tips?



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

16 thoughts on “A Novelist’s Tools: Scrivener Software

  1. I too downloaded the free NANO trial for Scrivenor and I used it throughout November. I LOVED using it and I HATED using it. I loved it because of the ability to have two different documents on the screen side by side. That made it so easy to look at my reviews or a previous chapter while I was editing or writing a new chapter. I hated it because when I tried to convert it to Word, the formatting was always weird. But, the split screen and the organization were worth a little formatting trouble.

    1. Hmm, I can imagine that would be annoying. I’ll have to watch and see if there’s a way to avoid it. Thanks for visiting here, Rachel. It’s always nice to hear from a fellow writer.

  2. Before I begin writing, I love starting a journal for a project, filling it with ideas, an outline, characteristics, notes, that sort of thing. For the actual writing, I’ve always used Word, it’s like an old friend now, very familiar. Advice? Always, always back up your work, someway, somehow. (I speak from crashed hard drive experience!)

    1. I’m with you when it comes to backing up, Joanne! I have a wireless automatic backup system that backs up my entire hard drive every hour, but I also have an 8 GB memory stick that I just stick in and copy my writing files onto it.

      I love your journal idea. I’ve done brief character descriptions — even cut out things from magazines and catalogues that help me visualize my characters, their homes, etc. — but I’ve never given over an entire journal to one project and that really appeals to me. Thanks for the idea.

  3. I use yWriter5 for my rough drafts. It has so many features that I haven’t figured them all out yet, but what I like most is the ability to view or print off a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of what I’ve written. I tend to forget where certain scenes are located in my novel, and this helps a lot. I usually write a scene in Word, then copy and paste it into yWriter5. It also keeps track of character descriptions, notes, etc. Best of all, it is completely free. Not absolutely sure if it is available for Mac, but I think so.


    PS: I love that white hat. The only time I wear hats is in winter or to my Red Hats group, but I love to look at them. They seem so feminine, and remind me of my grandmother.

    1. I’m not familiar with yWriter5 but the features you mention sound very useful.

      As for hats, I agree they’re very feminine but…. I have a navy sunhat that I wear when gardening on sunny days, and my wisp of a wedding hat is carefully packed away, but I don’t wear any other hats, especially in the winter… just pull the hood up on my parka when I absolutely have to. 🙂

  4. I’m tempted. But I have two monitors. Would I still benefit from Scrivener? I’m not sure. Since buying my Mac, I’ve made a pledge not to buy everything I want. LOL.

    1. Having two monitors would be helpful. When I’m doing website updating I sometimes have my laptop on my desk next to the iMac, but haven’t thought to try it for writing purposes. I’ll be interested to see what advantages Scrivener has for me, but doubt that I’m going to have any “exploration” time with the software until after Christmas.

  5. I guess I’m not very venturesome. Like Joanne, I use Word..That’s it. Funny because I just discovered the track change function while editing this summer. There’s still plenty I need to learn about Word. I’m really not ready for anything else right now.

    Have fun with your new toy!!

    1. I use Word, too, and I liked previous versions. But version 8 for Mac is driving me nuts because of all its “auto” features. I’ve turned off several, but things keep popping up (or it second-guesses me and does things I don’t want it to do) that I can’t seem to get rid of. It has a lot of great features… the track changes function is one I love… but a lot I could do without, too.

    1. Maybe I should have played with the free trial before buying Scrivener, but decided to go ahead and take advantage of my NaNo discount. I’m glad to hear of your positive reaction, Daphne. 🙂

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you’ll come back again soon.

  6. Thank you for your post Carol, and thank you for supporting Scrivener through the NaNoWriMo promotion! Much appreciated. I would recommend working your way through Help > Tutorial to get a good overview of what Scrivener can do. There are also an increasing number of video tutorials available: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/index.html.

    In reply to some earlier points: Good import and export integration with Word is a feature of Scrivener, so if any formatting issues are being experienced, please contact supportATliteratureandlatteDOTcom. We will be happy to guide. On the topic of backing-up, by default Scrivener automatically saves after every 2 seconds of inactivity! You can take ‘Snapshots’ of your document at any time, e.g. before a major edit. Naturally, you can also backup your entire project. You can use Scrivener over two monitors if you so desire. 😉

    Anyway, I wish you well as you embark on your Scrivener adventure. I hope the new toy ultimately integrates well with your workflow and benefits your productivity – rather than just being a procrastination tool! We are never far away, feel free to experiment.

    All the best,

  7. I bought Wizard for Words but found it complicated (I find anything computer related complicated). I just use Word.

    P.S. I have some flowers for you over at my blog.

    1. I gather Wizard isn’t available for Macs and you’ll never wrestle my Mac out of my grasp… I’m a long time Mac devotee. But if it’s complicated Wizard wouldn’t be much of an improvement to using Word anyway. I’ve used various versions of Word through the years (you’ve probably read some of my growlings in earlier blogs) and am comfortable with it, but there are some organizational things that it can’t do. So I’m looking forward to trying out Scrivener’s features.

      Thanks for the flowers!

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