• Amy Alves

Scrivener: Writing Jumpstarted After Hiatus

The sense of guilt and accountability has been weighing heavily on me for the past 5 months as my writing stalled and life just… happened. I took a bit of a hiatus for a few reasons.

The most prominent being my family coming first and the busy schedule we’ve had with some necessary appointments and activities for the kids. Okay, fine, I got a little carried away, and we WAY overbooked ourselves, leaving me exhausted.

The other reasons had to do with the complexity of writing, organizing, and researching. I was constantly having to look things up (again) or find materials and information in different places. Every time I sat down to write, especially if it had been more than a few days, I would take an enormous amount of time reminding myself where I was and what my plan was. I hadn’t found a process that was working well for me yet. I’m a bit of a hybrid writer. I like to plan but also like to jump in and add thoughts or scene ideas as they form, requiring me to go back and fiddle with integrating those scenes.

This jumping and losing track of organization, I was losing steam and becoming discouraged each time I thought about sitting down to write again. Wasting an hour or more every time I sat to write was not acceptable.

Then: Scrivener!

Above is a glimpse of what my Scrivener looks like after a bit of tweaking from the default settings (novel template).

I have seen many reviews that go over Scrivener vs Google Docs vs MS Word vs Vellum, etc. The question you have to ask yourself is what do you want to use it for? Comparing Vellum and Scrivener as a writing tool is not appropriate. Vellum is a formatting tool, and that is all I would use it for. I have used MS Word and Google Docs and there are pros to each.

What I really liked about Google Docs was that there was compatibility with Excel and other software that I found handy (for my character profiles, for example). Then the ability to share and live edit with Beta Readers or other editors. The ‘suggestions’ portion of editing was extremely useful and exactly the way I wanted feedback about my writing. However, going back and forth between documents, even if I pinned them in my bookmarks bar, was annoying. Just trying to make this work for me organizationally was a bit of a headache. Although, being new to writing, finding how I wanted to set up for the first time was challenging all on its own.

However, if I had just bitten the bullet and downloaded Scrivener from the start instead of attempting to use the free programs I was most familiar with, I could have avoided some inconsistencies and headaches in my novel.

After watching a few review videos and tutorials, I immediately purchased the program. I glanced upon my MacBook, looking like a live version of the heart-eyes emoji. I had finally found my perfect writing companion. Scrivener has EVERYTHING right there. It contains more features than I will probably use, but maybe one day I’ll delve deeper and discover more Scrivener goodness.

In the image further up, you can see on the left side it shows all the information for your book neatly outlined in your ‘binder’. This includes chapters/scenes, places, research, maps, character profiles (with a template), settings (with a template), trash bin, front matter, story outline, etc. It was everything I dreamed about. The right-hand side has a spot for information you put on index cards to organize different sections (synopsis). Then below that is a notes section you can add to anything you are working on. Previously, I was using either the comments features of Google Docs (which Scrivener has as well) or a separate document with To-do’s/Notes. In the middle you is the manuscript or whatever you are working on and there are different views (in case you don’t like the corkboard with the index cards). You can also split this to include two sections as you work. For example, you can have your outline or character profile up on one side while typing/editing your scene or chapter on the other side. Genius!

Above, Scrivener is set up with two center windows showing different parts of the binder. To the right side you can see the synopsis/notes area. At the top of that section you can switch between attached photos, comments, metadata and bookmarks.

With the tutorials and some quality YouTube searching, I was importing my Google Docs files in no time at all. To be honest, it took me a few hours to get all my scattered info in this program the way I wanted it, but now I am completely set up. It is an immense relief to have everything in one place and to feel confident when I sit down to write (instead of scatter-brained).

Below is a short tutorial for you to check out if you are considering using Scrivener. It will give you an idea how it works and if this system will work for you. Each writer thinks and writes differently, so while this is exactly what I needed, it may not be for you.

Scrivener also has formatting capabilities, but I’ve heard they can take some tinkering to get the way you want. After my foray into trying to do it all myself and with free programs I am familiar with, I think I will try Vellum. It is free to work with and test out, but once you want to publish, that’s where they charge you. In Canada, e-book and print formatting and publishing costs $349 and a bit less for just the e-book version. This is for unlimited publishing, so not bad if you are planning on putting out several books. After several trials in website creating, social media reacquaintance, and writing software attempts, I think paying a little extra for a super easy and widely popular formatting software is worth the price.

Currently, I am about 70% done with the writing/composition portion of my novel and I imagine it will be relatively smooth sailing to the end. Or at least I may have more of my hair left by the time I am done.