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9 Reasons Scrivener Will Save Your Novel

We all know that writing a novel is no easy feat. It’s really not. It’s months upon months of working long hours and late into the night, writing every second you have time, daydreaming about plots while driving to and from work, getting so inspired that you can’t write fast enough, days where all you want to do is write, but can’t. It’s fighting your way through early drafts of fight scenes and figuring out who’s motivation is what and who is the villain and how to foreshadow without revealing too much, and finally getting that draft done enough to say…it’s time to go back to the beginning and edit the work to perfection.

And if you’re writing anything of ANY kind (novel, short story, a series of blog posts, a recipe that includes 10,000 words of your dramatic childhood, a school paper that you don’t want to write, seriously, guys, I mean everything), then Scrivener is the tool you must invest in.

I first discovered Scrivener a few years ago, when I was knee deep into the first draft of the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale novel, which I was writing on the platform many people use, Microsoft Word.

Now, it wasn’t that I was struggling, writing the novel in Word, when you get to a document that’s 80,000 words long (and getting longer) and you’re trying to skip from one scene at the beginning to another somewhere in the middle, because you’re trying to make sure that you set up your foreshadowing the way you want to, it can get a little unwieldy. Word is great for a lot of things, but extra-extra long documents aren’t one of them. Sure, you can split it into two separate documents to make it easier, but there’s got to be a better way, right?

And that’s where Scrivener comes in.

I was pretty much done with what was the first draft when I first heard about this program, and I figured I didn’t have much to lose, other than a few dollars, if I tried it out. And while there was a bit of a learning curve, now that I’ve figured out some of the program’s quirks, I’m in love. It’s life changing in the sense that is makes your life so much easier. If you’re a writer or any level of professionalism (though, I always say, that the only thing that qualifies you for being a writer is…that you write things and say you’re a writer), then this is the program you need.

It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s super customizable, and it makes the challenge of stringing words together all that much easier.

Click the Continue Reading button below for an in-depth explanation of what Scrivener is, and why it WILL save your novel.

Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular Licence)
1. What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is THE program for long-form writing projects, and here’s huge perk number one: it costs a FRACTION of what a Microsoft Office subscription costs. And that’s not even one of the program’s biggest upsides. Scrivener is a one stop shop for writers of every level. You can do EVERYTHING you need from start and finish for your novel in Scrivener.

As I mentioned, the program has a LOT of bells and whistles, like, a metric ton, which means there’s a bit of a learning curve, and for some, that might be a little overwhelming. But that means that there’s something for everyone. If you’re not interested in starting off with the presets (more on that in point number two), I’d recommend just starting things off with the Blank Document option. It gives you all the options of the pre-created novel or non-fiction or script pre-sets, but it gives you the ability to take what you need and leave out the rest, so you’re a little less overwhelmed by it all.

You can buy Scrivener for either Mac or Windows. Licenses are $45 each and so, so, so worth it. Are you an educator? You can get the educational license for the discounted price of $38.25 (Mac here and Windows here). (Full disclosure, if you purchase through my referral link, I’ll get a little bit too. I wouldn’t be recommending this product if I didn’t believe in it wholeheartedly!)

2. Project Templates

One of the best parts about Scrivener (which I know I say a lot, but it’s only because I really, really mean it) is that it comes with a ton of pre-set project categories, including Blank, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Scriptwriting, Poetry & Lyrics, and Miscellaneous (which is where you can find the Recipe Collection template, if you’re of the food-blogging kind).

I started off with the Novel template in the Fiction category, and that’s what I use for the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale novel. For the Writing Tips posts I create for this website, and for posts for my other website, QuestFor47.com, (where I chronicle my journey of teaching myself how to generate passive income. If you’re interested in going on a passive income-generating journey with me, sign up for the email list by clicking here), I use the Blank template, which is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s simple and clean, has a section dedicated to any research I may want to include in whatever post I’m working on for the blog, or whatever chapter I’m working on for the novel, and even a trash can where you can stash documents that you don’t need anymore (though seriously, don’t delete anything, you never know when it will be of use to you in the future).

Additionally, the Fiction templates have sections for character creation, locations, research, and other information that you may gather that relates to your novel, but without having to keep it in a separate document, like you would if you were working with Word.

3. A/B Testing

A/B testing your chapters is a little different from traditional A/B testing things on a traditional website, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Scrivener (other than all my other favorite parts of Scrivener.)

I am a writer who edits by rewriting (which is not the most helpful for some writers, but is huge for me), so to be able to see the chapter that I am working on one side of the screen and the new version on the other, that is HUGE for me. Before Scrivener, I would have a Word document that I would save as a TEMP file, and I would put my original text there and start the re-write process in the original document. It’s not a bad way to do things, but to be able to have a program that seamlessly puts it all in one set of split screens takes out a bunch of other steps that, let’s be real, no one has time for.

The other option is to open one scene in Quick Reference, which makes a little popup that you can put next to the screen you’re working on, so you can see what you’re working from while working on your current document.

4. Word Frequency

Remember my Writing Tips post, the 1 Reason Not To Fear Your Crutch Words? In short, I talked about how you shouldn’t let your crutch words hold you back from finishing your story, and it’s because Scrivener can help you sort that out once you’re done, and in the editing process.

With Scrivener, you can bring up your text statistics (which lives under the Project menu), and it will scan the entirety of your work and find out which words you used the most often (even little words, like ‘a’ or ‘an’ or ‘the’. That’s how I figured out how many times I used Talya’s name in one of my draft of the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale novel, which I used as an example in my post, 2 Reasons Not To Be Afraid To Use Your Character’s Name In Your Novel.

5 Project Targets

Project Targets in Scrivener are the goals you set for your writing sessions. You can set an overall project goal, say, 80,000 words for a first draft, and you can also set goals for how much writing you want to get done in a day, like 500 words.

Not only that, but you can also set a deadline, if you’re on deadline, and you can set it to count text written anywhere in the project, OR just text written in your posts/story. You can decide whether or not you want to be notified, which writing days you want, AND it allows for negatives, if you’ve got a draft of your novel written that’s over 100,000 words long and you’re looking to get it down into the 90,000s.

6. Color Coding

One of the struggles with both the writing and editing process is determining which scenes need work, which scenes are pretty much good to go, and which scenes REALLY need work.

That’s where color-coding comes in. You can choose your colors and your categories, and label each and every chapter and section and scene. That way, you can see at a glance, which scenes are the ones you should focus on, rewrite, or even consider cutting from your novel entirely.

But don’t delete your work, because no matter what, you will regret it.

7. Chapter Organization

I could write a book just about how much I love the ability Scrivener gives its users to organize scenes and chapters any way they want.

It’s critical, especially in the latter stages of novel-writing.

Now, I’ve been writing novels for more than a decade, and I have many a story drafted in Microsoft Word. It’s not a bad platform, but with the Binder option in Scrivener, you have the ability to see your scenes and where they are, organize them by chapter, and move them from one place to the other without having to do the copy+paste dance with hundreds and thousands of words of text. Just take the scene card and drag and drop it to where you want it to be. Doesn’t work? Drag it back.

And like I said above in the section about color-coding, if you have a scene that you have determined isn’t going to work for your story, just drag it into a folder that you’ve labeled, well, whatever you want to label it, like Cut Scenes, and leave it there, out of your way, so you can see what you story looks like without that scene or section.

8. Professional Formatting

Half the battle with getting your novel published is ensuring that when you reach out to agents or publishers, your manuscript is formatted properly. It’s not because agents and publishers like making you have to take an extra step or two before you submit your materials to them because they want to be mean or act like gatekeepers of publishing, but because they’re really, really busy.

With Scrivener, you can ensure that your manuscript is formatted with the proper linespacing and indents, headers and footers, and exporting that work is as easy as a few clicks.

Publishers and agents are SO beyond busy, and if you can do just one thing by ensuring that you’re following the correct submission guidelines, you have immediately given yourself a leg up, a way to stand out compared to the rest of the masses also trying to get their works published.

9. An Epic Tutorial

You may be like me and don’t have time for silly things like tutorials, especially when all you want to do is get to work, but I have to stress the importance of utilizing the Scrivener program’s tutorial, because you will pick up way more than you think. Seriously, the best way to maximize what you get out of this product is to go through the tutorial. It’ll take you through every single aspect of Scrivener and you’ll be able to see the parts of it that work for you, the parts that you don’t need, and the parts that you may eventually come to need.

Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular Licence)

But What About Google Docs?

I know what you’re thinking, “Google Docs is free. Why would I buy a program when I have access to that? It even has folders!”

Sure, Google Docs has folders, and you can organize it to your preferences, and you can even use it online, but what give Scrivener the critical leg up is that it has the speed that Google Docs does not and can handle larger documents without the lag. A few years ago, I had a story (that evolved into a series, because I just can’t stop myself) that I wrote in Google Docs, and while it wasn’t all that long, maybe 50,000 words, the document was difficult to navigate, primarily because of issues with the scrolling function, not to mention the fact that this is all pretty much in Chrome, so I’m navigating the internet as I go from document to document.

So, there’s that. Also, I don’t love the offline editing functionality because I feel that there’s just too much that may or may not work in merging the online documents with the offline. But I’m still the type of person who will just open a fresh page in the Notes app on my phone when I’m working somewhere, like an airplane (in the unlikely event that I don’t just have my laptop on me, which, is super rare), and then merge it when I get back to the land of internet connectivity.

But wait, you say, don’t airlines have Wi-Fi these days?

Yeah, I’m still not willing to shell out money to purchase Wi-Fi when I’m traveling. That’s just a personal decision, but also because I don’t really fly often enough (or long enough distances) to justify the purchase. I’d rather save the $9.99 on crappy airport snacks or one of those mass-market paperbacks (which is actually how I discovered one of my favorite authors, James Rollins and his Sigma Series. Give me a good military thriller and I will devour that in a day. But I digress.

A Couple (Minor!) Critiques

I don’t have a lot of critiques about Scrivener—I wouldn’t be recommending it to you if I did—but there are a couple quirks in the software that bug me.

Thing the first – the autocorrect function. It’s a little…overzealous.

Just like when I’m rapid-fire texting and end up sending out ‘Duck that!’ Instead of, well, anything BUT ‘Duck that!’, sometimes Scrivener decides to take the initiative and change words for you into words that have NO place in your story or blog post or paper or whatever else you’re working on.

So, just be on the lookout for that.

The easy fix is to just add the word you’re using to the dictionary and it won’t happen again, but getting the word to stick so you CAN get it into the dictionary my take a couple of tries. For those of you writing high fantasy or any other type of story with traditionally uncommon words or names, it’s something you should be aware of.

Thing the second – the grammar check capabilities are not to my personal standards.

Now, it’s not the end of the world, but the only thing Scrivener offers is Spellcheck, not Grammar Check like Microsoft Word does. All that really means is that I copy and paste my work into a Word document during my last round of editing, and you can also do that in Grammarly or whatever other grammar-checking software you like to use, but yeah, that’s something that doesn’t quite work for me.

Get Scrivener Today

You can get started with Scrivener with just one click and a quick install. You can purchase the Standard License for macOS for $45.00 by clicking here. Windows user? Get you can purchase your version by clicking here. Are you an educator? You can purchase the Educational License for $38.25 for macOS by clicking here, and the Windows edition by clicking here.

Have questions about Scrivener? Just bought and are trying to figure out where to start? Join the Facebook Group and ask away!

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