If you’re not already using Scrivener, I’d like to introduce you to the application that might make your memoir and genealogy writing projects easier to stick with.
This is NOT an affiliate post, but rather a review of a product I’ve used for both fiction and nonfiction writing. Though it hasn’t caused me to completely eschew Word, I am transferring my family history writing projects to Scrivener.
What is Scrivener?
Scrivener is a writing software that helps writers organize research, notes, and drafts, or, as Scrivener puts it, “See the forest or the trees.” It can even help with story-boarding.
Note: This review is based on Scrivener 1 for Windows. Scrivener 3, a major update, has been available for MAC/iOS, but the Windows version is still in the works. Per email, a company representative stated that they hope to have Scrivener 3 to Windows users this summer.
Scrivener Lets You See it All
For me, the genius of Scrivener is the fact that my writing, or manuscript, is immediately visible along with other text (ideas) and research.
In the screenshot below from a fiction project, you can see that I can work on my manuscript while having my characters, settings (places), research, and virtual index cards with synopses at my fingertips.
The list of folders on the left, known as the “Binder,” is expandable. When you’re ready, Scrivener will compile any text or media you include in the manuscript section and export it into word-processing or publication formats.
Main Working Areas of Scrivener
Scrivener’s multiple work areas give writers lots of options without making things too complicated.
As its name implies, Scrivener’s Binder view lets you organize your writing and notes as you would in a binder. However, unlike the opening and closing of the rings in an actual binder, you can drag and drop folders to reorganize information.
In addition to text information, you can add media files to these folders.
You can see how this lends itself to family history projects. In this template, I renamed the character folder as “Ancestors.” I keep information and research about places that are shared by multiple family members in the Places folder.
In addition, in this template, I’ve set up DAR folder for research and documentations that I need.
The editor is Scrivener’s word-processing program. Though it doesn’t have as many tools, bells, and whistles as Word and others, it’s straight-forward to use. It also keeps your word counts in clear view, which is an advantage for bloggers.
(Yes, you can use Scrivener for composing blog posts!)
For me, Scrivener’s advantages come from its other tools and interfaces.
On the far right of the workspace, the inspector panel allows you to “inspect” various aspects of your writing.
Views range from seeing your synopses, metadata, notes, resources, to my favorite, the “snapshot.” Before you make a major revision, you can click on the camera, and preserve your previous version. Alternatively, as seen below, you can refer back to a previous revision as you edit.
The Outliner View
Depending on how much use you’ve made of labels and metadata, the outliner can be an immense help in getting on overview of your project. Your outline can also be exported to a spread sheet.
Scrivener’s corkboard allows you to story board your ideas or reorganize your chapters and essays.
You can also identify your target word counts, create custom label and status option names, and import projects from mind maps.
My Favorite Hacks
For large projects, I use an external editor (Word) to compose and review because I like my Grammarly addon and prefer Word’s interface. I copy and paste my individual scenes and stories into Scrivener.
In addition, instead of immediately sending deleted text to the Trash, I keep a folder of deleted drafts until I’m absolutely sure I’m done with them. That way, when I want to resurrect and idea, I have access to it.
It is disappointing the Windows versions take much longer to release. However, with its free trial and reasonable $45 retail price, anyone who writes extensively should probably give it a whirl. (Scrivener’s website explains that existing users of Scrivener 1 will be able to purchase Scrivener 3 for the discounted price of $25.)