who uses Scrivener (or anything like it)?

The One-Match Fire short stories that have occupied my crusty creative self for the last few years eventually coalesced into what could be called a loose novel form. I consider (most of) them stand-alone short stories (and some have gotten published as such), but collected in the novel format they feel more like episodes than an attempt at a continuous narrative. That’s fine, of course, and I think it works well enuf.

But now I’m working on that cozy mystery novel (Finnegans Fogbound) and I’m finding that I must give a great deal more attention to plotting than I needed for One-Match Fire. Events must happen in a certain order at certain times in certain ways. And I am out of practice in conventional novel construction.

A commenter here recently asked if I used Scrivener to do whatever it is that Scrivener does. I don’t. I’ve never considered it. Looking at the site, I see how it could help a writer organize the grand effort, but I wonder if I need such an involved tool. (One I would have to pay for.) Would it do anything for me that drafting an outline and keeping a list of characters can’t?

Do you use Scrivener or anything like it? I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts or recommendations.

Explore posts in the same categories: Fathers and Sons, Finnegans, Process


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8 Comments on “who uses Scrivener (or anything like it)?”

  1. Early on, I tried a Scrivener demo and hated it! It was like earlier in life when I tried beets and hated them. Every couple years I tried beets and…hated them. Same thing with Scrivener.

    One day I tried beets and was like, “Not so bad…” Still not a thing I’d eat on my own, but still — I could see what people liked about them. And one time I tried the Scrivener demo, I thought, “Okay, not as bad as I remember…”

    One day I actually liked beets. And one day Scrivener went on a big sale and I bought it. Because I had a certain investment in it, I used it. And liked it in the same manner I like beets.

    Beets are not my favorite vegetable, but there is now something I like about them more than many things I’ve loved all my life. And there are things about Scrivener I like very much.

    (Damn, this is getting long…)

    I’ve found I’m not much of a fan of rabid Scrivener fans who tell me, “And you can do this… and that… and that… and this… AND MORE!!!”

    What I like about Scrivener is it lets me write short stories in the way my mind works today. I used to work in factories and warehouses — or office jobs requiring little thought. I could think all day and build stories in my head. Then, at night, I often sat down and write stories all the way through.

    As a tech writer and someone with a busier life than I had when I was younger, I can only work in chunks. It’s more like an artist sketching. I throw stuff down and work with it. A little more. Some corrections…moving things around. And Scrivener handles that aspect of the way my writing mind works rather well.

    I can build a left-pane story navigation in chunks in much the same way I build help systems at work. People assume I love the notecard feature in Scrivener where I can make notes and move things around, but it’s more the ability to build a story like this with little folders.

    Beet History

    And then it might be

    Opening – Scrivener Hate
    The Beet Analogy
    The Day I Liked Beets
    Tech Writing Mind
    Scrivener Navigation

    And building from there, with the ability to click any of those visible folders in the interface and see only the writing in that section.

    It allows me to jump around much easier and I guess kind of working a story like adding clay to a sculpture, building randomness into something solid.

    In the end, though…I still output everything to Word and do final edits there. I like Word’s commenting better and a few other things Scrivener doesn’t do as well.

    I suspect we’re a bit the same in a love for more simple things. Scrivener does a lot, and people I know who love the program try selling me on all it does — and think I’m crazy for not using it “to its full potential.” But those same people don’t write as much as I write. It’s like other productivity systems they embrace…they seem to complicate things and think they are being efficient because they have all these tools to be more productive. And they don’t seem to realize they tinker with programs and systems more than actually completing things.

    My productivity system is simple: I generally wake up early and write. I say no to a lot of things so I have time to focus on the things I like. The thought of the time to learn all Scrivener can do seems a futile pursuit for me because I don’t need to know all a system can do. Maybe in that regard I’m like the person with a computer who only uses it for email, writing letters, and playing solitaire.

    People might laugh at that person, but that person’s usually not as stressed as those who know everything their system can do….down to the things they do not even use…

    So that’s my VERY long-winded review of Scrivener! For the couple things it does well for me early on as I sketch out a story, I love it. But that’s the extent of it.

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    I like beets, but I barely use most of the functions on my iPhone, and I suspect that would also be the case with Scrivener. Sure, it probably has many wonderful features — that I would never use — but the basic bits that I might use I could likely manage on my own.

    Does anyone know if Dickens or Melville used Scrivener?

  3. I bought Scrivener originally because trying to rearrange a book of poetry using Word is deeply trying. I adore Scrivener for prose work as well. I don’t use the character/research filters.

    What I love about it is the left-hand binder that lists your poems/scenes/chapters/chunks of text. I can keep track of what is where and where I am. I can have a chapter draft in one folder, and chunks of text below it that are labeled and may or may not make it into the chapter draft. It is less linear than word, which helps my nonlinear brain keep track.

  4. Jane Austen used pins to edit her work.

  5. Melville’s friend, Bartleby, was all about Scrivener 😉

    It seems, at least among your replying friends, that the left-hand binder in Scrivener is rather liked. Beyond that, it’s much too busy for my needs.

  6. Libby Says:


  7. Libby Says:

    Looks like the price is doable

  8. C Says:

    I download a trial to see what the new version is like. Perhaps you could do the same, then put some of your work into it and see if navigating the essential features works for your style of organization, or at least see if you could easily adapt. It goes on sale every so often.

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