writing with scrivener


This is the first year I’ve used scrivener for nano. They’ve offered nano winners 50% off for a few years now, and I took advantage a few years ago. I ported LL over to scrivener, and that’s where I’ve been editing since. It was just a matter of switching from google docs, which I now use for backup.

Scrivener is a fantastic app, some say it’s the best dedicated writing tool on the market.


Lots to like:

  • clean interface — I can even hide the file structure on the left and have a full page view, even with the navigation, i have most of my screen to type in
  • hierarchichal container structure — instead of one flat file or multiple files like in traditional word processors, the scrivener file structure is a dream to work with and navigate, it’s easy to go to any chapter and any section, and to move sections too
  • character and place profiles — brilliant to create backstory and to remember features
  • research — write notes, clip webpages, import diagrams
  • word count at a glance — the entire manuscript, selected chapters and sections
  • name generator — this is fun, and is particularly great during nano, to take the headache out of thinking of names
  • compile — no need to worry about formatting and front matter like table of content
  • export — exports to all sorts of formats like rtf, doc, pdf, epub

And all this in one global file and one workspace. No need to toggle between tabs and apps. There are features I don’t use, like the corkboard view, colour scheme or split screen. I hide the inspector and don’t use it to its full advantage. I don’t use project targets. I’m sure there are features I’m not even aware of.


The biggest complaint is that it’s not mobile. The app is still stuck in the web 1.0 era: it sits on the mba and the global file is only saved on the mba. Although I can install the app on different computers, I can’t just open it wherever I like and be synced to where I was. I have to backup to dropbox and remember to save back to dropbox when I finish. It can import webpages, but pales in comparison to Evernote in terms of clipping and ability to store and organise research articles.

Since the promised iOS version has been delayed and delayed and delayed, other apps have come to the market. The most prominent is storyist, which is 50% off for nano winners and is similar in look-and-feel to scrivener. Another one I recently came across is novlr, which is web-based, like google docs. Then of course it’s possible to use evernote as a writing tool, even though its text editing feature isn’t very good.

I may give storyist a try, if the 50% discount extends to the ios version. The fact is, scrivener is too good at its job for me to jump ship, I’ll live with using it on the mba and wait patiently for the ios app.

note: I came across an interesting article from a scrivener user that makes a point I hadn’t realised. It’s great for writing, but if you’re lucky enough to find a publisher, edits are done in Word, using the awful, awful track changes tool. Hmm. My copy of Word is 2003 (yes, really) although I suppose I can use Open/LibreOffice. We’re back to web 1.0 flat file eras. Ah well, moot point.