Author Tips Tuesday – Scrivener

written by Lee Strauss | Author Tips Tuesday, Lee Strauss, musings

March 22, 2016

Last week I made a list of software and websites  that I use all the time as an author/publisher, promising to breakdown how I use each one. The first up is Scrivener.

I am a big fan of Scrivener. It's hard to imagine that I ever wrote a book without it. It's also one of those tools where I use only a fraction of the functions it's capable of (much like I do with Word and Excel). The learning curve can be a bit overwhelming at first, but thankfully there are tutorials, forums and webinars that can guide you through.

Since I've just confessed to not using Scrivener to its potential, why do I use it at all?

Because it's fantastic for writing first drafts. I'll show you what I mean.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 6.31.24 AM

This is an early draft of Hickory Dickory Dock on the main page of Scrivener. To the left you have the Binder which allows you to write scene by scene and label them with a brief note to remind you what each scene is about. The beauty of the binder is that it's very easy to shift scenes around – just drag click and drag. This alone is worth working on Scrivener for me, because I often write a scene and then realize it's not in the right spot. Previously this meant a lot of cut and paste and searching through long word docs.

On the top right you can create synopsis cards. More on that in a moment. Underneath that is a handy document notes feature. I use this space to remind me to add/subtract/change things on my next run through. I also paste passages I cut from the main document here, in case I decide I want to use it again somewhere else.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.47.44 PM Here's a clip of the binder on my latest WIP. This time I numbered the scenes. You can see how I ended up moving scenes around here, improving the tension of the story flow. You'll also notice there are ways to label and flag scenes to remind you of whatever you want to be reminded of. In this case, the purple flags indicate scenes where the villain is present.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 6.44.30 AM

By clicking Group Mode  (top menu bar) you can see all your scenes synopses you made as recipe cards. This really helps to review the flow of your scenes, and you can also move scenes around in this view as well. Under General in the right column you have the ability to label the cards. You can get rid of the right column by clicking the inspector button on the top right. The little icon buttons on the bottom right allow you to chose how many cards you want to see in a row.

I used to accomplish this by printing my whole manuscript, cutting it apart scene by scene and laying it all out on the living room rug. Then I'd put a sticky note synopsis on each one and walk through them so I could see the big picture. You can imagine how Scrivener saves time and money on paper and ink!

Other great features for organizing your manuscript include Character folders, Setting folders and Research folders, found in the binder underneath the scenes. You can drop in images in the inspector, track websites, maps, etc. Very handy for keeping track of details. Can't remember a character's eye color? No problem! Just click on their character folder and it's all there.

Once I'm happy with my first draft, I compile it into a .docx and use that to continue on with my revisions. I then send this to my editor. I use a .docx because this is the file type I need to format with Vellum. More on that in another post.

Scrivener can also create other file types like epubs, mobi files, pdf, etc.

Another great thing about Scrivener is that it automatically saves your work every time you stop typing for 2 seconds. As a back up measure I always email myself a copy of my latest scrivener draft. I've never lost work on Scrivener (which I can't say of windows and word.)

This is just an example of how I use Scrivener. Other authors use it much more extensively. Whether you use it a lot or a little, it's a tool I highly recommend.

You can find out more about it here: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/

Do you use Scrivener? What's your favorite feature?

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