Organize Your Big Writing ✍️ Project

How Scrivener can help

Welcome to this week’s Wonder Tools post, introducing you to Scrivener. It helps manage huge writing and research projects. As always, I write independently about what I find useful, noting strengths, weaknesses and alternatives.

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Scrivener is a well-kept secret among screenwriters, novelists and other authors. If you’re overwhelmed with long drafts or extensive project research, you may find it a helpful organizer.

Here’s a 3-minute guide to Scrivener 💻

Start by Importing

If parts of a project already live in Word documents, Google Docs, PDFs or other text files, you can import them and all sorts of other files into a Scrivener project. 

Choose from Various Writing Layouts

  • Write in full screen mode, offline, to avoid the distraction of cluttered menus

  • Put a new draft next to an old one in side-by-side mode

  • Stick a writing page above or adjacent to your section outline

  • Scribble big topics into an outline view, saving details to be added later

Set up Templates 

If sections of your work follow patterns, or you include similar elements repeatedly, you can create templates that help save you time and busywork. You can color-code sections so you know which ones need further work, require fact-checking, or need input from someone else. 

Corkboard View

A 10,000+ word project can seem like a gigantic mountain to climb. Scrivener makes it feel manageable by helping you piece it together bit by bit. The index card-style view makes it easy to move around sections represented by small chunks of text. You can just drag things around, combining one piece with another or reordering them. 

Bells and Whistles

  • Scrivener will manage targets you set for word-count or page-writing

  • Footnoting is easy, in whatever style you prefer.

  • Auto-saving helps back up your work as you go.  

  • If you mess something up or want to revert to an earlier draft, you can roll it back to a previous version by saving snapshots as you go.

Export, Print, and Publish Easily 

When you’re done with a draft you can quickly export it to another program, like Microsoft Word. Or publish an eBook in PDF, Kindle or ePub format. If you’re writing a screenplay you can export directly to Final Draft. 

Here’s the company’s 2-minute animated video overview:

💰 Pricing and Platforms 

For the Mac or Windows version, it’s $49. For students and teachers, that’s discounted to $41.65. For iOS it’s $20. 

Limitations 👎

  • If you’re an Android or Chromebook user, there’s no version for you.

  • Scrivener works best for solo projects. If you work closely with a collaborator or team, you’ll need to frequently export sections and use other collaborative editing tools in conjunction with this one. 

  • Scrivener isn’t focused on Web sharing. If you want to publish a section of your writing to the Web, you’ll still need another publishing tool. Other Web-based writing tools — like Google Docs, Coda, Notion and Craft— let you quickly create a link to a section of your work to share with others who can view and even collaborate with you online. 

  • It won’t do your writing for you. Switching to Scrivener may be a distraction if your current workflow feels fine. If your projects are a mess, it may be worth a try.

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Alternatives 

  • With Coda.io, you can break up a writing project into multiple pages within a single master doc. You can also invite collaborators to add annotations. And if you’re working with a team, you can even insert buttons that let collaborators make suggestions and vote on one another’s input. You can create templates and embed images, videos or other interactive content.

    You can keep your Coda project private, or publish it for others to view at any time. You can edit Coda docs on a phone, and published pages look great on mobile devices. It’s freemium, with basic features free. Read my earlier post to find out more about Coda.

  • Evernote is a classic tool that’s recently launched a major reboot. Like Scrivener, it lets you link together a bunch of individual notes and tuck them into notebooks. In my view, Evernote doesn’t make it as easy to organize material visually as Scrivener does, but it does simplify importing photos, audio snippets, scanned documents and other materials, if that’s part of a big project you’re working on. Here’s a guide to using Evernote for a big writing project.

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