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Scrivener: A Software Resource for Writers

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Sam Blake

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An article from our archives – consistently one of our most popular postings!

When international bestseller Alex Barclay sang the praises of Scrivener in this excellent article, we thought we’d investigate and find out what it’s all about. This is what Alex said:

The software I use is the brilliant Scrivener – it’s so writer-friendly. I have no affiliation with the company, but I have a lot of love for it! Scrivener is such a customisable piece of software. I would venture it suits all kind of approaches to writing. For me, it’s works so well for many reasons, but mainly because I can see to the left of the page I’m writing on, not only an entire list of my numbered chapters, but also the titles of individual scenes. So, taking an example from Killing Ways again, I might have a list of chapters one to ten, separate files, one underneath the other, then below that, five individual – titled – scenes that I know have to fit into one of the first ten chapters. Say, I’ve written a scene with the title “Ren & Everett in club, hammered” – it’s right there, very easy to go into, cut, then paste into whatever chapter I feel it needs to be in.

And this is how it works:

Available for both Mac and Windows, Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

Writing a novel, research paper, script or any long-form text involves more than hammering away at the keys until you’re done. Collecting research, ordering fragmented ideas, shuffling index cards in search of that elusive structure—most writing software is fired up only after much of the hard work is over. But Scrivener is invaluable from the word go: a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from that first, unformed idea all the way through to the final draft. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.

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Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents in easy reach. On the left of the window, the “binder” allows you to navigate between the different parts of your manuscript, your notes, and research materials, with ease. Break your text into pieces as small or large as you want—so you aren’t wrestling with one long document. Restructuring your draft is as simple as drag and drop. Select a single document to edit a section of your manuscript in isolation, or use “Scrivenings” mode to work on multiple sections as though they were one: Scrivener makes it easy to switch between focusing on the details and stepping back to get a wider view of your composition.

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Scrivener lets you work in any order you want and gives you tools for planning and restructuring your writing. You can enter a synopsis for each document on a virtual index card and then stack and shuffle the cards in the corkboard (above) until you find the most effective sequence. Plan out your work in Scrivener’s outliner and use the synopses you create as prompts while you write. Or just get everything down into a first draft and break it apart later for rearrangement on the outliner or corkboard. You can create collections of documents to read and edit related text without affecting its place in the overall draft; label and track connected documents or mark what still needs to be done. Whether you like to plan everything in advance or write first and structure later—or do a bit of both—this software is extremely versatile.

With access to a powerful underlying text engine, you can add tables, bullet points, images and mark up your text with comments and footnotes. Format as you go using the format bar at the top of the page, or use any font you want for the writing and let Scrivener reformat your manuscript after you’re done—allowing you to concentrate on the words rather than their presentation.

Scrivener provides all the tools you need to prepare your manuscript for submission or self-publishing. Once you’re ready to go, control everything from how footnotes, headers and footers appear to fine-tuning the formatting of each level of your draft—or keep it simple by choosing from one of  the Scrivener’s presets. You can print your novel using standard manuscript formatting or export your finished document to a wide variety of file formats, including Microsoft Word, RTF, PDF and HTML. You can also self-publish by exporting to ePub or Kindle* (requires KindleGen) formats to share your work via iBooks or Amazon, or for reading on any e-reader.

Before I dashed off to download Scrivener for myself, I thought I’d check out who else has used it. This is what Sheila O’Flanagan says on their website: “Just a note to say that I love using Scrivener. I only use some of the features but it’s fantastic for keeping track of characters and events in novels. I love the synopsis cards and being able to keep research in one place. Even though I tend to write in chapters, I also love the ability to move sections of the novel around and the split screen view. Snapshot is also great for trying new ideas while keeping old work together. I’m sure I could get more out of it but it’s given me a lot already. It was a great purchase and worth every cent.”

Scrivener have now started a monthly podcast to help authors get the best out of the product which you can check out here: https://podcast.scrivenerapp.com/

Now I’ve been using Scrivener myself I can see why everyone loves it – I use it for planning and storing all my research, I keep photos of my characters in character files, location shots and links in location files and it organises everything beautifully! I still use Word to write the actual novel, but I know some people love how they can write different sections and use Scrivener’s compiling tool to generate a document at the end. After 6 books planned using it, and another on the way, I couldn’t do without it!

(c) Sam Blake

Get your version of Scrivener by clicking the link below.

Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)

Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)


The Dark Room is out now – order online and it’ll come straight to your letterbox!

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

Find out more about Sam Blake at www.samblakebooks.com, or follow her on social @samblakebooks – follow her on Facebook and watch out for her Six Minutes on Story videos and fun giveways!

‘Strangers on a Train meets Dial M For Murder’ came out in 2019. The Sunday Independent says:

“Blake’s skill lies in her ability to combine tough and memorable characters with a deliciously complex and fast-moving plot that never wanes.

She takes the simple concept of revenge, but turns it into a riveting tale that criss-crosses the globe and involves smuggled antiques, forged artworks and even the Russian mafia.

The tension never lets up and as we hurtle towards the last few pages, Blake fires in one last plot grenade that makes you question everything you have just read.”




About the author

Sam Blake has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks, and she had an idea for a book. Sam is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived in Ireland, at the foot of the Wicklow mountains, for more years that she lived in the UK. Her debut novel ‘Little Bones’ (Bonnier 2016) was No 1 in Ireland for four weeks, remained in the top 10 for another four, and was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. It launched the bestselling Cat Connolly trilogy.

Moving away from police procedurals Sam is keeping a focus on strong female characters, writing psychological thrillers for Corvus Books. ‘Keep Your Eyes On Me’ went straight to No 1 in January 2020 and ‘The Dark Room’ is due in January 2021. Sam has already signed for two more thrillers with Corvus Atlantic that will keep her busy until 2023.

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