by Nina Amir
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a better and easier way—which means a more effective way—to get your writing projects finished and keep them organized.
But what if you could go straight from writing to publishing your work? That would make life a lot simpler, right?
The tool you want to use is Scrivener. I’ve just begun using it for most of my writing and blogging projects, and I’m about to test out its publishing capabilities, too.
New Technology, New Learning Curve
As with any new technology, if you choose to use Scrivener you’ll have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s really not a bad one at all.
I had the good fortune of finding myself speaking at two conferences along with Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies. I sat in on three of her sessions, and was off and running! I had the program already, but until that point I’d been rather stymied.
Gwen teaches an online course on Scrivener, and from what I saw of her in-person teaching style, I’d recommend her course. Plus, Scrivener for Dummies is jam packed with useful information.
Not long after that, I attended a webinar with Joseph Michael, the Scrivener Coach, and then I hosted one with him. I had purchased his Learn Scrivener Fast program and started using that as well. I found it enormously helpful and an “easy fix” when I was having problems.
Between Gwen’s sessions and book, the Scrivener Coach’s program and my most recent experiences with the program, I quickly saw the benefits of Scrivener for writing and publishing books.
I immediately dropped my largest project into Scrivener and began working with it there. I found it helped me keep all the “moving parts” of my project organized. I plan to produce an ebook with Scrivener output very soon. I also began producing my blog posts in Scrivener.
My Scrivener Experience
When I first purchased Scrivener for my PC, I didn’t use it at all. After learning from Gwen and Joseph, I purchased a new version for my Mac (you can get one at a discount if you previously purchased a different version), and I began again—more successfully this time.
I uploaded a full manuscript I needed to revise into Scrivener. In just about 60 seconds the entire project was in the program and organized into chapter folders! (I did employ one trick Gwen taught me to ensure the chapters ended up separated.)
I was ready to go. All I needed to do was load up some additional content, which I did just as easily and quickly.
I then added online research from my blog by dragging web links into the Research folder. I even placed my mind maps for the project in there. I saved them as jpgs, copied and pasted. Viola! Everything in one place.
I also tried blogging a series in Scrivener. At first I just placed the posts in folders based on the month when I wrote them. (I blog with a monthly plan.) Once I was done, I moved all of the related posts into a folder for that particular series, which I can now easily turn into a short ebook after I edit the posts once more with the ebook in mind.
The Benefits of Scrivener
My experience showcases some of the benefits and features of using Scrivener to write your book or even to blog short (or long) books. Here are eight more I found especially useful.
1. Scrivener Provides an Effective (and Easy) Book-Writing Method
Scrivener was created to help writers organize their writing and write in general. There’s little focus at all on formatting, therefore. That means you focus more on writing.
Since so many writers struggle with organization, the program excels as an effective way to structure and write your book. Your chapters, as well as parts of your chapters, are easy to move around and to track both as documents and visually as 3”x5” cards.
You can see the whole manuscript and all it’s smaller pieces in the “binder.” The parts are saved in folders and documents, all of which make up the total manuscript.
If you like working with 3” x 5” cards, or you are more of a visual person, you’ll enjoy the corkboard. Each card provides you with information on your existing chapter or sections of your chapter—or even on the sections you plan to write.
Plus, you can indicate if you still need to write that particular section or if it is in draft or finished form, making it easy to track progress.
2. You Can Create a Table of Contents Right in Scrivener
I’m a big proponent of planning out your book. A lot of nonfiction writers simply start with table of contents. In Scrivener, you can create that table of contents in the binder.
Since each folder constitutes a chapter with a chapter title (easily changed if need be), and inside that folder you can have any number of subheadings or sections that comprise your chapter.
This allows you to create a detailed table of contents, something I advise all writers to create.
You then can write your chapter summary based on this detailed table of contents and place it as a synopsis in the “inspector” function. Then, when you look at the corkboard, you have an overview of your book’s content on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
3. You Can Import a Mind Map and Research Into Scrivener for Reference
I like to work with mind maps when planning out my books. I first brainstorm my nonfiction book topic, and then I organize the information into a detailed table of contents.
Scrivener allows you to import your mind map into the program as a PDF in the “research” section. You can then refer to it if you like.
You can do this with almost any mind-mapping program by exporting as a PDF or jpg. I did it with my favorite program, Freemind by Sound Force, which is free.
However, I tried out Scapple, with is sold for $14.99 by Literature and Latte, the makers of Scrivener, and really loved it! It’s super easy to use. They don’t call is a mind mapping software, but it really is.
As I mentioned, you also can import website links into the research section. This is pretty handy. And there are even ways to use Evernote with Scrivener.
4. You Can Move Your Work Around Easily in Scrivener
It’ s not uncommon to discover at any point in the writing a book that you need to move blocks of content around. If you’ve broken your chapters down into subheadings and saved each of those subheadings as a separate section, it becomes simple to move them up or down by clicking on them and pushing them up or down in the binder (your table of contents).
You also can split your chapters easily creating new sections and then move content rather than copying and pasting. This eliminates some room for error.
5. You easily can create the necessary files for Ebook formats.
When you are ready to put all the little pieces together, Scrivener will “compile” them into a Word document or a Mobi or epub file.
It even includes your cover, if you’ve uploaded it into your Scrivener document. That means you can produce a file for Kindle or any other ebook format, including Smashwords.
I have not yet tried the compile function on Scrivener, but as I watched Gwen go through the process and show the end product, and Joseph demonstrate it as well, I was convinced it would be simple to produce an ebook using this writing tool. I’ll plan to test it out in the near future.
6. You don’t have to worry about saving your files.
No more worrying about if you saved your project! Scrivener saves it for you automatically ever few minutes. Of course, that does not mean you don’t need to have some sort of back up for your computer. It does not save to the cloud.
You can ask it manually to save to Dropbox, Evernote or somewhere else, or install a backup system like Carbonite.
7. You don’t have to find the place where you stopped working last.
With Scrivener you don’t need to search for the place you stopped editing or writing when you last closed your document. The program always opens your document to the place you stopped working last. What a time saver!
8. You can easily track your project or document word count.
For those writers who want or need to know the length of each chapter or their whole project, Scrivener will track one or both for you at all ties. This feature is indispensable!
Most book contracts indicate a project length and most nonfiction books have chapters of similar length. This feature helps you stay on course as you write.
Also, if you want to meet daily or weekly word counts, this helps you know if you are meeting your goals.
Don’t Forget to Edit
Because it is so easy to go from the writing to publishing step with Scrivener, you might forget an essential step that goes in between: editing.
Be sure you do, indeed, edit. Compile your document as a Word file and send it off to your favorite editor and proofreader.
Then input those changes. (Or teach them to edit in Scrivener. There is a feature that allows you to see their additions.)
When you’re done, you are ready to hit the compile button and then upload to one Kindle, Smashwords or your favorite ebook distributor.
To purchase Scrivener for Mac or PC, click here.
Have you used Scrivener to produce a book? Tell me about your experience.
This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.