Getting Organized with Scrivener – Part 2

Part 1 of this review is here!

And I am just going to pick up right where I left off …


The Corkboard view gives you the option of seeing the outline of your novel in an outline view, a corkboard view, or as snippets of your manuscript. I am enjoying the Outliner view, but have also used the Corkboard. The Scrivenings view is the view in which you edit your manuscript.

Here is a screenshot of the Outliner view for the first chapter of my work-in-progress. Click to enlarge.

Scrivener Outliner View


I was the most skeptical about the ability for Scrivener to replace my worldbuilding gazetteer. I have used TiddlyWiki for all the novels I have written in the last dozen or so years. However, due to the new security features that browsers were forced to implement in response to hackers, this has become less convenient. I use the modern version of TiddlyWiki, which operates out of a desktop app, but again, having all the gazetteer elements in my manuscript file seems very convenient.

Scrivener handles this well. Linking from one document to another is not as convenient as using a wikiword, but it is not cumbersome, either. Create your folder of concepts, and link them together by right-clicking and selecting Scrivener Link and browsing to your document.

You can also drag and drop page links. Here’s a snapshot of one of my characters from my WIP:

Links within Documents


At present, I am not writing a novel that requires much research, because it takes place in an alternate galaxy. No history needed, and my science elements are, so far, within my body of knowledge. I only need to do some light space research for some very specific questions.

Scrivener does include the ability to capture a PDF of a webpage. However, my efforts to download

all failed except the option to export using MSOffice, and it produced badly formatted output.

Ultimately, I found a better solution by saving the webpage as a pdf using the browser print functions, and then import that, (which is what I hoped Scrivener would do automagically). The reason I want to capture a hard copy of the webpage–with a datestamp and the original web address–is because web pages can disappear, and it is helpful to have the webpage as it existed when you found it.

Imported Document

As you can probably tell, I have been very pleased with Scrivener. I now only use Word for documents that I started in Word because I have not found any good way to import a Word document without having a lot of manual work for breaking it into chapters and scenes.

Other features I’ve used:

  • Written a screenplay. The screenplay mode is so powerful that it actually taught me how to write a screenplay. I took one of my “Petroleum Sunset” short stories and made it in to a complete screenplay, just for fun. I can see easily modifying the screenplay output to work as a comic book “screenplay” as well, which uses a modified screenplay output
  • Created my own templates. Scrivener provides templates for Characters and Settings right out of the box, and I added one for Concepts. I find Scrivener tables difficult to use, so I lay it out in Word and paste it into the template. Once there, it works just fine.
  • Messed around with Keywords and Custom Meta-Data, but ultimately did not find them very useful so far.
  • Changed the default font of my manuscript so it is easy-on-the-eyes Bookman Old Style. I can use whatever font I want when I eventually compile.

I have not yet completed or compiled a manuscript. Once I am ready to start submitting something again, here’s my plan:

  • Create a new section in the binder for queries. Right now, I keep all query versions in a very long Word document that has every change I made to the query over time. Obsessive? Maybe, but I got tired of looking in old emails for that one particular version of the query. I want to keep every version that I personalized for every agent, because I end up doing that anyway and it’ll be much easier this way.
  • Create another section in the binder for synopses. I generally have a six-to-eight sentence synopsis, another version with six to eight paragraphs, which usually takes about one page, and a longer version, not much longer than two pages. With versions, of course.

On my wishlist:

  • I wish Scrivener would improve the table functionality. It is terrible. True, I don’t use tables at all in a manuscript, but I use them extensively in my wiki.
  • When I link a document in the Inspector (the right panel) I really wish I could see the link from the other end. When I click on a character, I would love for the Inspector to show all the documents that I linked that character to. I think this should easily be added because scrivener probably uses a relational database and databases are … yanno, relational.
  • They should put some thought into a less cumbersome way of importing a document and breaking it into chapters and scenes. I may have overlooked a feature, but I tried twice and as a business analyst, I am pretty darned savvy about how software should work. This should be easier.
  • Add a real help system. To learn how to do something, you have to crack open the user manual PDF. This is a lazy developer’s help system. Get serious about your software.

One final note–Scrivener 3 was just released. If you have a Mac, you’re in luck–it’s already available. This review covers the current Windows version. If you have a Windows machine and buy the current version, you will get a free upgrade when Scrivener 3 becomes available. I will have to fork over 25 dollars, but it seems worth it.

Overall verdict: I recommend scrivener if you are a serious novelist or screen-playwright. Some of the features are a bit archaic and it can be a challenge to figure out how to do things. But once you get over the learning curve, it is a highly useful tool, and Version 3 shows great promise for even better usability.

Scrivener – outlining and writing software for Windows, Mac and IOS

2 Thoughts to “Getting Organized with Scrivener – Part 2”

  1. I know people who love Scrivener, but I’ve tried a couple of times to learn it (once even taking a class) and just gave up. It is way too complicated for me and almost everything I need, I can do in Word. It just made my head hurt.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Yes, that was my big complaint the first two times I tried it. I am not sure what I read that led me to think it might solve my wiki and query issues, but I got the idea that I could put it all in the binder, and so I went ahead and plowed through the steep learning curve.

      As a business analyst, I can see some of the corners they coded themselves into, though. I am looking forward to taking a look at their next big version.

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