Writing with Scrivener by Chris Longmuir

Scrivener for Windows or Mac
     In March of this year, I wrote a post for Authors Electric called Discovering Scrivener, and in order to refresh your memory, if you click here, you can read it again.

     When I started using this software program, I was in the middle of writing Missing Believed Dead, and I did wonder what effect it would have on the finished book. I’m a pantster, you see, not a plotter. I usually start with a scene and a character, then I play the what if game to see where the story goes. So, much of what I write is as big a surprise to me as it is to the reader. I like to think that if I don’t know whodunnit until I’m nearly at the end of the book, then it will be all the more difficult for the reader to guess.

     Anyway my type of writing doesn’t lend itself easily to organisational tools and software, which is exactly what Scrivener is, and I worried that the finished book might be stilted rather than readable. I needn’t have worried because the book turned out just fine, and some readers think it is the best book I’ve written to date. Now, that may be because I’m a more experienced writer than I was way back in the beginning. But don’t forget my first published book, Dead Wood, won the Dundee International Book Prize, so I guess that validated it as a damned good book. I reckon that the success for Missing Believed Dead, may have been due to more experience, or it may have had something to do with the way I wrote it, using Scrivener. Now, I can’t categorically say Scrivener improved my writing, but it certainly didn’t do it any harm.

     What I liked most about Scrivener was the ability it gave me to organise my writing. I could write scenes out of sequence and stick them in the ‘Unplaced Scenes’ folder which I had added to the Binder. I could move my scenes about without cutting and pasting. I could make collections of various scenes from my different viewpoint characters, without affecting their place in the manuscript. I could also have my research open beside the scene I was writing, by using the split screen function, so there was no hopping backwards and forwards between different windows while I was working.
Using the split screen 

     What I didn’t like was the default Courier font in the word processing section, and initially I converted that to Times New Roman for every scene I wrote. However, this wasn’t actually necessary, because when it came time to export the manuscript – using the ‘Compile’ function – I could compile and export it in my own choice of font, irrespective of what font was used in Scrivener.

     It is possible to use the compile function to export your manuscript as an ebook or a PDF document, but that would entail polishing your manuscript in Scrivener, which I didn’t do. I used the software to produce a first draft, although it was quite a complete first draft, and then did the polishing in Word.

     So, what did I think of Scrivener? Well, I’ve given it the thumbs up, and I’ll definitely be using it from now on.

     Oh, and if you want to check out Missing Believed Dead, the novel I wrote using Scrivener, you can find it at:-

Chris Longmuir


Al said…
I have been using Scrivener for some time. I have completed a couple of drafts of my second novel on it and have other projects started on it as well.

I would give it the "thumbs up" as well.

A brilliant tool for managing a large multi-part manuscript. Much better than a word-processor!
Chris Longmuir said…
That's very true, Al. It's the manuscript management aspects that make it such a good tool. And, as I've proved, pantsters can make use of it as well as plotters.
Bill Kirton said…
As another pantster, I've also avoided software programmes such as this but, after reading your original post about Scrivener, I weakened and am trying it for the first time on my current WIP. I'm finding it useful in two main ways at the moment: the detailed overview I can get on the corkboard lets me see at a glance the overall rhythms of the text; and the flexibility you mention with regard to cutting and pasting. Today I'll start trying the simultaneous text/research view.
I'm glad it works for all of you, but the thought of it fills me with horror and this post fills me with even more horror! When I'm starting out, I do BIG visual mind maps, scribbled over, doodled on, on big pieces of paper, but I would never want to do these on the computer. I need SIZE. In fact I surround myself with images, scraps, pictures, books, music. (And Pinterest, as I said yesterday, but these are mood boards, intensely visual, nothing to do with words at all)It's very physical when I think about it. Then I write in one long document. I never write scenes out of sequence. Then I do lots of revisions, madly and intensively. Then I print out. (I use a lot of ink) Once I can see the shape and weight of everything, I do a physical cut and paste. There will be scenes I concentrate on, but I don't lift them out of sequence to do it. With The Curiosity Cabinet I wrote the two parts and then physically put them together. But I had to see them in the flesh so to speak, to be able to do it. Then I go through my ms in word, doing a virtual cut and paste - from the physical cut and paste - and more revisions at the same time. There's a sense in which I hold the whole novel in my head and I don't want it to be any other way. I can't imagine beginning to change this process which works for me (but I can see how it probably wouldn't work for others) and I'm also in love with Word which does everything I want it to do without getting in the way of the story. BUT, I could imagine it would work very well for a non fiction project!
Lydia Bennet said…
it's so interesting to read how other writers work! I just saw Scrivener mentioned by another non-AE writer the other day. Chris your book is excellent, which is down to you of course, but if you feel this programme helps you that's great. I might have a look - I love learning new stuff but there is so much new stuff to learn it's a bit much sometimes! I had my study walls/doors covered in strips of paper all linking to each other to keep track of who's doing what so I suppose this is a pc version of that.
Nick Green said…
Hmm... I seem to write best the fewer tools I have at my disposal. I worry that fancy apps would just atrophy the writing muscle built up over the years.
Steve G said…
I admit when I write I tend towards the Pantster approach to anything I write and though I use Scrivener a lot (and have done for a good few years now) there are many features I don't use. However as a straightforward text program it is a delight and I particularly like that I can use the composition view mode which centres the writing panel and greys out the rest of my desktop. It helps keep my focus on what I am doing.

I also like the export facility and while in this day and age it is pretty standard to be able to export text from one program to other formats, from the beginning this marked Scrivener out for me as a good tool.

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