Scrivener Tips for Writers

Scrivener tips

Scrivener’s David Johnson and Julia Pierce joined our November #BBchat to talk about their writing software and offer Scrivener tips for writers.

Scrivener tipsDavid Johnson and Julia Pierce from Scrivener joined our November #BBchat Twitter chat to discuss how writers can use Scrivener to improve their writing experience.

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool that enables writers to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While Scrivener offers complete control of document formatting, its focus is on helping writers get to the end of that awkward first draft. Learn more at

If you’d like to be notified about future BookBaby Twitter chats, please subscribe to our Facebook events. To view the entire chat transcript, visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.

What’s the biggest problem writers face when it comes to composing and structuring long and difficult documents?

It’s hard to pick just one. Some find managing their research tricky, especially if it’s in different files around their computer. Another issue is managing writing – keeping continuity in characters, finding where you want to edit, and seeing which order fits best. It really depends on how you write. If you get everything written down first and then start to edit, you’re going to need to reorder sections, which can be hard. But if you like to plan first, it’s good to have a tool that allows you to break things down into smaller sections.

What kind of person typically uses Scrivener?

Novelists make up the majority. That’s where we started out, but we have all sorts of other writers using Scrivener now. We’ve got screenwriters, academics, journalists, translators, lawyers – anyone using materials from numerous sources. We have a load of other users as well, some are pretty niche! People writing recipe books, comic strips, translators, teachers – anyone who writes, really.

How does Scrivener’s blend of word processing and project management aid writers in the creative process?

I think the answer is in the question – it’s combining the two that has made Scrivener useful! Scrivener 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.

What are the key elements of Scrivener that separate it from other word processing programs?

It’s really flexible. We just wanted to make it easier for writers to create work without being prescriptive about how to use the program. Scrivener is written by a writer for writers. We all write in different ways, so the software needed to reflect that.

For NaNoWriMo participants, which features would be most useful to writers during the event?

Again, it depends how you want to write. Scrivener’s outlining features are great for plotting and planning. Being able to track storylines and characters through collections and tagging also helps keep you on track. There is also a suite of features for editing your novel in December and beyond. Just to let you know, we have a special template for NaNoWriMo with an inbuilt 50k goal.

Tell us a little about the new Scrivener for iOS. What features are now available to writers on the go?

Most of the features of the desktop version are there – the ones you’d need day to day. We rebuilt the program from scratch to make the most of the capabilities of mobile devices whilst avoiding the space limits. We even managed to include side-by-side editing, an outliner, a cork board, a scriptwriting mode, and a full, rich-text formatting palette.

Do you recommend first-time users to start with a pre-built template, or start using the program as is?

We’d recommend that new users go through the inbuilt interactive tutorial to orientate themselves. Thereafter it’s equally fine to start with the blank template, or a template that fits your requirement. It’s totally up to you. For NaNoWriMo participants, we’d naturally recommend utilizing the relevant template! ;-)

What is the “Scrivenings” mode and how does it improve the writing experience?

Scrivenings mode allows you to select any documents within your binder and view them as a continuous page. Maybe you want to check for continuity of a character’s story in isolation. So, select the relevant documents and then begin reading through.

What’s the best way to compile your research and import it into Scrivener for easy reference?

Simply drag any research that you have into the Research section of Scrivener’s binder for easy referral. You can drag in any files that you wish to refer to: images, PDFs, sound files, web pages, videos… and then just organize them to your liking.

Do you have any additional Scrivener tips or recommendations for how to get started using the program?

Work through the inbuilt tutorials first, then take a look at our tutorial videos. That should teach you as much or as little as you want to know to get started. But the basics are very simple – it takes 10 minutes to get started. You don’t need to know much to benefit from Scrivener. If you want to go deeper, we have an in-depth user manual for referral and other guides. Many people only use a handful of features – they’re there so you can choose to use them (or not). Starting is simple!


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  1. I think Scrivener is really a great app. I use to write on my Macbook, and very often on my iPad with an external bluetooth foldable tiny keyboard.
    BUT, the syncing is actually awful !
    I’ve tried to alert L&L for months now, by different ways, (since the iPad version) and nothing seems to be done to fix this problem.
    For this unique reason, a repeatable bug, so easy to find, I deleted 3 stars on AppStore and I’ll never advise the app to others as long as it’s not fixed.

  2. I keep reading bucket loads about scrivener, but nobody seems to mention yWriter, which is very similar but totally free unless you want to register a copy, which costs about $25


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