I’ve been using Scrivener for the past year or so for all my writing needs (college, creative writing, blog drafts, whatever) and I honestly do not know how I lived without it. This program is like the Holy Grail of organization and order and chaos and glory and honor and creativity and awesome for writers.

It is woven from the dreams of a writer’s soul.

Try it for free for 30 days. Then drink the dang Kool-Aid and buy it. You’ll never look back.

Scrivener On Sale

For those who had been looking into getting Scrivener, but didn’t want to (or couldn’t) cough up full price, it’s 50% off for the next six days or so via MacUpdate. (Yes, even the Windows version, despite the source.)

Mac Version - $22.50, 50% off.

Windows Version - $20, 50% off.

These prices look to be good until about March 25.

I pretty much live in Scrivener now for writing. I really don’t think my last two 50k-word fics would have been written without it. If you haven’t tried it, it’s got one of the best trial-version deals out there (30 non-consecutive days).

foobar137 says check it out.


I’m seeing reports that some folks are having issues getting Windows license keys out of them. My apologies; I’ve had no issues with these folks in the past, but that was buying Mac licenses.

The free trial software is here; as I said earlier, the trial is 30 non-consecutive days of use, so it should last until they get this straightened out. When they get the key issue fixed, you just enter the key into the trial and keep going.


I bought Scrivener years ago in grad school. I’ve used it on and off since then, but never really felt like I was using it to its full potential.

Since WIP is becoming unwieldy and I have no desire to be a hypocrite, I took to youtube for some guidance. I found this video and thought, “Why not?” I poured myself a glass of wine and curled up in bed.

In the first 27 minutes, there were multiple lightbulb moments. I had been using Scrivener all fucking wrong and making my life harder than it needed to be (figures). So, I paused the video and began re-organizing my WIP. I’m still 27 minutes in, but now, organization reigns.
Writability: How to Set Up Writing Goals in Scrivener

One of my favorite aspects of NaNoWriMo in my pre-Scrivener days was it’s ability to calculate how many words you needed to write a day to complete your NaNo goal. This was something I’d always calculated by hand before, so to find a program that did the math for me? Awesome.

You can imagine, then, my joy upon discovering that the very same auto-calculate feature is on Scrivener for Mac. Except it’s a tad bit better, because you can customize it to your needs.

Unfortunately this feature, as of this writing, is still a Mac-only feature. But my hope is this will someday change and I’d guess that when it does, the process will be pretty similar. So.

For my Mac friends with Scrivener! Here’s how to set up your very own writing goal within the program:

  1. Go to Project Show Project Targets.

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  2. Select the word goal (highlighted in blue) and type in your word count goal for your manuscript.

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  3. Go to“Options…
  4. Select your deadline.

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  5. Check “Automatically calculate from draft deadline.” 
  6. If you won’t be writing every day of the week, choose what days of the week you plan to write on.
  7. If you want to write on the day of your deadline, make sure that’s checked off. 
  8. Click OK.

And that’s it! Now every time you write, you can check how many words you need to keep to your goal by looking at “Show Project Targets” (which is under the Project menu, in case you forgot). And at midnight, it recalculates every day (assuming you did step 5) to keep you on target.

I especially love the auto-calculation, because when you miss a day, it adjusts for you so you can easily see what you need to do to make it up over time. And on the other side, when you write more than you need to, it’s pretty gratifying to see the number of words you need to meet your goal slowly decrease over time. :)

Do you use this feature on Scrivener?


The New Normal.  (I like outline now)

I’ve always thought that I was a panster. When it comes to first drafts, I usually sit at my computer and write and write without any real plan. I just let the words come and hope the story makes some kind of sense. If it doesn’t make sense I shrug it off and say, “hey, it’s just a first draft. It’s supposed to suck.” Once the first draft is written then I usually print out the manuscript, go through it page by page and then write my scenes on index cards just to see if the story works. 

I have seen the truth. This is no longer my most efficient way to write. 

As you guys know, I finished draft 1 of Pretty: For A Black Girl last month and I sent it out to beta readers. Ok, sooo apparently beta reading takes a long time. Some of my beta readers have had the book for over a month and I have yet to receive notes even though they assure me that they’ve been reading. Either the book sucks hard or they are slow readers. There is also the very real option that I am simply impatient. I will accept any of these possibilities can be correct. So, I am waiting for feedback and notes before I dig into draft 2. 

While writing draft 1, I decided that I NEEDED to be finished with the book.  I just needed to get it out. Needed it on the page, so that I could breath. So, I stopped by pantser ways and literally sat down and outlined the last 4 chapters of the book. I used scrivener and wrote synopsis for every chapter and outlined exactly what needed to happen.  I churned out those last 4 chapters like it was nothing.

So now, I am taking a break and enjoying being back in New York, but because I am me…I came up with an idea for a new novel that currently has the working titile of, “Tunnel Vision.”

So, far, Tunnel Vision is the easiest write of my life. Last weekend, I sat down and outlined the entire novel. Every chapter, every scene and every event. I broke down my story and plotted every detail.

I didn’t touch my scrivener file for a week, but during the work week while on the subway, while in the shower, in the moments before bed, I let myself be taken away into my characters world and decided exactly how I wanted certain things in the story (already outlined) to play out.

Yesterday, a week after plotting the story, I sat in Panera bread and wrote 10k words. I got to Panera at 10:30am and I left at 7:15pm and in that time I just wrote and wrote. 

It turns out that I am not a panster. I work really really well with outlines. And, it’s not a big deal. I’m still being super creative and my characters are getting away from me and I am discovering things and situations that I never saw coming. But, having a plan is amazing.

I took some screenshots of my scrivener file in order to give you an idea of how I’ve outlined my story and how it’s coming together.

Below are some links to help you outline. Let me know if any of these options works for you!

For Scrivener Users:

A Scrivener Tutotial: Outlining
Simply Scrivener: The Outliner
How to Use Scrivener to Create Easy Outlines

How to Outline:

How to Outline a Novel (Even If You’re Not an Outliner)
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story
The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel
Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes  
Plot outline creation: 7 smart methods

Scrivener’s Three Modes

A couple days ago, I was complaining on Twitter that I am, for various reasons, working on a revision in Word instead of Scrivener – and how much that makes me appreciate stuff I’ve started taking for granted in Scrivener, since I’ve been using it for at least seven years now. A couple of people asked me about those functions, so here is a very brief overview.

This is a short look at Scrivener’s three different modes (scrivenings, corkboard, and outliner), and what I use them for. A lot of it is basic stuff, and a lot of it is really just part of my own process, so how useful you find this may vary.

This is the basic set up with Scrivener. The binder on the left is essentially a list of the text files that make up your manuscript (or folders with files in them, organized however you please). Any files you select over there will show up in the main window (in this case, it’s showing scrivenings - the text of the files). Over at the right is the inspector, which lets you add data (like a summary, keywords, etc) to each scrivening. And what I noted up top is the mode toggle I’m going to be talking about. The left is scrivening view (what that screencap shows), center is corkboard mode, and right (covered by the g’s in “toggle”) is outliner mode.


Select a scrivening in the binder. You now see the text that it contains (as well as its meta-data, if you have the inspector open). Select multiple scrivenings, and you can see all of their text, one after the other – even if you didn’t select consecutive scrivenings. This is useful if you want to view a whole chapter (instead of scenes) or every scene with a certain character, or all of your second act, or even the entire manuscript. This is the mode in which you do your writing. Basically, Scrivening Mode is your text editor, with the benefit of letting you view as much or little text as you want at a time, and being able to easily move from one text file to another.

(Quick tip, if you’re importing a whole manuscript from Word, or otherwise want to break down a large chunk of text into smaller scrivenings. Highlight the first line where you want to split, and go to Documents -> Split -> At Selection, or highlight and use command+K. For me personally, I generally have one scrivening per chapter as I draft, and then when I finish up and am going to revise, I split each chapter down into scenes. That’s just me, though - I don’t plot out scene-by-scene or chapter-by-chapter ahead of time, so I have to break things down later.)

Now, note the inspector off at the right side. As I said, that lets you attach a lot of metadata to each scrivening (and folder) you have in the binder. I’d recommend giving each one at least a title and summary. My chapter titles are super creative things like “One” and “Two,” but adding a summary helps keep things clear. I’ll get to more meta-data later on, but for now, that’s the minimum that you’ll need to be helpful in the next section…


I think the index cards might be what Scrivener is best known for. Select at least one scrivening or folder from the binder, hit the toggle, and now boom: instead of look at your text, you’re looking at a cork board with index cards. Each scrivening/folder is a card. The same title and summary you created in the inspector are what appear on them. You can also add color coded thumbtacks and stamps for more information about your document (that same metadata).

But the real draw of this mode is that you can see all the different pieces of your novel laid out visually – and move them around. Swapping the placement of two index cards will swap the order of those scrivenings in your manuscript. Not sure where that flashback needs to go? Move it from the fourth position to the seventh, or whatever. It is literally as easy as clicking and dragging, because that’s all it is.


But I will be honest: this is the mode I use the least. I don’t do visual information very well – I prefer to have it spelled out – and since I write and revise mostly in chronological order, I rarely find myself reshuffling pieces. So I’d say, play with it and see how it works for you. But as for me, I prefer…


Select some scrivenings again, toggle, and behold: an instant outline! Once again, you can see the title and summary of each Scrivening. At the bottom is an option to show/hide synopses – I like to show ‘em so I literally have an outline. By looking at the summaries stacked like this it’s a clear breakdown of everything that happens in the manuscript.

That’s the first column there. Now we get into that meta-data I’ve been talking about.

My next column is “POV” - which is not a Scrivener default. Scrivener actually assumes you’ll want something called “label” but I didn’t find its default labels useful. Click on the little up-and-down triangle-y symbol next to any label to pull it down, and choose “Edit.” That lets you add or remove labels, change their colors from the default, and up at the top, set a custom title. So I changed the title to “POV,” deleted the default options, and dropped in my character’s names (plus “split” for when multiple POVs are in a chapter).

For me, this turned out to be super useful. I’ve got two POV characters, but Jae is the primary protagonist. This let me tell at a glance if I’d gone too long without delving into Elan’s POV - I could see huge chunks where he wasn’t represented, so when revision time came, I gave that a lot of consideration. 

The next column is “Status.” I don’t find that one super useful, but haven’t found anything more useful to use instead. If you’re someone who revises by theme or character or whatever (as opposed to chronologically through the novel), this might be more helpful for you!

Then you’ve got word count. This is another that I found VERY helpful, because stacked like this and able to scroll down through the whole thing, I could see if chapter were too short or too long. Mine tend to hover between 3,000 and 4,000 words, so if I found any that were really short or long I’d take a look where they were breaking to see if any alternatives made sense.

Finally, keywords! Again, these were very helpful for me as I was going into revisions, especially my first round. If you look up at the top bar in Scrivener, there’s a button that’s got a key on it. Press it to bring up your full keyword list. You can add new keywords down at the bottom (or highlight a keyword and press delete to, well, delete). You can also highlight a keyword and doubleclick it to edit, or doubleclick the little square to change its swatch color.

Here’s how I used keywords: every character got two, one to slap in any scene where they appeared, and one to slap in any scene where they were mentioned. (So for example, “Character: Elan” and “Character: Elan (mentioned)”.)** I color coded these with a dark pink for appearances and a bright pink for mentions for at-a-glance ease. I also added locations where scenes take place, and important concepts and themes (like various kinds of magic). This let me track who was doing what where, and whether key story elements were being introduced when they should and if they were present enough in the story to work they way they were supposed to.

** I’m not sure if it’s new or I just never noticed it, but it looks like there is a sibling/child option for new keywords. So instead of doing it like this I could have created one keyword for Character Appears with sub-keywords for every character, and one keyword for Character Mentioned and sub-keywords for every character.

Tip: Select a keyword, and then down at the bottom choose “search.” Any scrivenings where that keyword has been added will appear in the binder, so you can easily see them and select them for viewing. (There’s a little X in the lower-right corner of the binder to dismiss this - it took me a hilariously long time to find that, for some reason.)

That’s all the meta-data that I use – but it’s not all that Scrivener offers. There’s a little double carrat at the very right side of the view. Click on that to see other options, and to select/deselect them to customize your outliner mode. (This is where you can add targets and progress, if those are helpful to you!)

So again - this is all very helpful for me, particularly going into revisions. It let me see where I was dropping the ball on plot threads (if a tagged keyword didn’t appear often enough) or losting track of a POV, check consistency on location details between chapters, etc. If any of that sounds useful, I’d definitely recommend playing around with the mode and the options for what you do with it. You can set up other custom meta-data if you have other things you’d like to track and be aware of, and you can get rid of any pieces of the view that aren’t useful for you.

I suspect that like index card mode, it isn’t useful for everyone, but the great thing is that Scrivener is so flexible you can probably find a way to make it work for your process, whatever your process is. As for me… now I’m back to revising in outline-view-less Word. SIGH.  

(Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense or you have more questions or whatever!)

anonymous asked:

I have a question about writing a draft through as opposed to writing it in unordered pieces and putting it together later. Which method do you prefer? I find that I have several scenes for the novel I wish to write sitting clear in my head, whereas I am struggling to get the beginning going. Should I write the scenes that are coming to me first and go back and write the rest later or should I attempt to write the story straight through? Any tips for keeping organized if I choose the former?

I write in chunks and pull it all together later… mostly.

Very occasionally I come up against a piece of writing (or it comes up against me; sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which…) that for structural or other reasons requires me to write it linearly. When this happens, I roll with it. Nothing much else I can do, since in my experience when I try to change a linear project to a nonlinearly-structured one, or vice versa, this is a recipe for trouble.

That said: I’ve been exactly where you are. Many times. The middle of a book arrives first, or chunks of the middle of it. Or the beginning and the end but no middle. (The beginning of The Door into Starlight arrived in 1986. The end of TDIS arrived in 1982. Still working on the middle.)

My advice to you is to write what you’ve got now, because you might not have it later. …Seriously. There is nothing more piteous, or pitiable, than a writer who has through laziness or overconfidence left some piece of character business or plot action lying around the back of their mind because “it’ll keep” or “it’s so obvious” and then has come back to it later only to find that the execution is a sad shadow of what it would have been  previously when the concept was new and fresh. Or worse, when you’ve completely forgotten what you intended to do, and you find yourself staring at what was a lively space in your mind — practically vibrating because it was so crammed full of business — that’s now gone flat and dull because you got complacent about it.

So write what you’ve got now, slot it into a likely spot in a master document, tag it in some way so that you can find it again, and then work on filling in material around it as inclination or inspiration or your normal writing schedule move you to. Really, really useful for this kind of writing is Scrivener. I bless the day Charlie Stross put me onto it: it has saved my sanity more than once. Scrivener is built for handling fiction (and much other writing) in small manageable chunks that you can move around, and comes equipped with endless ways to keep track of what you’re doing.

Look at this, for example: this is a screenshot of the file that has the YW 30 Day OTP material in it.

Green labels in the binder are a signal to me that the material in there is complete: red labels mean there’s little or nothing in there: yellow means there’s a significant chunk of material there but there’s still stuff to do yet. (For more involved projects I have extra color signals to mean almost-finished, first draft, second-draft-needs-polished, etc etc. It’s all endlessly customizable.) More to the point, though, when you’re working in Scrivener you don’t have to stuff everything into a single Word or other word processing file and then go hunting around for one particular piece of business by desperate means like trying to remember a line of dialogue or the way you described something and then searching for that text string. Instead you can find things instantly, because as you see, particular subsections can be clearly labeled. You can turn smaller documents into folders and have even smaller chunks of business stacked up inside them, layers deep: as many layers as you need.

…I could go on about the virtues of Scrivener until people start assuming I’m taking money from them (which I’m not, I’m just really enthusiastic about it), but seriously, this is the first WP program that was built with actual writers in mind, and it shows, all over it; and it’s also one of the most affordable ones. (Also they’re doing a pre-NaNoWriMo deal again this year. Use it free for November and then get a 50% discount by showing them your “I finished my novel” certificate. Even if you don’t finish you can still get 20% off. So a good deal all round.)

Anyway, hope this helps. :)

Writing softwares: why I love Scrivener

Some people write by hand or use typewriters. I love paper, but I write and rewrite my drafts so many times that computers are a life saver. Hands down, get Scrivener. It’s cheap compared to other softwares ($ 35-50 for a lifetime license, depending if you find a good coupon online) and it is amazing. It will allow you to swap chapters around, add research material, play with outlines and most importantly to export your work in ANY FORMAT, from a manuscript to an e-book ready for Kindle publication. Get it, just do it. (I have no money in Scrivener, I swear!)

This is what an outline looks like in Scrivener; you can swap chapters around as you like.

This is what a chapter or scene looks like. You can choose whatever type or size you like. It will not matter as whenever you are ready to have a final manuscript, e-book, or paperback it will export it in that format following standard, customizable, specifications (I will explain).

So, when your project is done, you “compile” your document, meaning Scrivener will export it in whatever format you need. This is what you can choose from:

Just to give you an idea, this is what an e-book looks like. You can export an e-book in Kindle format too, ready to upload on Amazon. (Of course I customized my chapter titles and scene separators. You can customize EVERYTHING!)

The very same chapter, formatted for a paperback. Notice the asymmetrical space left for binding,  the headers etc..

Another cool thing you can do with Scrivener: you can take an editable “picture” of your chapter at anytime. You can compare that chapter with the previous version or roll back to it.

Things that Scrivener is not ideal for. If you want to edit somebody else’s work do not use Scrivener. As of today (or as far as I know) there is not a good way to “track changes” like you would in Pages or Word.


Who am I to give you advice?

I am the author of The Italian Saga (#TIS) A series of YA novels taking place in Italy. The first three installments of the novels are available as e-books, paperbacks and audiobooks. The books were produced through my own, small, indie press, Kuki Publishing. I am not working for a big publisher. I do not have a big budget. I simply worked really hard to make my dreams come true and I do whatever I can to help new authors do the same :)

If you want to help me out, check out my books here, reblog my posts, and if you read any of my novels, take a minute to write a review <3

My advice

I am collecting all my writing, publishing, marketing advice in a writers guide. If you want it free, register at
My Writing Process, Pt. 1 of 2: How I Use Scrivener to Outline My Novels - Helping Writers Become Authors
Today, I'm offering a sneak peek under the hood of my writing process when using Scrivener - and how you can use Scrivener to up your writing game.

This looks fantastic. I’m going to implement some of these while I rework my book. Maybe this will help some of you guys, as well!

Especially, cuz Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up….(wink, nudge, wink)

jessealexia-deactivated20160316  asked:

I would just like to profusely thank you for inspiring me to get Scrivener. This thing is amazing, and so cool, and I'm not even done with the tutorial and I'm already in love. This is going to be so useful when I start my second novel! Do you have any advice/tips for using Scrivener, beyond the basics?

Oh God! I’m still a relative newbie with Scrivener: the program is so damn powerful. And my workload has been such the last year or so that I’ve had little time to do more than stumble around in it, and then strike out to find answers when something’s acting up.

When I bring up Google, though, I can see that these are Scrivener help-or-advice sites that I’ve visited more than once:

A great deal of useful Q&A, ranging from the simple to the extremely technical, goes on at the Writer Beta forum at StackExchange.

See also the entries here at WriteHacked. (They’re OSX oriented, but much of the advice will still be useful for Scrivener users running under Windows.)

Gwen Hernandez is a romance / suspense writer who’s also responsible for Scrivener for Dummies: her website’s blog has a lot of useful free Scrivener tips in it.

Gene Lempp has some tips: look at this one for dealing with chapter headings. (As you’d expect, there’s a lot of attention out there on how to get Scrivener to play nicely with the software needed to generate nice-looking .mobi files for Amazon.)

Also, there is a Google+ Scrivener users community.

And finally, Charlie Stross (to whom I am eternally indebted to getting the thing onto my radar in the first place) has some thoughts about using Scrivener here

Hope this helps. (I really should compile a more complete list of helpful Scrivener links one of these days. Adding to the to-do list…)

anonymous asked:

I should use Scrivener to write my draft, but can you insert pictures/drawings into it?, Since I want to do that. :?

Quick answer; yes :) Long answer…let’s figure Srivener out ;)

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is an independent writing software by Literature & Latte. You can get a free trial for Pc or Mac here. It’s the most amazing software ever (I do not sell it nor make money off it in any way–I wish I did he he).

Why is Scrivener awesome?

First off, it is very important that you understand what makes Scrivener AMAZING.

It doesn’t really matter in what type, size, and format you write your novel. The main concept of scrivener is that you write in whichever form makes you comfortable. Then, from that one Scrivener file, you can “compile” which means exporting your work in whichever format you like be it a manuscript, an e-book, or the interior of a paperback. This is no trivial matter! Writers hire people with a good amount of coding skills to get their e-books and paperbacks in decent shape. Let me show you what I pulled off by using scrivener (I have minimal to no coding skills, I can just copy and paste HTML when I need to and half of the time I do it wrong ;P)

E-book output (this is from An Italian Adventure):

What’s special above: Scrivener can automatically remove extra spaces. Scrivener automatically formats all of your chapters to look the same. I could add pretty drawings at the beginning of each chapter, and cute paragraph separators like below:

Also, notice those page locations, numbers, time left in chapters etc…How did I do that? I have no idea! Isn’t that lovely? Scrivener did that for me. Tee hee!

Originally posted by plumkat

Below is what the interior of a paperback looks like (notice that I could keep the same graphics!)

Did you notice how the pages are asymmetrical? The left page has a bigger margin on the left, the right page on the right. The extra space (ligature space) is necessary for the pages to be identical once the book is bound in paperback format (don’t be confused, the page on the left will actually be a right page in print). How did I do that? I have no idea!!! Thank you, Scrivener!

Originally posted by piixiie-sticks

Using Scrivener; a couple of quick and dirty tips

Now, like with every program there is a bit of a learning curve and I learn new features every day. There are plenty of free Scrivener tutorials and posts out there, so I will be brief. 

Setting up your manuscript right

To make “compiling” a walk in the park make sure to organize your manuscript as follows: Each chapter is a folder, while each scene (paragraph) is a new “text” represented as a sheet of paper (you can see folders and texts on the left of the figure below.) Notice that while the titles of the folders will be chapter titles in your novels, typically you will not have in your output the titles of paragraphs. As you can see in the example below, paragraphs titles are mainly notes to myself sometimes in Italian :P There is nothing titled “porn” in the book, but this immediately reminds me what happens in that chapter (I promise nothing trashy is going on, ha ha!)

How do you add pictures in Scrivener?

1-First of all, make sure that you have the rights to use that picture. It must be either a picture you took or draw, or a picture for which you asked permission to reprint and distribute.

2-Save a version of your picture as a .jpg

3-Drag the jpg from whichever folder you saved it into your scrivener file, specifically into the left Binder (I created a folder called “Figures”). 

This folder looks just like a chapter, but it’s not in the manuscript. To show you what I mean, I shrank folders to show you the hierarchy of my Scrivener file (I know, it looks messy, but that’s how my brain works).

Part 1 and Part 2 contain all my chapters and are within “An Italian Adventure”, my manuscript. The “Figures” folder is not inside, but just below it :)

4-Ready to add your figure? I can foresee two scenarios:

  • You need to add a figure only once, in a specific part of your manuscript: type wherever you want your figure  <$img:ImageName>. Take care to type the Image name exactly as you have it in the binder. If you want to force the figure at a specific size you can type: <$img:ImageName;h=75> (In this one example the image would have a height of 75 pixels, but you can set the number to anything reasonable) For example, I did that in my dedication:

This is what it looks like once compiled:

Scenario 2: you need your figure to appear at the beginning of every chapter, or as paragraph separator. In that case you will use the same code line but in the Compile window (if you guys like, I can write a separate post about compiling, just let me know!):

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Who am I to give you advice?

I am a strange mix of a mighty nerd and a very short rockstar. To put it in the US government’s words I’m a legal alien, but I am first and foremost the author of the Italian Saga (#TIS): an irreverent indie series taking place in Italy and speaking of love, pain, and happiness with a healthy dose of humor <3

You can check out my books pretty much anywhere including Amazon and Smashwords,  Apple, Barnes & Noble (US and UK), Scribd, Oyster,Kobo, Yuzu, Blio and Inktera  OverDrive , Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners (Askews & Holts and Browns Books for Students), and Odilo (2,100 public libraries in North America, South America and Europe). You can also order them at any library or bookstore (bring author name “Gaia B Amman” in case they are not available) and you can get the audiobooks with an Italian accent on Audible!


Scrivener metadata is one of my favorite not-so-secret tricks when it comes to drafting and revising.

I’ve seen some posts about the metadata options Scrivener offers, but none of them use it the way I do, so I thought I’d add to the noise.

For a person who likes to be crazy-levels of organized, this is a lifesaver on both ends of the writing process. But even if you don’t consider yourself borderline fiendishly obsessed with lists and colors, there are ways to adapt my insanity to the flexibility your methods (or lack thereof) require.

Metadata and Drafting: All About The Outline

First, let’s talk about drafting.

Context: My most recent WIP is on a quick turnaround, so I’ve had to do a lot of front work to make the writing faster. The basic gist is that my MC has to trade his way to $700. With so much to keep track of (characters, locations, dates, traded goods), I had to sit down and map the story or else risk getting hopelessly mixed up.

Here’s what my outline looks like under the Outliner view option:

I’ll explain how I made this, but first let’s look at what’s here.

On the far left, the blurred out bits of text are my detailed chapter outlines. Each is about 200 words long (my entire outline clocks in at 5k). Beside that we have the status of each chapter marked (except where I’ve forgotten to update it, whoops). The colored bits of text are my metadata notes. 

You can change what you want to display by clicking the little down arrow in the top-right corner. This allows you to look at whatever elements you want side-by-side.

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I just bought Scrivener!

I found a $50 iTunes giftcard in one of my purses that I apparently never used, so, what a better way to spend it than to buy Scrivener? I’ve been waiting for SO LONG!

I’m so excited! Just had to share :)


Scrivener Tips for Novelists

I’ve made the title of this article as specific as possible. I see a lot of tips and advice for ‘writers’, which is fantastic, but writing can encompass all kinds of works: tweets, blog posts, academic papers, journalistic articles, screenplays, short stories, novels, and so on.

I’m halfway through writing my third novel. It’s the second novel I’ve used Scrivener to write and I wanted to offer some tips specifically aimed at novelists. The great thing about Scrivener is that it’s pretty intuitive to get started right away, but also offers a myriad of more complex tools, features and tweaks behind the scenes if you care to explore them.

There are some functions I only learned about as I found I needed them, such as when it came to compiling my previous novel; first for the e-book edition and then for the paperback edition. I must admit that it wasn’t a completely stress-free experience, but it was a hell of a lot more straightforward than when I tried to format my first novel without Scrivener.

I may write another article specifically looking at how to compile your novel, but there are plenty already out there, so we’ll see.

Here I’d like to focus on some small nuggets of advice that you may find immediately useful when setting out to write your first novel using Scrivener (or, as I like to call it: My Virtual Writing Assistant Who Works Tirelessly For Me Day In, Day Out For a Small One Off Fee).

How useful these tips are for you will depend on your own, personal approach to writing. I’m not a software expert and these tips apply to the latest Mac version of Scrivener. If you spot any errors or would like to add any information, please feel free to comment!

Don’t number your chapters. You can create a separate text file for each chapter (or each scene, if you’re so inclined). It may be tempting to number these, but don’t. You may wish to rearrange the order as you proceed through your redrafting process and it makes it less confusing if you forget numbering until your final pass. One alternative that I’m finding helpful is to label the chapter according to who is interacting in that scene. My latest novel is an ensemble piece with around eight main characters and lots of recurring ‘minor’ characters. I therefore have text file titles such as ‘Romero & Truman 1’ and ’Travis Harrison 3’. Sometimes I’ve opted for other descriptors like ‘Yacht Rescue 6’. The key is to use whatever works for you; something that will jog your memory and let you know where you are in the story.

Leading on from the first tip, even if you don’t use the index cards feature to create an outline before you begin, you can use the Documents Notes panel as a jotter, either to write reminders to yourself of character names, place names, etc or to write a rough thumbnail sketch of what to include in that chapter, perhaps at the end of one writing session in order to give you a jumping off point for your next session.

Use the Auto-generate Synopsis from Text icon (indicated in the image) to do just that. Why fill out index cards with a load of stuff that might change as you begin writing? If you’re like many writers, you may begin with an overall idea of the main characters and beats of a story, but once you begin crafting those people and that world, things will almost certainly happen that you hadn’t accounted for. Instead, wait until you’ve written the first draft of a chapter and then hit the auto-generate icon and fill out the synopsis that way. This helps when redrafting later — you can look at the index cards and decide if you’d like to reshuffle the order or delete some stuff altogether.

The Research folder. Use it. Import stuff to it. Sure, you may bookmark a website or save an image to your computer, but are you confident you’ll be able to locate that stuff easily months in the future? Right click the Research folder and add websites, images, files, blank text files, folders, etc. That way, everything you need is there at a glance and you can use the split screen feature to pull up an article and your current chapter at the same time.

Which brings me on to split screen. I’ll be honest; I don’t use it much myself because I have two monitors and find it easier to just throw the article, video, etc. up on the second monitor while I write. But for those of you still to figure out how to use split screen, the screenshot above shows you which icon to click.

Use Full Screen Mode and add your own background to help you simultaneously block out distractions and be inspired with a favourite image. Simply choose ‘Composition Backdrop’ from the ‘View’ menu, then click ‘choose’ and select the image saved to your computer or already imported into Scrivener you wish to use. Click the double arrow icon circled in the image to go to full screen/composition mode.

The Project Notes (General) panel can be found by selected ‘Manuscript’ from the top of your chapters list. It’s ideal for generic notes, especially between drafts, but I’ve found another unique use for it. I’m one of those people who can’t listen to music while writing; it’s too distracting. I love to listen to certain songs or pieces before writing certain scenes to help evoke the right emotions, but while I’m writing I can’t. However, I do live on a busy main road and so some soothing background noise is appreciated. 

The answer? Ambient Recordings! YouTube is packed full of the suckers, from the noise of birdsong in forests to thunderstorms to a sailing ship in the rain. I’m working on a science fiction novel and so I added a load of sci-fi related ambient videos to my list. Here’s a few more generic ones to get you started:

Have fun using Scrivener!


I hate to sound like an infomercial, but are you tired of losing your notes, draft pages, and reference material? If so, you should definitely look into Scrivener

I just recently discovered Scrivener after watching @mirasorastone write (which is always a treat). The program looked so professional and beautiful, I had to look into it. 

I know, at first glance, it doesn’t look like much, but this program is literally everything you need and more. It has a place to store your files and a hell of an organization system that makes it easy to switch between character descriptions and manuscripts and plot notes and whatever else you have set up. 

I can’t explain all of Scrivener’s features; the post would take you two+ hours to read, but I can definitely, 100% tell you that if writing is your thing, this program is something you should look at. 

COST FOR WINDOWS: $40.00 (on sale TODAY, 11/30/15, for $25.00)
COST FOR MAC OSX: $45.00 (on sale TODAY, 11/30/15, for $25.00)

You can get a free trial from the link at the top of this post, as well as pay for the full version. It’s completely online, but you can also get a CD copy for a little extra money, if that’s something you want. I’m begging you to go check out the site because it’ll tell you more about Scrivener than I could. Happy writing!

As a writer, I collect so much information I often find myself dreaming of an organized library archive. I’m constantly processing nuggets for my current projects – which can include anything from body disposal in 14th century Venetian quarantines to the household traditions of Afghan families to the most popular aiming techniques in Mongolian archery – while also on a constant stream of pirates, economics, star lore, and whatever other thing I’ve recently read about.

What I’m trying to say is, there’s a lot in my head.

The reality is, I’m not going to remember it all. Especially if it is not immediately applicable to the story – heck, even to the scene – I’m currently writing.

So I’ve started creating digital archives for the information. That way, when I need it, it’s only the work of a minute or two to find.

We’re going to talk about basic information to include in your archive, and then I’ll look at three different ways to build it: Word, Google Docs, and Scrivener.

Basic Archiving Practice

Whenever you input information, make sure you include the source. This doesn’t have to be a full-out citation, but you should at least include title of work the work you’re using and page number. If you’re citing from your travel notes, include the place you were and the date. This will make it easier to find the source again if you need to look at the information surrounding the quote you selected.

For my digital archives, I use the ScanMarker. The idea is that it can highlight lines of text and translate them into typed words in a document. The marker isn’t perfect, and there are always typos that I have to fix (depending on the book’s design, sometimes more and sometimes hardly any). But I like to think it saves me some time.

Dragon Naturally Speak is also an option – or even just Google Doc’s new Voice Typing tool. These will convert you reading into text for your document.

Or you can always just type up the passages (boringgg). It really doesn’t take as long as you think it will.

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“Next month, we will be submitting Scrivener for iOS to the App Store for release. … Scrivener will work on any device running iOS 9.0 or above. You could tap out a whole novel on your iPhone, or spread out on an iPad Pro. It will cost $19.99, and will be coming to an iPad or iPhone near you in late July (App Store review times depending).”

Scrivener is finally coming to iOS.