Setting up for success with Scrivener
Written by
Sonja Larsen
November 2014
Written by
Sonja Larsen
November 2014

I went though a lot of of drafts when I was working on my memoir Before the Revolution (due out 2016 from Random House Canada.) And I mean, a lot.  Although my book is short, it was challenging on a traditional word processor to keep track of timelines, references, pseudonyms. My weird childhood story with its communal living and complicated relationships needed all the organizational help it could get!

I used index cards, heading styles, sticky notes and foot notes to try and track changes, structure and characters but all of them were less than perfect. The first time I used Scrivener I was hooked. It was a bit intimidating at first, but I quickly found Scrivener more intuitive than Word or Open Office because it's really geared strictly to the needs of writers. In no time I was editing and importing from Word, breaking each scene down into documents and using Scrivener's handy tags to mark what was done, what still needed work. Suddenly  I could look at my book in so many ways: in overview, in detail or by what still needed to be worked on.

It was easy to see why Scrivener was a good tool to help organize a larger project, but for a long time it still didn't occur to me to use it for shorter work as well. And since I'm mostly a short story writer I continued to open new Word documents for each small journal entry or idea, sometimes impressed but often overwhelmed by the number of files accumulating in my writing folder.

But when I decided to start a daily writing practice Scrivener was the obvious choice. For one thing, Scrivener has a session target so it's super easy to give yourself a measurable goal.  In Mac, it even rings a little bell when you hit your target. And as I began to use it, I could see how helpful it was for organizing my work. At first I created a Scrivener project for the freewrites. It was so easy to begin developing ideas that came from the freewrites that I decided to try using scrivener for short stories too. But then I merged both these into one Scrivener 2014 project. At the end of the year I'll duplicate that project and call it 2015, taking out anything that either through publication or purging, doesn't make it into the new year.

The night I finished importing my Word files (so easy) and merging the two projects (dead simple) I was so pleased that I actually had a dream about it!  In my dream I was looking at the corkboard view of all my current projects, ready for me to open them up. I'm often leery of trying to be too organized in your creative life since in my experience it  can be a sign of procrastination. But this wasn't a 'relabel all my file folders and find the perfect heading font' kind of organizing. Instead this was moving in to my new writing home and making a commitment to a writing tool that can accommodate my all my writing projects.

Ding! Goal achieved.

For an excellent overview on Scrivener check out

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