Scrivener for Windows: Let’s Talk

First, to all the people doing NaNo or PiBoIdMo, let me say good luck and, please, have fun!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably already know that–last week–I downloaded the Beta version of Scrivener for Windows. I was debating whether to get it or wait for the complete version next year, but I’d finished that first draft, and I was kind of moping around in the transition stage (i.e. not moving OUT of the transition stage), and–honestly–I needed a new toy. And there was Literature & Latte just holding out this lovely, glittery, ribbon-wrapped present for me…

Anyway, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what I’ve done with Scrivener so far, and any glitches and/or tricks I’ve found. If you’re playing with this new version (or in love with the old stuff) and want to share problems or solutions or just all-out-adoring-love, please drop them into the comments. Everyone should benefit! 🙂

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Imported a lot of the PDFs on my computer into the research file. These include things as small as a photograph of 1913 hairstyles to a pretty big book–a dictionary of dry goods terms–published in 1912. The importing went seamlessly. So far, viewing and reading the PDFs seems pretty slow, but it’s not exactly speedy outside of Scrivener. I haven’t really spent any time on this, so I can’t say for sure whether I’ll use Scrivener as a reading tool for this or not. It is nice to have them all there to just remind myself easily what I’ve got.
  • I set up a Notes folder with individual “texts” (files that you can view as a document or a corkboard index card) for different categories. Mostly, these are texts for each characters–things I’ve thought about while I was writing the first draft and since I finished. I’ve also got a text in there for random plot notes that aren’t yet attached to a scene.
  • I set up my Scenes folder and started throwing in ideas. I’ve been re-reading James Scott Bell’sPlot & Structure, and putting in ideas that he makes me think of–which, honestly, happens every time I read this book, so if you don’t have it yet, go get it. I’ve got scene texts for most of Act I, up to that first doorway of no-return. No, I’m not sure if it’s no-return enough yet, but that’s okay. Because it’s so easy to change things.

Really, I’m surprised that I feel this way about Scrivener. I’ve used Word for years, and–you know–other the standard stupid stuff it doesn’t to–I’m happy with it. I’ve got a pretty organized file structure that I use in Explorer–very similar, actually, to what Scrivener has set up for me in their software. But here’s the thing–with Scrivener, I don’t have to switch back and forth between Word and Explorer to work/see the organization.

I know…how lazy can someone be? One click, maybe two, to get a file or make a change, and now I’m whining about that being too much work. But somehow, it feels like more than that. It really does feel, so far, like Scrivener has everything I need, right there, all in one spot. And as I plot and organize and brainstorm, not having to click out of the application seems to keep my brain more focused, more still in touch with the thoughts I’m having and hope to have soon.

Now…keep in mind I haven’t tried to write a scene yet. I’ve got lots of notes, many paragraphs and bulleted-lists long, but I haven’t started to actually create any new stuff.  I know I’ll give this a try, writing scenes here, and my gut is I’m going to like it, but you’ll probably get another update when I get there.

And the software isn’t perfect yet. I’ve talked back and forth with a few other writers, and some of them have run into more problems than I did. My download and install when smooth as silk, and (I should not be saying this out loud), the software hasn’t crashed yet. I know, for some people, it was crashing and certain features were flat-out not working. I think some of these people tried a redownload and install, which might have helped–maybe they’ll chime in here and let people know if that was a good trick.

Scrivener doesn’t always remember my font/style changes. I haven’t figured out yet if this is a bug, or just that I’m not doing something consistently. Every now and then I just type too fast for it, and I have to check that there isn’t a crash. So far, no crashes; it’s just that I can’t type anything else until the software/screen catches up. I’m really hoping that, when the final version comes out, this isn’t a problem. That could be a true obstacle toward writing scenes within Scrivener. I’m still learning where I have to click within the file structure to show all the cards I want together on the corkboard, but that’s just a learning curve.

And, oh, that corkboard! It’s like the people at Scrivener knew the one thing I needed from them to get all my work into the computer, where I’m most happy to have it. I’ve always stumbled when it came to using real index cards or getting notes up on my whiteboard. The cards/whiteboard are never big enough to hold all the notes, and I’ve never been any good at writing one line for a scene and then remembering all the layers/ramifications that went went with that line. Not to mention, I cannot read my own writing quickly and easily, especially not in the notes that come flying out when I’m brainstorming.

Now I can look at the one-liner on a card and know that everything else I’ve thought about it is there, one layer down. I can delete things that aren’t working and add new material, without covering a real index cards in scratchouts and tiny words scribbled into tiny spaces. I can put the corkboard on Full-Screen and see 10-12 cards/scenes/ideas at once.

The corkboard makes me very happy.

What about you? Have you downloaded Scrivener for Windows yet? Have you been using the Mac version for years? Got any tips/thoughts to share with the rest of us? We’d love to hear!

Happy Monday and Happy Writing.


30 thoughts on “Scrivener for Windows: Let’s Talk

  1. I love the Windows version of Scrivener and I really haven’t any of the issues that a lot of people on the forums have complained about. So far, I’ve planned my weekly articles for the online magazine I edit, imported the first part of my WIP, and I’m also participating in NANOWRIMO. After a week of playing with the software, I have to say I have no clue how I managed to organize myself with word and the endless files I have. Scrivener is a Godsend.

    My goal is to really become an expert with this software, and I started last Saturday a tutorial, right now it’s the very basic, but stop by for a visit. Every week, I’ll have something new.


  2. Interesting, Becky. I was hoping there’d be a Scrivener for Windows coming out. Looks like a very good tool once the kinks are ironed out. Good to hear your initial reactions.


  3. I had a TON of problems (as Becky knows) when I first downloaded Scrivener. Nothing would import properly and after a couple hours Scriv wouldn’t even let me begin a new project. I gave up and deleted it.

    A few more hours later and I downloaded Scriv again, determined to give it another chance.

    So far it’s still working! YAY!


    • beckylevine says:

      Yay! This week, one of my assignments for myself is to get it installed on my laptop as well, so I can work in either place. I’m hoping whatever problem you had was in the download, and that mine’s clean!

      Are you going to use it for NaNo?


  4. Becky, you know how much I heart Scrivener. I’ve been using it for about a year now and don’t know what I’d do without it. There are so many things, but one simple thing is I see my project as a novel right away. Even though I may have an idea just lurking, the simple fact I can put together a table of contents and see it at all times makes me treat my project seriously.

    I’m so glad you are reaping the benefits of Scrivener!


  5. Alexis Whaley says:

    I have also been playing with it,for both a WIP and a new nano. I LOVE the fact that I can move text around, chop it up, combine it, so easily. I write chaotically, sometimes very out of order. I am a pantser, and don’t fully develop my ideas until I am writing, so really need the organization aspect of Scrivener. I even found myself writing down random thoughts in it because I knew I could find them/move them easily, which I don’t do in Word.

    Last year I tried Liquid Story Binder because I liked how it looked, and it was way too much of a learning curve, and things were still separate (like the outline, text folders, etc), so it didn’t seem that much better than docs in folders in Word. Scrivener looks like exactly what I need.

    I worked with the fonts for a couple hours and wasted a lot of time. On the forum there is a thread about that, and it looks like you don’t have much formatting control until you compile it into a draft to save or print. But for me the compiling into a format didn’t work. So I am assuming this will be fixed in the final version. So I would say don’t waste any time on trying to change them, even tho it is hard for us compulsive editor types. 🙂 I found the format differs between imported text, cut and paste text, and totally newly typed in Scrivener text. When I have time I was going to let them know about this but haven’t yet.


  6. All your FB posts on Scrivener inspired me. I downloaded the software this past weekend, but haven’t had the chance to try it out yet (we had a houseful of out-of-towners for the Rally of Insanity). I don’t go into the office on Tuesdays, however, so tomorrow (after I vote) I’ll be playing with virtual filecards. Thanks for the inspiration!


      • Jeanie W says:

        The rally was incredible! It was incredibly crowded and therefore incredibly hard to hear or see what was going on onstage. But many of the “protest” signs were incredibly funny, and the weather was incredibly beautiful. I got an incredible sunburn on my face. The wait to get on the Metro was incredibly long, so I gave up on that and started walking the incredibly long 5 miles home. My feet were incredibly sore by the halfway point, so I hailed an incredibly expensive cab. That night my sleep was incredibly sound. Soundness equals Sanity. Sanity restored. Incredible!


  7. last_lines says:

    Good Post Becky! I have been using Scrivener on my Mac for about 6 months now. I do love it. I especially love the importing “research” of any type into it. I also love. as you put it, that I do not have to keep a whole lot of separate programs open for one project. One thing that I have found lacking in Scrivener though is the fact that you really do need a separate word processor to actually type up the MS. However I hear that the Mac version2 has some thing like this already. I have not downloaded the new version yet. Being a software junkie, I thought I would try out Storyist for NaNo this year. So far I am loving it. It is more suited to novelists and the novel format. I still will use Scrivener for my research heavy WIPs as its importing tool is stronger than Storyist. Overall Scrivener is definitely one of favourite tools in my writing tool box. Hope you continue having fun with it.


    • beckylevine says:

      I hear a lot of people have used Scrivener to type up the whole manuscript–not a WP. I’m planning on trying–hope it works!


  8. I’ve been using Scrivener Beta 1 for Windows (7) for NaNoWriMo this week, and only one tiny nit bothers me. Because it’s a beta version, I periodically copy and paste from Scrivener to a Word, Open Office or Google Docs file (for later import into a Blogger entry).

    Empty paragraphs, used to separate one paragraph from the next, don’t carry over from Scrivener to the other software programs. I haven’t yet tried compiling the individual “text” files, but the suggestion here tells me that maybe that will work. I’ll try it out tomorrow.


  9. Christine says:

    Huh. I’ve heard about Scrivener before, but hadn’t really considered it seriously. I’ll download it and get back if anything unexpected happens.


      • Christine says:

        I downloaded it on Friday and finally got to start playing with it last night – loving it so far. The organizational capabilities are amazing. I’m only 2 chapters into my WIP, but when I started sectioning it off and doing a phrase of synopsis for each, it was immediately apparent what needed work. I’m definitely a pantser, but when I looked at one scene and couldn’t write who did what, I knew immediately that there was too much dialogue and nothing happening.


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