Scrivener — I absolutely adore this program. I can’t say enough good things about it! My writing has improved by leaps and bounds since I bought the thing. The creators at Literature and Latte have done a fantastic job building a comprehensive tool for the writer.

At GCLS this year, I had my laptop out to show it off, but barely touched the basics. Now that Scrivener is available for both Mac and PC, I really wanted to spread the word. This is the first post in a multi-part series describing the program and how I use it.

All images are clickable so you can see them full-sized.

Download Scrivener!

Go get Scrivener! For the level of sophistication, it’s pretty darned cheap at $45 USD. If you’re not willing to shell out the cash just yet, no worries. There’s a free trial period for you to play around with.

Starting Off

You’ve downloaded it. You’ve installed it. Now it sits there waiting for your attention. Let’s start her up!


Scriviner will open on the “Getting Started” tab. Feel free to click around and see what templates they have to offer. (They even have one all ready to go for screenwriters.) I usually start a new project with a Blank, but I’ve highlighted the Fiction section here.

I’ve chosen to open the Novel template rather than the Novel (with Parts) because I don’t want chapter folders set up for me. I do that myself when I complete a novel, and it’s just easier to not deal with the mess. For now, the Novel template will work fine for our purposes.

When I’m ready, I click “Choose”. I’ll get a Save Dialogue box where I create the name for the Project. (In this case, I saved it as “Test”.)

A note on Projects — You only have one Manuscript per project. Later on in this series I’ll show you what I do for multiple books in a single Project.


Here is the result!

The screen is divided into three parts. The Binder (far left) shows all the documents in the project. The center is your word processor. The far right shows the Inspector column. (If the Inspector column isn’t showing on your program, click the large blue “I” icon on the far right of the toolbar.)

Additionally, there’s a document already open, instructions on how to use the template. Read it at your leisure or move it where you’d like it to go. Everything in the Binder is drag-and-drop.

The Binder comes pre-programmed with a number of folders.

* Manuscript – this will be your book!
* Characters – in the Novel format, you have character templates to use.
* Places – also in the Novel format, you have templates for places used in your book.
* Research – an awesome folder to put everything you need regarding your storyline, characters, notes, etc.
* Template sheets – both the Character & Places templates are located here. (Plus you can create your own!)
* Trash – ever-present and most helpful. If you dump something by accident, it doesn’t disappear until you actually empty your trash.

Binder Changes


For my purposes, I’ve made some adjustments to the data in the binder:

     * I’ve deleted the chapter folder and the Novel Format information. (You can see it in the Trash folder.)
     * I’ve moved all extraneous folders (Characters, Places) from the Manuscript and into the Research folder, putting them in order of importance.
     * I’ve created multiple text documents in the Manuscript folder and also added two to the Research folder – Notes and Cuts.


I like having a place to park all my manuscript cuts. You never know when that cool (but ultimately useless) scene or dialogue material might come in handy later. Plus, having an ongoing notes section gives me a place to jot down things like, “Don’t forget to introduce character Y BEFORE character X!”

And now the Binder is prepared for what I want to do with it.

Next up, I discuss the word processor and the Inspector. Feel free to play around with your program in the meantime! There are plenty of tutorial videos available, too!

You’re Next!

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