WRITING KNOWHOW What is Scrivener?

Ever wondered if there's an easier way to wrangle with your writing? Need a system to help manage the sprawling empire of your WIP? Caroline Deacon unravels the mystery that is Scrivener.

I’ve heard writers say, ‘I’m not a plotter, I like to go with the flow, so Scrivener wouldn’t work well for me.’ They’re missing a trick. Scrivener is not just for plotters - though it does work brilliantly for them - it’s also great for those who like to ‘just write’.

In fact, the only people Scrivener might not suit are illustrators, picture book writers and poets, but no doubt someone out there could make a Scrivener case for those people as well.
What's wrong with Word? you may ask. Word documents look nice but become difficult to handle when they approach book size - all that scrolling! Sadly, Scrivener doesn’t look nice - in fact, it looks terrifying the first time you see it - but it’s a really efficient way to handle a large project and many elements. Think of Scrivener as your studio filing cabinet; a way of keeping everything you need for your writing in one place. In one project folder you store pictures, character and setting sketches, research, outlines, notes, synopses and - of course - the work in progress.

Scrivener corkboard
Photo credit: Chris Lott, Flickr
Of course, the only way to really understand if Scrivener can work for you is to download it and play around with it. There are several excellent video tutorials and you get 28 non-consecutive days free trial. This means if you only use it one day per month, you’ll have it for over two years!

Scrivener is available for Windows or Mac and if you use both you’ll need different licenses for each, but you can work on both systems at the same time. There’s also a scaled down version for iPad, which I love using for editing when I’m out and about. I’ve been using Scrivener since 2012 and it’s gradually taken over my writing life. Now I only use Word or Pages when I need someone else to read my work.

Why not download it now and play around with it? Next time I’ll show you just how Scrivener helps you work with long documents.

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes YA. Follow her on Twitter @writingdilemmas.
Header photo credit: Wikicommons


  1. Hi Caroline - thanks for the article. I use Scrivener! What I'd really like is someone to guide me a bit more as I know I am only using a tiny fraction of what I could be. I know there was a course recently in Edinburgh (or was it Glasgow?) but does anyone know if there is one planned for London town?

    1. hi there Camilla - yes I did run a day course for SCWBI in Edinburgh recently. No idea if there are plans to do one in London, but I'd be happy to run one if requested. But everything I have learnt has been through doing, and I suggest you just carry on using it, and also dip into the tutorials which are really useful


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