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My favorite writing tool ever, & how it makes me a productive member of society.

Last year I spent more than 475 hours on the copywriting parts of projects. (Thanks to Freckle for the insights and pretty colors.)

I could have done more because of Scrivener, but instead of more copywriting, Scrivener helped me develop a “unified system of everything” for content creation, which turned into The Content Dreamhouse. (Lovingly designed and illustrated by Sarah Bray.)

I wish I had a proof point for exactly how much more productive Scrivener makes me, but I can’t bring myself to abstain from Scrivener long enough to test it.

After 5 years of using Scrivener, the difference has been so great that having proof isn’t worth going back to Word.

It would be like spending another week in high school so I could tell you exactly how much better life is after high school.

If you have a business, and you create content, then Scrivener will make you feel like you just grew an extra, parallel brain.

It’s like if one day you awoke to find yourself lying in bed with two left brains and two right brains, and they were working together in a kind of double-brain double-dutch to produce twice as much as usual. This is possible thanks to Scrivener’s double-pane feature and the way it lets you quickly create files within files within files, then drag them around. (Too technical? Just download it and start playing with it. You’ll see.)

This is so much better than Word it’s ridiculous.

Here’s why I recommend Scrivener to anyone who needs to write anything:

1. It keeps all your thoughts so you can search them later, find the patterns, and unite them to create a new body of work.

This feature came in handy last year when I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog post, but was writing up a storm about my own processes. I took iPhone snapshots of all my journal entries and uploaded them to Scrivener, then began to look for patterns. (One of the outcomes of seeing these patterns? This.)

Evernote keeps your searchable thoughts too, but Scrivener lets you create files, sub-files, and sub-sub-files. If one section would work better somewhere else, I just drag it up.

2. It keeps all your research materials in one place—including PDFs, Word docs, emails, and PowerPoint.

The biggest misconception about writing is you need to just sit down and start doing it. From scratch.

I guess, if you want it to take forever, and it’s a fantasy novel.

But if you’re writing content or copy, you’ll have lots of research and notes. You won’t need to eat lunch at your desk every day if your research is in one place, copy-and-paste-able.

I only sit down and start writing on a blank page once I’ve read through all of my research materials in Scrivener.

Most of the time, though, I’m reading through Scrivener and typing up notes and thoughts in the margins.

I’m never truly alone with my thoughts on a blank page. I’m always having a conversation with either my research material or with my clients.

By the way, I use the “Research” folder in Scrivener as my main writing folder because I don’t like to keep Research and Drafts apart, and only Research keeps your PDFs and Word docs.

3. It lets you create templates for projects.

I have my own systems and frameworks for client intake, messaging, case studies, testimonials, websites, bios, launches, etc.

One Scrivener file holds them all.

4. It lets you brainstorm 15+ variations on a single headline or concept, then scan, consolidate, and pick a winner.

You know how sometimes your brain checks out and you don’t know what to say? Scrivener to the rescue! Just keep typing without filling up one document with your rambles. Hit Command + N to create a new file for every thought or idea. It’s easy to break up complex posts and ideas into their parts, and to name each document and subdocument so you can see at a glance how they fit together.

If you don’t have an idea, then give that file a title with the question it needs to answer. You can come back to it later.

5. Scrivener makes editing faster, gentler, and less ruthless.

Scrivener comes with a built-in slush pile. A slush pile is where ideas go when they aren’t essential for moving along your story (or your buyer’s decision). There’s always a chance you’ll use these parts elsewhere. Put them in the slush pile to avoid awkward goodbyes.

To display your slush pile, click on “Inspector” in the top-right corner of Scrivener. Use “Document notes” in the lower right pane as your slush pile.

6. Scrivener lets you collaborate, kind of.

You can export files as Word docs, so you don’t need everyone on your team to use Scrivener. But this is a good place to keep master topics and templates, and to store working drafts.

You can collaborate with Scrivener by keeping it in your team’s Dropbox folder. Just be sure not to check it out at the same time. Dropbox usually warns you when the file is already open elsewhere.

Once the draft is complete, you’ll want to put it into Google Docs so people can give feedback and make comments and edits.

If tracking every single change is important for you, then you may want to switch to Word at this point. What you give up in collaboration you gain in control over which changes to accept and which to reject. It depends on how many people are reviewing it and how much you trust their edits.

Do you have Scrivener? Did I miss your favorite feature? Please do share in the comments.

*******************************************************************************

‘WHAT’S THIS? A DREAMHOUSE, YOU SAY?’

I’m a writer, so of course I tend to think about writing a lot.

But what if you’re dyslexic and you’d rather talk it out? What if you feel more inspired photographing stuff as it happens? Or rapping along to someone else’s beats? Or telling everyone else what to do?

What if you have a whole team of people, each with an approach that only works for them?

Or what if, like me, you change in fundamental ways from one day to the next, finding it impossible to stick to the plan, yet craving structure?

For many of us, creating content is like being in 7th grade all over again and having to write a report on Egypt IN YOUR OWN WORDS.

I’d rather live in a Dreamhouse.

18 Responses to My favorite writing tool ever, & how it makes me a productive member of society.

  1. Inge says:

    Thank you for writing this post! I never heard of scrivener before, but it looks like the perfect writing tool. I’ll be checking it out for sure.

  2. Hey, Kelly!

    I wish you’d teach a class on how to use Scrivener like a pro. I tried to use it when I was writing an ebook, and just couldn’t get how to use it effectively. I ended up going back to using TextEdit.

    Any chance of my wish coming true?

    m

  3. Hi Maryann, wow, that’s fascinating. Do you remember what it was about Scrivener that felt more difficult than TextEdit? Was it the feeling of having too many buttons and features, and not using them all? Or something else? It’s possible your wish could come true, whether it’s a class or a gazillion more blog posts about this. ;)

  4. [...] My favorite writing tool ever, & how it makes me a productive member of society. – Copylicious…. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in [...]

  5. Goforich says:

    Got Scrivener for Windows at Christmas and fell in love with it. There is a downside though: The project that I endured pain with in MS Word for years, has now become such fun that I have quit housework, friends, gardening, watching Tv…. Best bit of software I bought in years.
    Really feel I am making progress with my writing now.

  6. Josiane says:

    This post brought back vivid memories of the passionate ode to Scrivener you did at a certain dining table a couple of years ago… :)
    At the time, there was no version for Windows; now that there’s one, I might have to look into it again.

  7. [...] My favorite writing tool ever, & how it makes me a productive member of society. – Copylicious… I could have done more because of Scrivener , but instead of more copywriting, Scrivener helped me develop a “unified system of everything” for content creation, which turned into The Content Dreamhouse . (Lovingly designed and illustrated by Sarah Bray .) I wish I had a proof point for exactly how much more productive Scrivener makes me, but I can’t bring myself to abstain from Scrivener long enough to test it. [...]

  8. Oooh I am SUCH a Scriver fan girl! Have been since 2007-ish? I feel like every time I sit down to write in Scrivener, good things happen. The problem is that I forget to use it, or just write in WordPress, or other programs as the need arises.

    I need to remind myself that Scrivener is my content house. I’m off to check your new thing, you clever girl you! :)

  9. S. M. Worth says:

    I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and began toying with it in the fall of 2011. I initially used it for outlining, I loved the corkboard feature. I then decided to give it a try for NaNoWriMo 2011. It was the first year I finished. Attribute it to the intuitive interface, great tools or just having all your writing, characters and research in one program. I love writing in scenes and being able to drag and drop these as I need to rearrange my story is priceless. There is a free trial so why not give it a shot!

    If anyone decides to buy Scrivener I was given a limited use coupon here http://smworth.blogspot.com/2012/02/scrivener-coupon-codes.html You’ll get 20% off – until it expires. Enjoy!

  10. Jessica says:

    So happy to see you blogging again, Kelly! And I always thought Scrivener was just for screenwriters so I never checked it out. Will definitely do exactly that now–thank you for sharing why you enjoy it so.

  11. Eliza says:

    It’s the perfect tool for designing courses and course modules. Extra bonus? You finish your course with an ebook draft.

  12. Uttoran Sen says:

    This is the first time am hearing about Scrivener. Actually, i have never really tried anything apart from MS. word, just taken it for granted, i guess.

    Thanks for making this excellent review, will surely give it a try soon.

  13. John says:

    Took me about a year before I realized I can use the search window (upper right) to find a word, name etc. anywhere in the chapters I’ve written (in the Draft folder) or in all of the materials in the Research folder. Just type the name or word in the search window, and documents with that name/word show up in the Binder.

    • For a while I kept my entire business in one Scrivener file because of that search feature. But then it got too big and I had to separate it out. I was trying to keep too many PDFs inside.

  14. Kumar says:

    Sounds like a good tool.

  15. Scrivener is THE best program I have ever used, hands down. I learned about it from a friend–who recommended it to me when I was making comic books. I was switching to writing YA Novels based on my story idea, but struggled with manipulating 17+ years of notes.
    Scrivener was a complete…UNGH! I agree, you can’t describe how valuable this is. Here, I’ll give you an update instead–here’s what I’ve done in using it for 2+ years:

    1) With the exception of the two graphic novels, every one of those books was done on scrivener from start to finish (http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/3125669.Jaime_Buckley). This includes the brilliant ability to create eBooks with a click of a button (my favorite feature).

    2) Wrote a choose-your-own-ending book and app for iPhone

    3) Designed a fantasy roll playing game (PERFECT for organizing thoughts)

    4) Have 6 other books being written at the same time, as I do the research.

    5) Written, organized and published 157,528 words in freelance articles (average of 600 words per article). All organized and dated.

    …and now I’m designing the theme for two board games, a card game and writing background information for a video game idea.

    This is all because Scrivener functions so perfectly, it actually encourages me to meet my goals.

    Project statistics, eBook functions and Targets to hit are among my favorite, almost obsessively-used features.

    There you go—brilliant article BTW.
    Sorry, rambling, but hey….I use Scrivener all day, every day.

    Jaime Buckley
    Creator of Wanted Hero

  16. Jaime, you’ve got to be the most productive dyslexic storyteller on earth. I love the way you can use Scrivener for a board game AND for a novel. Do you keep all your projects in one file? That’s what I end up doing. Everything is connected anyway, so I end up with this GIANT Scrivener file that takes 3 years to build, and then I finally consolidate my systems & start over with a new one.

  17. Kelly,

    Actually no, I don’t keep all projects in one file–with the exception of my freelance articles (hundreds of them). I use the novel (with parts) template, then create folders according to my invoices and months.

    As for the rest of the projects, each one has their own file. For example, I just completed my next book, but I create another for the eBook with illustrations. I keep all my scrivener projects in folders according to their names.

    Folder: Chronicles of a Hero (a series)—> Folder: Race to Til-Thorin—>Race to Til-Thorin Scrivener project

    Scrivener was the BEST for making the choose-your-own-ending book, because I could keep track of the pages in tree form, drag and drop them, etc. Amazing.

    Before I bought the program I asked the very same question you posed–since all my work is based on the Wanted Hero universe–could I just keep building one file. The creators didn’t know–other than they knew I could build something of considerable size. However, I solved the problem myself by using the powerful “drag and drop” feature.

    I now transfer files I write by simply opening two projects at the same time and drag a page between them. This is perfect for my ‘Pronunciation Guide’. When I make a new book, I take the new words and add the old words to the new page. Just drag it over and BAM! Done.

    The games are especially easy to do in Scrivener–because of the cork board feature. I can scribble down my thoughts and organize them in any order I need to.

    Like I said. Scrivener is THE best program I have ever used…and I’ve used quite a few. They have a customer for life.

    OH! Forgot one other thing I love–I use Mac Dragon with Scrivener to write 10-25K words in a day. If you haven’t tried it, you might consider looking into it. That’s my second favorite program…works like a dream with Scrivener (or I wouldn’t use it).

    Thanks for asking Kelly! =)

    Jaime Buckley
    Creator of Wanted Hero

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