Scrivener – The Writer’s Writing App

Scrivener Example

I may have mentioned this a time or two in the past, in various places, but it bears repeating:

I. Love. Scrivener.

In fact, I don’t know that I could write “My Blood Runs Cold” in any other app as quickly and easily as I am with Scrivener.

There are a million blog entries, a thousand reviews and even a few books out there that can tell you all about the intricacies of this app, and I’m not going to retread that ground here.

Instead, let me begin by telling you about my workflow, and then tell you about some of the alternatives to Scrivener that are out there — and there are a few that are actually pretty good — and why Scrivener still has them all beat.

Here’s how I come up with an idea for a story:

It will either center around a conflict I don’t think anyone’s done quite the way I’d like to see it done, or around a character with a combination of flaw and strength I don’t think anyone’s touched on in a very long time, if ever, or around something as seemingly trivial as a catchy title or character name.

From there, I follow the Blake Snyder method (described at that screenwriters usually employ when creating the story for a feature film — except I apply the Save The Cat method to everything — short stories, novels and, yes, even screenplays.

First and foremost — and I realize that my workflow may differ from yours — I focus on teasing out the structure, or plot, of the story. I realize that not everyone believes in doing that first. Some people find it restrictive. No worries.

That entire process is a breeze in Scrivener. In fact, although it’s not strictly a requirement, I am firmly convinced that Scrivener must have been designed with writers like me in mind. Outlining in Scrivener is so easy, such a joy, that I can’t see any way that happened except with pre-planners like me in mind.

But! Don’t get the idea that Scrivener isn’t just as affectionate to those of us who — whether it be just sometimes or all the time — like to dive right in. See, that’s the beauty of this app: its unparalleled customizability and flexibility.

Take another look at that screenshot up there. Go ahead, I’ll be right here when you scroll back down. Did you notice all the intricacy in that screenshot? That’s all me. I set it up that way. Here’s what you get if you start a blank document without any of that stuff set up:

Scrivener Blank

See there? A nice, clean, uncomplicated canvas, just waiting for you, the writer, to set it up according to nobody’s tastes but your very own.

And that’s why Scrivener blows away the competition — and you can name any competitor you like. MS Word? Doesn’t offer the navigational flexibility, the customization, the ability to break long works into easily searchable, eminently accessible smaller documents. Same goes for Pages, or any other traditional word processing application.

And though a few competitors have come along that attempt to replicate Scrivener’s “Binder” paradigm, I can say, respectfully and without casting aspersions, that those competitors just don’t do it as intuitively or as elegantly as Scrivener does.

If you haven’t given this app a look, it’s time you do. You can find free trials for Mac and Windows at

Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.


  • Hi John! I just started taking the online Scrivener class with Gwen Hernandez and am amazed at the flexibility of this program. I have had it for awhile but was intimidated by all the features that I just didn’t know what to do with. Now though, I am starting to import (merge and split is an awesome feature!) my bulky manuscripts from Word into Scrivener to make the editing process easier. Anyone who has a never tried Scrivener should definitely check it out. Still amazed at how an inexpensive program like this can include so many features the more expensive ones can’t even touch. šŸ™‚


  • John Castle,

    If you are interested in interacting with other Scrivener users, there is a public community for Scrivener Users on Google+. We have over 160 members.

    As you discussed the flexibility of Scrivener in this article, it should come as no surprise to you that the community uses for Scrivener are quite diverse.

    Since this is a public community you can read the community page before you decide whether or not you want to participate or not.


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