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So You Want To Write That Book?

You’re ready to write that book you’ve been dreaming about. Normally, contributor Alain Latour would be the first to say get down to it. But if you’re using Microsoft Word, Alain would urge you to learn how to use Literarture and Latte’s Scrivener software before you write a single word.


Just your average word processors user.

Writing is one of the few activities left where you don’t have to waste precious time choosing among a plethora of tools. That’s changing, but for now, most writers automatically use Word. After all, it’s been around forever, plus what on earth could a different program offer anyway?

As it turns out, plenty.

To understand what, take a step back and ask yourself what Wordi s designed to do — or indeed, any other processing software.

*I would argue that they are designed to help you write brief, relatively straightforward documents. *On screen, they show exactly what you will see when you print. This means they treat writing as a simple and linear process. You to start on page one and keep typing until you reach the end.

But as I wrote before, that’s not how most writers work. Indeed, that’s not even ow most people think. Once a manuscript is finished, we do have a linear document ready, but that’s only at the end of the writing process. A lot of editing and back and forth take place before you get there. This is especially true of longer manuscripts, like novels.

That’s where Scrivener comes in. Designed by Keith Blount, an aspiring British novelist who couldn’t find a writing software that would meet his needs, Scrivener hasn’t just earned a long list of awards, it’s also become a favorite tool of many writers and novelists.


*Scrivener’s layout offers a bird’s eye view of your novel that no word processor can rival. *

Scrivener’s success is best explained by its focus on helping writers get to the end of that “awkward first draft,” as Blount calls it. Scrivener’s layout makes it a breeze to outline and structure ideas, thanks to a virtual binder of sorts that allows you to navigate between the different sections of your book, your notes, and research materials. It also lets you break your text into pieces so you can restructure your draft via a simple drag and drop function.

What this means for you is that you can work in any order you want, planning and restructuring your writing as you wish. And although Scrivener still offers a host of useful features like a name generator, word target notifications, distraction-free, full screen mode, and ability to store background material, its biggest differential is that it accomodates all the background work that goes into writing a novel.


*When Scrivener becomes messy, the full screen feature makes for distraction free writing. *

Another important feature is called “snapshots.” It makes it dead easy to return to an earlier version of your text. Just take a snapshot before going on a revision spree and you’ll be able to return to the current version any time you want. It’s much easier to use and far more convenient than Word’s and Pages’ “track changes” feature.

Scrivener only costs $45 USD, is frequently updated ,and offers responsive customer service. Of course, notthing is pefect. As I’ve noted before, Scrivener has no mobile app (although it does offer a somewhat cumbersome way to work on your Scrivener files via your iPhone or iPad.) It can also be clunky, and it entails a bit of a learning curve. But for my money, no other writing tool can touch Scrivener.

How to Learn Scrivener

The single best way to learn Scrivener is to download the free 30-day trial (available for both Mac and Windows) and take it for a spin. (Due to Apple’s restrictions, the free trial is not available in the App Store.)


*Because Scrivener does entail a bit of a learning curve, I recommend you spend some time on the interactive tutorial. The YouTube tutorials are better suited for addressing specific questions. I’ve never used the user manual. *

Once you’ve downloaded it, click on the interactive tutorial icon and spend an hour or two playing with it. This alone will probably answer 90% of your questions.

Don’t have that much time? This ten-minute overview of Scrivener covers all the main features and is recommended for those who just want to get up and running as quickly as possible.


Word processors like Word and Pages do a fine job with short, linear documents. But writers and novelists would be well served by investing in software that respects the organic, non-linear nature of writing. Among current offerings, Scrivener stands out thanks to its useful features, good price, and solid customer service.

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