Using Scrivener to Write a Novel


September was a crazy month! I decided a few months ago to write and enter a novel in Quirk Books “Looking for Love” contest, and I ended up writing a love story about two atoms that spend eternity together. The research took me a long time, so I ended up basically doing NaNoWriMo two months early, just barely finishing my 50,000 word count after staying up all night the eve before the due date. I have no expectations for winning the contest, but it was a really great experience (which has given me ideas for more novels).

While writing my atomic love story, I discovered the awesome program that is Scrivener. Scrivener is software that makes it really easy to write novels. You can probably find other uses, but for this blog post I’m focusing on novels. Here’s what my novel draft looked like:


Scrivener allows you to outline and easily sort chapters. There is an outline mode that looks like a corkboard–which may be my favorite part. It helped keep me organized by allowing me to briefly list the scenes and parts of the story I wanted to describe in each chapter. Once I had my outline, it was easy to reference and update as I went along.

Also, as I added “index cards” the names I gave the card appeared in a column to the left (see above). I named all my cards chapter numbers, and if I ever needed to move a chapter to earlier or later in the book, I was able to easily drag and drop it in the sidebar.

The next best part, I think, is that Scrivener makes it easy to store notes and research about a project. For this novel, I did a lot of research, about the Big Bang, space, the history of Earth, and even dinosaurs. Keeping all my notes and articles together made it easy for me to go back and check my details. I wanted my story as accurate as possible, so a lot of my research shaped the scenes.

I’m also a big fan of Scrivener’s word count. As you can see from the image above, Scrivener keeps track of each segment’s word and character count. This was especially important, since I had to make sure I had at least 50,000 words for the contest. I did have a problem, however, getting a total word count. I’m sure there’s a way in Scrivener to see how many total words are in a draft, but there are still a lot of features in Scrivener I have yet to learn how to use.

Once I was finished typing my draft, it was a mad rush to print my manuscript and get it mailed in time. Fortunately, Scrivener makes it easy to export a document to Word and other formats. However, in my rush, I did not have the time to figure out how to export all the formatting (page breaks, double spacing, paragraph indents, etc.), so I had to tweak it a bit in Word. I’ve since been reading more about Scrivener online, and it sounds like it’s very easy to control the formatting.

Personally, I think I’m going to switch from Word to Scrivener for writing books. I do like Word’s track changing feature, since I think it’s great for editing, but it can get cumbersome at times. Anyway, there’s a good chance Scrivener has editing tools and I just haven’t learned about them yet.

For anyone interested in getting to know the ins and outs of Scrivener, I recommend checking out their video tutorials, here.


4 Replies to “Using Scrivener to Write a Novel”

  1. Hi! Glad you’ve discovered Scrivener. I’ve been using it for about four years now, and it is a very powerful and comfortable tool. I would recommend you check in with Gwen Hernandez’s online courses she offers and pick up her book SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES. 🙂

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