Why Scrivener is great for Nanowrimo


You might well have heard of Scrivener if you’ve been in the writing community for long. Before the current proliferation of online writing software, it was the go-to app (indeed, before people spoke of “apps” at all). It’s somewhat complicated, but you don’t need to use all the features to get a great benefit out of it. Here’s my top reasons to use it for Nano, only 11 days too late to be useful!

1. Full screen mode.

You can set a background for each project and write in focus mode—especially valuable when you’re trying to get down almost 2,000 words a day! For my current WIP, about a magic ballroom in Vienna, this is how it looks when I write:

focus mode

You can customize the size of the font, the width of the “paper,” and whether you use “typewriter” mode, which keeps your current line in the middle of the screen to save your neck. Here’s how to change it for the current project:

on Windows, View menu -> Full Screen Backdrop -> Choose…

2. Each scene is a document.

scenesWhen you “compile” (turn your project into another format, such as a Word document or ePub book), scene breaks (e.g., “* * *”) are automatically added between documents. For Nanowrimo, I wrote my first draft as unsorted scenes (see picture to the right).

3. Create chapters automatically

chaptersEach “document” in Scrivener is a scene, so each folder is a chapter. I write my scenes first, then reorder them according to Three-Act Structure, and then group them into chapters based on length and scene ending.

In the picture at left, “Part 1: Setup” is a note to myself that I leave out when I compile, but if you wanted to divide your book into parts or sections, you could include them. Then Chapter 1 is automatically created and titled with the name of the folder (you can specify the format, but for manuscripts I use “Chapter 1: Change in Policy”).

4. Snapshots

The whole project is automatically backed up locally (by default, whenever you close the app), and I save the project to OneDrive so that it’s also backed up in the cloud (Google Drive and DropBox, etc., would work the same). But what I love most is being able to capture and label specific versions of scenes, especially as I’m drafting. Never lose a great idea again! You can view or roll back to a snapshot at any time.

a screenshot from Scrivener of 6 dated and labeled drafts of a scene
an example of snapshots from a scene I’ve edited a lot

5. Scrivener loves Nano!

The free Scrivener trial is 30 days (not consecutive calendar days, either, but 30 days of use!). Participants get a discount to buy it at the end, and winners get an even bigger one. Give it a try! And feel free to tweet me @AbigailFair if you have any questions. I have a lot of experience with both Word and Scrivener! (Albeit mostly on Windows.)

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