Scrivener – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


scriveScrivener is a software program designed to help writers.

“The key thing to appreciate is that Scrivener isn’t a word processor in the normal sense. Instead, it’s designed to let writers tackle larger projects, gathering multiple documents, notes and research materials all in one place and allowing you to rearrange them at will… Scrivener’s focus on helping writers work the way that comes naturally, from original concept through to end manuscript, is unique and unmatched. Producing a long-form project is neither an unstructured nor a linear process, but a constantly changing mix of the two; Scrivener’s genius is the way that it helps writers keep everything up in the air until it’s ready to fall into place.” (PC Pro)

I’ve been taking a course on Scrivener, a writing software program, from Gwen Hernandez. In the last week of formal classes we covered:

  • taking snapshots (you even hear the camera) so that you can see what your screen looks like at any moment in time
  • compiling presets and contents
  • compiling options and saved settings
  • creating templates
  • and backups and getting help.

I know those topics sound complicated, but Gwen broke them down to bite size pieces and made them understandable. I don’t fully understand everything about Scrivener, but I have a good beginner’s working knowledge of it, and I’m finding it very helpful with my stories.

Today,  as I promised, I’ll talk about what other people are saying about the software. I’m calling it: the good, the bad and the ugly, and I’ve kept it to three points for each.

The Good

  1. It’s easy to access notes, pictures, research files and links.
  2. You can compile your work into different formats (i.e., P.D.F., Word, RTF, Mobi, H.T.M.L…just to name a few). I read a lot of comments about how easy it is to compile a manuscript to Mobi and upload it to Amazon with no tweaking.
  3. Moving scenes around is easy.

The Bad

  1. There’s no timeline option. “It just boggles my mind that a piece of writing software this sophisticated and innovative has no way to track chronology.” (Kiersi Burkhart, Prolific Novelista blog)
  2. It has a steep learning curve.
  3. Some complain that there are a lack of drawing tools.

The Ugly (but not really)

I’m using this section, for in-between comments:

  1. There’s a thirty day (non-consecutive) free trial.
  2. Having to learn yet-another piece of software can be time consuming.
  3. It’s new and different.

That brings me to the end of my posts on Learning Scrivener. I’ll continue to write about it as I use it.

Do I think it’s for everyone? Definitely not. We all have our own unique ways of pulling stories together.

Here are the links for the last three posts: One, Two, and Three.

There are lots of You Tube videos on the program. I thought I’d share this one to give you an example:

How about you? Do you have comments to add about Scrivener?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

19 thoughts on “Scrivener – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

  1. I’ve been using the Windows version of Scrivener for almost 3 years now (since it was still in beta), and I love it! It does have a bit of a learning curve to it, but I love the features and the ability to keep everything in one file while still being able to easily find whatever you are looking for. 🙂


    1. Hi Susi
      Thanks for adding to the conversation. You must have it all under control after three years.
      Happy Writing


  2. “The Bad
    There’s no timeline option. “It just boggles my mind that a piece of writing software this sophisticated and innovative has no way to track chronology.” (Kiersi Burkhart, Prolific Novelista blog)”
    Scrivener started out with the idea of being a simple writing tool without all the bells and whistles of a word processor. The theory was that all of that “stuff” got in the way of drafting a story more than it helped. Obviously, that has changed over time as users requested more features.
    There is an app from another vendor for those who want timeline functionality called Aeon Timeline. I don’t own it, so can’t personally comment as to how good it is. It’s supposed to integrate easily with Scrivener.
    I’ve been seriously thinking about buying Aeon Timeline for a while. Just this week I spent a couple of hours making up sticky notes for my scenes and pasting them on the wall of my office so I could sort out the events of a first draft. As we get closer to NaNo, I may have to finally spend the money for planning my next book.


    1. Elise
      If you do I’d love to hear how it works for you. I use calendars, but I constantly screw up. I definitely need help. I’m going to go look at the Aeon Timeline.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes


  3. Kudos to you, Jo-Ann, for powering through this course and thanks for sharing with us your impressions and learning. The video was helpful, too. My sense is, for me, this is too much stuff on one page. I have trouble focusing when I’m looking at a screen or sheet of paper with too much info in one place.
    I don’t understand the two comments above about timeline. Are they referencing when you work on the documents or the time in your novel? I physically write in the date and time as I move through the novel. I may go back and remove some of that later (putting in the appropriate description so the reader isn’t lost.)
    I’ll be interested to follow your progress with this technology, though. I won’t say never. LOL Learned the hard way about that one.


    1. Scrivener has a full screen mode so all you see is the editor where you’re typing. But I lust after a large monitor so I could see all of those things together 🙂
      Timeline meaning story time.
      It also has the ability to do project tracking, though, so you can put in your word count goal, deadline, and which days you’ll write on. It calculates how many words per day you need and tracks your progress for each session as well as the project.


      1. Hi Elise
        Good points. I use a large screen and love it, but I also use the “full-screen” button to fade out the sides when I want to look only at the text. I don’t find the screen busy at all.
        I like the project and daily tracking screens and use them as well.
        I think when they say timeline, they’re talking about keeping track of where and when events happen.
        Thanks for continuing with this discussion. You rock.


    2. Hi Marsha
      Thank you for your kind words. I like your idea of writing the date and time in your work. I should try that. I do mess it up a lot. It seems so simple at the beginning of the story, but before long, I’ve got characters who haven’t slept for three days. lol
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


      1. I used to always write the date and time. You know it was a romantic suspense, and you tend to see those. Well, I had two judges really object to that, so I stopped doing that on the WIP at the time. My stars and garters was that a mistake! I was three-fourths through and had to stop and go back and pull out calendar and principal and painstakingly go back and check out the the time line. Took for ever and because ‘mI not good with dates or times,the process made me a nut case!
        Now, I always put the dates and times there, even if I remove them later. LOL Live and learn and isn’t that just great!


  4. I LOVE Scrivener. I just started using it last month when I began a new book. Of course you can have a timeline. I write in scenes and group them into chapters when I’m all done. So I jot the day and time at the start of each synopsis on the index card. When I look at the corkboard view, the timeline is right there in front of me. I use a keyword for each character and the Setting metadata for each setting in the book: Farm, Moran Manor, Church, Food Mart, and so on.

    I love it most because I can look at the Binder list on the left and access any scene at any time, or I can do a search on the entire manuscript. As others have said, you can move scenes around simply by dragging. I can duplicate a scene to maintain the same characters and setting, and then add new text. It’s a smart professional tool for authors. I guess I should offer to do ads for them, LOL!


    1. Edith
      I love your tip about adding date and time to the top of the synopsis. Thanks
      And thanks for adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes


  5. Bravo for embracing such a large project. And it sounds like many folks are fans! Devoting a specific amount of time and concentrating on it seems to be the way to go. Congrats on taking up the challenge and allowing us to reflect on your learning curve.


    1. Hi Jodie
      Thank you. I think you’re right. It’s the sort of project that needs some undivided attention to get it going. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.


  6. Thank you for the peek at Scrivener, Jo-Ann. I’m glad it’s working for you but I think my mindset is like Marsha’s i.e. I too have trouble focusing when I’m looking at a screen or sheet of paper with too much information in one place. But I really appreciate the overview you have provided.


    1. Hi Jane
      You’re the first person I’ve run across with crashing issues. Sure it’s not your machine?
      At any rate…I’m glad you found a program that works for you.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.


  7. Tried to export a simple Scrivener text to PDF. Got totally messed up with some other document. Flunked totally. Back to Word. Unintuitive, waste of time.


    1. Hi,
      I hear your pain. I hate exporting from Scrivener.
      So what I do is I write my first draft there, because it helps me move chunks of story around easily. I export to Word. Spend about thirty minutes cleaning up the copy and then proceed to work on my second draft.
      I know some people have no problem with exporting, but I do.
      Thanks for adding to the conversation.
      all the best,


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