Review: Scrivener Writing Software

thumbs downI’ve been putting off writing a review of Scrivener for weeks. I detest giving bad reviews. Maybe it’s because I know that most people work hard at producing quality programs and products, and I never want to knock anyone’s effort. But, I have to face the fact that everything is not for everyone. Scrivener is most definitely not for me.

First, let me give you a little background on the program and what it is supposed to do. “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” Source That’s fancy talk for saying that the program is supposed to help with organizing long documents like novels, scripts, etc. According to Scrivener’s promotional page this software can create order from chaos, keep all of your pertinent research at your fingertips, and make it super easy to format your manuscript for publication. I was sooooo psyched when I first stumbled across their website, as evidenced by my gung-ho sharing of the program with all of you on this very blog.

Then I downloaded the free trial. After suffering through most of the long introductory tutorial. I say most because I had to move on before I went into a coma. Yes, it was that boring. Anyway, I followed the instructions and imported my work in progress to the Scrivener software. I guess I expected the magic to start. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The software expected me to create all of these little index cards with summaries of each chapter. It was supposed to make it easy to rearrange sequences of events and get an overall view of the pace of my novel. My issue was that I couldn’t see the point in going through the frustration of editing in Scrivener, when I could easily do the same thing in the comforting familiarity of Microsoft Word.

Now, let me tell you why I can’t recommend this program. I really feel as though a writer could get most of the same benefits that Scrivener offers by using an app like OneNote by Microsoft or something similar to it. I’ve personally been using OneNote to edit my novel and its been working like a charm! It links notes directly from my manuscript document, and guess what? They too look like little index cards that I can rearrange at will. I still get the benefit of summarizing my work, having quick access to specific parts of my novel and getting a wider view of my composition. It didn’t cost me $40 bucks either. It was my favorite price: abso-frickin-lutely free! Check out OneNote by clicking here.

I will end this by giving a disclaimer. It’s only fair that I let you all know that I had high expectations for Scrivener. I thought I could import my novel and have it automatically separate chapters, pull out key words and overall help ease the headache of editing a large body of work. It’s not a horrible program, it’s just so much less than I expected. You can check it out for yourself. Scrivener does offer a free 30 day trial, so in the words of LeVar Burton, my Reading Rainbow hero, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

Ever been let down by a product you expected to love? Commiserate with me in the comments below!

Photo credit: ancient history / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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7 thoughts on “Review: Scrivener Writing Software

  1. Faith, everybody is always telling me to use Scrivener. I spent a fortune on it, and I don’t like it. Sure, it’s fun and there are pretty little bells and whistles, but those suck up my time just like Facebook and Twitter. When I have 20 minutes to write I want to just sit down and write!

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  2. Thank you for this review! I have been debating about whether or not to invest in Scrivener. I have had no problems writing in Word but I’ve heard that Scrivener has some pretty useful features. But I can’t imagine myself needing any of them. I outline in one file and write in another, so I don’t need anything too fancy. Thanks for sharing!

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    • You’re welcome Quanie! I’m a Word girl through and through, and when I figured out I could get the same results with OneNote, I was DONE. Now I just need to figure out how to get this free trial off of my hard drive….

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  3. I’ve been using Scrivener for about 2 1/2 years now and, personally, I love it. (I also got it half price…) I don’t use a ton of the “bells and whistles” features, but I really like being able to write each scene in an individual document and then compile it all into one word document with a single click. Basically it allows me to find specific scenes easily and rearrange their order without the hassle of finding and copying and pasting in Word. It also makes writing out of order and writing ideas for scenes down where I won’t lose it simpler than having to keep everything on a continuous document. Now, I haven’t used OneNote, so I don’t know how it really compares in these ways, but I’ve had great luck with using Scrivener. I also really like how it has a screenwriting format so I can use the same organization in writing both novels and movies, rather than buying a separate software for writing scripts or trying to figure out how to have all those crazy changing margins on Word.

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    • Hi Paige, I’m glad you’ve had success with Scrivener. As you can see in my review, I didn’t! It wasn’t user friendly for me, and after the free trial I couldn’t justify spending money on it, when I could essentially do the same things in OneNote for free. However, I’m a novelist, poet and short story writer so I have no use for Scrivener’s screenwriting capabilities. I always say do/use whatever works for you! Thanks for commenting and offering a different experience with Scrivener.

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