Unsolicited Review: Scrivener

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Way back when I was writing Marketing White Belt, I wanted a better writing tool. Evernote was and is a wonderful tool for writing shorter content (like this blog post) but for managing very large documents, it can get unwieldy, even with folders and groups and notebooks. I started looking around for a better writing tool, and reviewed a whole bunch before stumbling across Scrivener from Literature and Latte Software.

Scrivener has a few things going for it that are deal-makers for me, the things that made me shell out $45 for it.

1. Export to Kindle and Nook. Formatting eBooks for sale on Amazon is a royal pain in the ass. Ask someone if you don’t believe me, she had to do the manual formatting for Marketing White Belt and was about ready to find whoever developed the .mobi spec and eviscerate them with a salt shaker. Scrivener supports these formats and will export to them very nicely, making it super easy to actually create an eBook for sale.

2. Outlines, notecards, and research modules. Each of these modules helps greatly for laying out the structure of a book. One of my less endearing traits is that I tend to jump around on various topics frequently, which can be really bad news for a book you’re trying to write if coherence is important. By having neatly organized “containers” for all the different parts of a book at my fingertips, I can jump around and write in different sections as I feel inspired.

3. Here’s the biggest deal closer for me: project targets. I absolutely love, adore, and worship this part of Scrivener because it keeps me on track. It’s quite simple: I dial up how many words I’m aiming to write for an eBook (I aim for about 10,000 words), dial in a due date as a goal to finish, and what days of the week I plan to write. For example, I aim to have Marketing Blue Belt written by the end of the year. I set the deadline as December 31, set 10,000 words as my target, and look what the program does:

Marketing Blue Belt - Data and insight

That’s right: it gives me my overall target, progress towards that target, but most important: how much do I need to write today, in this session of writing, in order to make meaningful progress towards my goal and hit my deadline?

You can, of course, do the math yourself, but there’s something wonderfully inspiring and motivating about watching the little progress bar grow every time you tap out a word on your keyboard. I can push myself to write just a little bit more, just a few more sentences, just a few more thoughts and see my progress towards my goal.

Scrivener retails for $45. It’s not cheap by any means, though you can take a 21 day trial of it and see if it works for you. If you’ve ever thought, “I want to write a book/eBook/publication”, this might just be the tool that helps you towards that goal. Julien Smith says you’re bound to become a writer anyway, so if you plan to pursue it seriously, this might be a good piece of software for you to have.

I’ll issue the same caveat for Scrivener that I issue for all tools: the tool helps, but ultimately the hard work is up to you. Owning a nice DSLR won’t automatically make you a better photographer, and owning Scrivener won’t automatically make you a better writer.

If you’re interested, you can buy it here. (affiliate link) It’s available for Mac now in retail and in beta for Windows.

Full disclosure: this review was not prompted by anyone at Literature and Latte Software. I receive financial benefit via the affiliate links in the post.

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5 responses to “Unsolicited Review: Scrivener”

  1. I’m a BIG fan of this software too. We didn’t have it when we wrote Content Rules and I wish we had.

    I’ve been using it for a couple of months now for a couple of projects I’m working on and every time I use it, I fall in love with it more.

    I hadn’t discovered the targets and goals feature. Love that idea and now I can get a virtual nudge whenever I need it.

  2. Thanks. Just bought it. I was really looking for something like that.

  3. cathyannsauer Avatar

    Ok, you got me at project targets. Love it.

    PS: Eviscerate? Ewww.

  4. Based on your review & a few others I know that use the software – I just made the purchase. You touched on a few pain points for me writing using either Pages or a plain text editor. The software really feels that it was written for writers BY writers. Thanks so much Chris for the recommendation!

  5. […] think about our eBook first. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Scrivener. Let’s take our mind map now and import the OPML file […]

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