Writing a book can be an organizational nightmare.
You find yourself scribbling ideas, scenes, research notes, you name it, on napkins, in notebooks, on sticky pads, or keyboarding stuff into files you can’t find later on your computer.
What if you could keep ALL that stuff, even photos and graphs and charts, all in one place?
This book writing software calls itself the ultimate organization tool for writers.
So, is it? Could it be just the thing you’ve been looking for?
Let me cover its benefits, features, and pros and cons so you can decide.
(Note: If you click on a link herein to purchase Scrivener, I get a small commission at no cost to you.)
What is Scrivener?
Scrivener is book writing software developed more than a dozen years ago by an aspiring author frustrated with trying to keep his notes organized.
The result was a word-processing tool similar to Microsoft Word with the organization capabilities of a tool like Evernote.
How Much Does Scrivener Cost?
It varies depending on your system:
- Mac OS: $60
- Windows: $60
- iOS (iPad): $24
These are one-time payments, but you do have to purchase separate licenses if you want it on both your computer and tablet/phone.
Pros and Cons
- 30-day free trial: Before you purchase Scrivener, a free 30-day trial gives you access to all its features.
- Free templates: Scrivener takes into account that not all writers need the same type of help. A screenwriter requires something different from a poet, etc., so you can choose from among dozens of templates.
- Personalized setup and interfaces: Scrivener allows you to customize many of its features to suit your needs.
- Key features for all stages of the writing process
- Support: Scrivener includes tutorials to walk you through its features.
- Licenses for each platform: If you work on both a Mac and a Windows computer, you would have to buy a license for each.
- Steep learning curve: Even its most enthusiastic supporters admit it takes time to master Scrivener’s many features.
This sidebar on the left side of your screen keeps chapters, notes, and research in one place.
You can create as many folders as you like, even folders inside of folders, along with images, documents, and notes.
The Cork Board
Scrivener’s Cork Board takes what appears in your Binder and lays it out like sticky notes on a wall. You can move these around as you wish.
A nonfiction author will lay out their project differently from a novelist. Scrivener provides free templates to choose from.
It also allows you to import third-party templates (hundreds available online).
Project Goals and Targets
Scrivener allows you to set targets and goals for your project, prompting you with how you’re doing. You can also set targets for individual writing sessions and track your progress with the “Writing History” feature.
To help keep you on track, Scrivener allows you to color code its various elements.
From chapters and scenes to research and notes, you can customize labels to represent chapters still in outline form, in draft stage, or complete.
Distraction Free Mode
Scrivener has so many features that this can become distracting. Their “Distraction Free Mode” allows the user to focus on only one thing at a time.
You can customize the page to feature notes or images or copy you want to work with, while removing anything you don’t need.
As well as tracking word count, Scrivener allows you to also monitor everything from character count, average sentence length, and even how often you use a certain word.
When editing your work, you can analyze individual documents or chapters.
The Inspector Tool
In addition to the Binder Feature, you can also open a customizable inspector in the right-hand sidebar of your page where you can add notes, comments, pictures, and keywords.
Some Scrivener users find this feature distracting, but others find it helpful during the revision phase.
This common feature in book writing software solves a writer’s worst nightmare—your computer crashing before saving your work.
Scrivener auto-saves your work as you write.
Publish To Almost Any Format
Finally, Scrivener allows self-publishing writers to export or print manuscripts into almost any format. You can save your project for paperback, hardcover, and eBook without having to create separate documents for each.
COST: Pay what you want
- Autosaves your work
- Drag and drop feature allows you to rearrange your chapters
- The ability to create character and settings lists
- No mobile or tablet version
- Limitations on exports (PDF and .doc only)
- Some say the software feels outdated
Bibisco was created with novelists in mind, and its features help you research your book and stay organized.
COST: from $39.99
- Customizable story templates
- Tools to help create and research characters
- Autosaves your work
- Importing previous drafts is time consuming
- Available Only for PC
- Some find the software less intuitive than Scrivener
COST: from $49.99
- Easy to use
- The ability to import and export characters
- Worldbuilding features
- Standard version offers limited features
- No built-in word processor, so you’ll need other software to accompany Campfire Pro
- Some features are too complex
Campfire Pro is designed to help you plan and research your book. It isn’t a word processor like Scrivener.
Scrivener Review: Verdict
Many of my widely-published colleagues swear by Scrivener, though they admit it comes with a steep learning curve. I personally use it mostly for managing my research. I still use Word to actually write my manuscripts.
If you’re willing to invest the time to master this powerful tool, it could well be worth its modest price.