3 more reasons why Scrivener makes writing a book easy

Two weeks ago I blogged about how Scrivener was helping me to imagine all kinds of structural possibilities for my novel, because of the way it made setting up and manipulating the ordering of the scenes in my book so easy. This week, I’m going to cover off three other features of Scrivener that I love, and that are making me want to spend more and more time writing my book.

Word Count Targets

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 7.09.35 PM

The first of these features is such a simple thing, really. In the picture to the right, you can see a box in the lefthand corner. This box has an orange bar at the top, underneath the heading Manuscript Target. The bar below that is green, and is labelled Session Target. I’ve set a session target of 1000 words for each of the three x 2 hour writing sessions I have each week. And as I write that bar moves from left to right, showing me how close I am getting to my daily word target. I know this makes me sound weird, but I find it incredibly motivating to see, graphically, how close I am to getting to my daily target. I haven’t missed a target since I started and I can’t help but think this little tool is part of the reason.

The Manuscript Target is a bit more arbitrary for me, but still lots of fun. I’ve set it for 80,000 words – but what do I know? My first book was 60,000 words, my second was 68,000 words and I’m basing the word target for this one on a gut feel. Regardless of the number though, it’s still nice to turn on Scrivener every day and see that orange line edging closer to the final total manuscript target. And if you’re not a person who can deal with word targets, then you just turn that feature off and the box disappears.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 8.06.03 PMResearch

I’m writing a book set in 1920s New York. I was not alive then – I’m not that old! – so I have to do lots of research. And this is where Scrivener comes into its own. All of your research can be linked into your manuscript, and all your research photos, PDF documents, internet links etc, can be kept in folders on Scrivener. The picture to the left shows a page of my manuscript and you can see the word Mandaro’s about halfway down, which is written in blue text. This is because I have set up a link to a picture of Mandaro’s, which I have saved in my Places Folder in Scrivener. Mandaro’s is a cheese shop that was in Greenwich Village in the 1920s and 30s and I describe my character walking past the shop on occasion. If I need to, when I’m writing or redrafting, I Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 8.29.19 PMjust click on the link I’ve set up on the word “Mandaro’s” and it takes me straight to the picture of the shop, so I can describe it in detail if I need to, to add authenticity to the scene. On the right you can see a picture of my Places corkboard with pictures I have saved of some of the places that are important to my characters and my story.

As well as a Places Folder, there is a Photo folder for other research material. I have pictures of 1920s dresses that I have found on the internet and that I think my characters might wear, shoes, the interiors of the EL trains, everything I need to see the world my characters inhabit, while I write. I don’t have to leave Scrivener and go into iPhoto or another folder on my computer; it’s all there, linked to my manuscript.


Often when I’m writing one scene, I’ll have an idea about something extra that needs to go into a different scene. I don’t want to break away from the scene I’m writing, but I need to jot the idea down or it will vanish. Or I’ll be reading about about life in New York in the twenties and I’ll come across something that I want to add into a scene. Hello Scrivener Notes. Each scene has a notes section, which you can see is the yellow section in each of the pictures on this page. I can add in some notes to any scene in my manuscript or to any photos in my research folders. The notes don’t go into the manuscript itself, like you would have to do in Word; they’re a separate but linked section that are each attached to their own particular scene.

I just love the way that Scrivener helps you contain everything in one place. Research, notes, outlines, everything is kept together and everything links back to the manuscript. It’s brilliant.

Questions? What do you love about Scrivener? I’d love to know, especially if it’s something great that I haven’t discovered yet!


  1. I am really keen on what I’ve seen so far, but I’m not sure I’m using it most effectively yet, I may have to have a second go at the tutorial! Great to have all these tips from you on how to make it really work for you.

    • I think the key for me was doing the tutorial and then diving in and using it to write a manuscript straight away, so that I could put into practise everything from the tutorial. I still think there are quite a few things I’m not using too – like I found out that Scrivener has a random character name generator for when you’re stuck with thinking up a character name. I can’t wait to give that one a try!

      • That’s brilliant! I find character names very distracting, I get quite engrossed in choosing them, and I don’t write well until the names fit. I’m sure you’re right, I just need to crack on – I think the thing I’ve enjoyed most so far is that you can have your research docs right there while you are writing – as you said, it makes it so easy to refer to what you need.

        • Same – I waste so much time on character names and I’m sure I’m just procrastinating half the time. So I almost can’t wait to have a new character enter my page just so I can try it out! I’ll let you know what it comes up with when I do!

  2. Glen Hunting

    Definitely food for thought here, ladies. But I still reckon I’ll stick to either MS Word or pen and paper. At least for now. Re. names – I usually pick one and go with it, and often a better name will suggest itself in a sentence or passage. Sometimes I’ll have changed the name two or three times, in which case I’ll just go back and pick the one I think is best. So names aren’t too much of a problem. But titles – titles can be a terrible impediment for me…

    • I’m terrible with titles too – I must check and see if Scrivener has a Random Title Generator. I just found out it has a Synopsis Generator too, which I must try out, if only for a laugh!

      • Glen Hunting

        Even a Synopsis Generator??? My God. At the risk of sounding like a complete troglodyte, is anyone else besides me familiar with the phrase “The machines are taking over”? 🙂

  3. Hi Natasha
    All good things you talk about for Scrivener. Reading about Scrivner here and elsewhere encouraged me to look at the trial version which I do not like overly much. Instead I stated using MS OneNote with Word included with Office and to using OneNote on my Android phone. I can record video, Photos or voice recordings and attach them to my Word project via the Cloud and OneNote FREE. Scrivener may have prompted me to look for the functionality of Scrivener but the MS products actually do it better for Me. Tools like screen snips or if you are using IE (i don’t) you can send whole websites/pages to OneNote as reference material and PDFs can be sent to OneNote as a print option. It is very versatile. Scrivener looks great but there alternatives that are very powerful and that you or other readers might already own and that are worth investigating first. Cheers Harry

  4. I have just used Scrivener to submit a major assignment at Uni. It was a fictional short story based in library research. I loved being able to have my research notes, a timeline, pictures, maps all in the split screen as I typed my essay above. Brilliant! I didn’t know about the project target, now that would have been inspiring.

    • The Project Target will be something for you to look forward to using next time! I haven’t used the split screen function much yet, although I think I’ll probably use it quite a bit when I’m up to the second draft. Something for me to look forward to!

  5. Pingback: 3 more reasons why Scrivener makes writing a book easy | Everything Scrivener

  6. Hello — I found your site via Everything Scrivener’s link to this post. I discovered Scrivener via NaNoWriMo as a new writer. I love using it to plan my stories, and I purchased Scrivener for Dummies (by Gwen Hernandez) to see all that it has to offer. Looking forward to learning more from you here on your blog.

  7. Hello! I have had the pleasure since NaNoWriMo to get into Scrivener, and I find it wonderful for so many reasons (including your reasons of which you write in this post). Having said that, I did find the tutorial that comes with the program to be a bit daunting and needed to realize that I was trying to learn everything way too fast. That’s when I learned about a “Dummies” book (which I’ve always loved!). Written by Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener for Dummies is a wonderful reference source that helps one make sense of what the tutorial tries to get across. Gwen also teaches a wonderful 6-week online Scrivener for Mac (and Windows) class that I enjoyed immensely this past February and March. The class touches on all aspects of Scrivener in a practical, clear fashion. Check out Gwen’s blog at http://gwenhernandez.com for more information about her book and the various class offerings she provides. Incidentally, I’m not Gwen’s paid publicist or agent, merely a happy writer having learned from her how to put Scrivener to work in everything I write. I have enjoyed finding your blog site! All the best…

  8. Astrid Arellano

    Thank you for the tip! I loaded my manuscript this afternoon into Scrivener and it’s amazing how easily I can now see the bigger picture, plot structure problems and “holes” in my book. Very timely as I have a deadline and hopefully will now race through getting this first draft down.

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  12. I’m going slow with Scrivener. It can be overwhelming. My daily word count has increased dramatically thanks to ease of writing each scene individually and linking my research for the scene right next to my text. I can go back and forth to check the facts. Next step will be to use the places folder for photos. Thanks for the post.

  13. Eunice Korczak

    I’m using a trial version of Scribner and running it on a PC. I love many of the features but am wondering about the expand option in outline mode. I use the expanded version of the outline a lot so far. My question is: can the expand be set as a default to eliminate traveling to the menu bar every time I consult the outline? How? Thanks.

    • Hi Eunice, I’m using a Mac so I won’t be of much help, sorry. Have you had a look in the User Manual? I know it’s a really long document but I do find it covers most questions I have.

  14. Pingback: Writers Ask Writers: What Tools Do You Need to Help You Write? | While the kids are sleeping

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