A Scrivener Flunky Weighs In

A Guest Post by Deborah Raney

Deb Raney - croppedDeborah Raney’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband Ken recently traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of her novels––for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, and traveling to visit four children and five grandchildren who all live much too far away. I, Steve, have had the privilege of working with Deborah as her agent for the last ten years. Time flies when you are having fun!  The picture to the left was taken of us after an awards banquet where she was honored multiple times. Visit her on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.


I’m probably not the best spokesperson for Scrivener, the popular novel writing software program from Literature and Latte, because I certainly don’t use Scrivener to its maximum capabilities. I don’t even actually write my novel in Scrivener. I still use Pages––Mac’s version of Word––to write the manuscript, although I do copy the manuscript into the program once I have a final version, just to keep my project all in one place.

I also don’t know how to use Scrivener for formatting e-books, etc., so I’m truly not an expert on it. Yet. I do love the software enough that I have a tutorial I paid good money for on my desktop, and I hope to work through it as soon as I get my work in progress off to my editor.

Despite my lack of expertise with Scrivener, I am an enthusiastic fan of the software, and I can testify that it is a great program, even for those who haven’t yet figured out all the bells and whistles Scrivener has to offer.

I found the program very user-friendly and intuitive right out of the “box” (it’s actually downloaded from the Internet, so no box necessary). Here are some of the ways I’ve used Scrivener’s basic features:

• To organize my material.

I find Scrivener to be a great way to collect all the various elements for my novel under one “roof.”

• To collect research links.

It is incredibly handy to have all my research URLs/links and other research documents, interviews, and photos in one location. I especially like the way Scrivener serves as a browser window so links can be opened right within the program, without opening any other browser.

• To create a virtual bulletin board.

Scrivener is great for “tacking” photos of characters and settings on a virtual cork board. I can also post virtual 3×5 cards with lists of characters’ physical description, personality traits, or any other list I choose.

• To keep a timeline.

It’s great to be able to use scene cards, a calendar, or other timeline of my choice to plot the events of my story in chronological order. This also makes it easy to switch events around on the timeline if necessary.

All of the above are, I’m sure, only a fraction of what Scrivener has to offer writers, but those features alone are enough to make the program totally worthwhile for me. And totally worth the very reasonable price.

Below is a screen shot of one of my bulletin boards (click the board to see it full size):


19 Responses to A Scrivener Flunky Weighs In

  1. Jackie Layton January 20, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    Hi Deborah,

    I met you in Indianapolis, and you were so nice.

    I use Scrivener also but not to the full advantage. I need to figure out the bulletin board. I love how your looks.

    I also put all my notes in Scrivener and write my story in a document. I keep thinking one day I’ll figure out what all Scrivener can do. Ha!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 8:03 am #

      Thanks, Jackie! Hope to see you at a conference again soon!

  2. Ane Mulligan January 20, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    I love Scrivener, but I don’t know if I’d try to format an e-book with or without it. ;o)
    However, I’ve got a question for Deb. Do you write your manuscript in Scrivener? And if so, do you use the Novel format or the Blank one?

    I liked the Blank format best for arranging and rearranging the “cards” on the cork board. The Novel format didn’t seem as easy. Maybe I need to find out what tutorial you used. 🙂

  3. Connie Almony January 20, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    You are so right. I don’t use a fraction of the program, but to me, the bulletin board is worth the price!!! I love moving the scenes around to get a visual feel of how I want to order things. One day I plan to figure out the rest of the gadgets.

    • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 8:06 am #

      Ane, I’ve never felt comfortable actually writing the manuscript in Scrivener. I’m really attached to Mac’s Pages program so I’ve stuck with that as my word processor, but like I said, I do like to import my final manuscript into the Scrivener project so I have an archive for my files of everything involving the book. But I have a lot of writer friends who do write their manuscript directly within Scrivener, and they love it!

      • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 8:07 am #

        Oops…not sure why Ane’s answer appeared under Connie’s post, but anyway, Connie, I agree that it’s worth the price just for the bulletin board. But I’m eager to learn how to use Scrivener more fully.

  4. Sybil Bates McCormack January 20, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Hi, Deborah (and Steve). I actually downloaded the thirty-day trial version of Scrivener a few weeks back and never bothered to review it. (LOL!) I’ve been wondering whether it would prove helpful with plotting–the bane of every novice writer’s existence–and it looks like it would. I love the cork board visual you’ve shared. Maybe I’ll give Scrivener a go this week. Thanks!

    • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 8:09 am #

      Well, I can’t answer that, Sybil, since I write VERY seat-of-the-pants! I’ve tried plotting (not in Scrivener) and it just is NOT the way my mind thinks. But I’ve heard others say that the virtual 3×5 cards on the cork board work great for plotting, so I definitely think you should give it a try!

  5. Jennifer Sienes January 20, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your experience with Scrivener. I have used it for years and love it! However, I’m the opposite of you. I write my manuscript in it, but haven’t used the research and bulletin board to its full potential. I love that I can write each scene independently of the others and keep them organized. It makes editing much easier. I also use the cork board for summaries of each scene–color coordinated for each POV character. I’m now inspired (thanks to you) to put the pictures and blurbs of each character on the cork board, as well.

  6. Jeanne Takenaka January 20, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Deb, I too, enjoyed spending a bit of time with you in Indianapolis last fall. Your words encouraged me.

    I’ve been debating about getting Scrivener for awhile now. I think you’ve convinced me of its benefits. I like Pages on my Mac too. I don’t know if I’ll write in Scrivener to begin with, but having the cork board feature, and being able to have all my research links, docs, etc in one place definitely appeals! So much easier than switching from screen to screen.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Ron Estrada January 20, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Oh I love Scrivener. I only get a few hours a week to write, so it helps me stay on track. And I don’t have an office, so it’s my virtual story file. The program allows for a lot of user modifications, so you can adapt it for your purposes. They’re also working on an iPad version. Hopefully, it will automatically sync between my Macbook and iPad. Now if they’ll just add some talent…

  8. Michelle Massaro January 20, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    My favorite part of the article was the inside peek to your cork board! 🙂

    I’ve had scrivener for several months now and haven’t begun using it to its potential either. I have only edited in it (big edits where scrivener came in handy to rearrange scenes,etc.) I don’t recommend it for line edits, I still export to Word for that and use track changes. I’m looking forward to using it for research though! I’m excited for that. Thanks for the overview of some of what you can use it for.

    Have a blessed day, Deb!

  9. Patti Jo Moore January 20, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Deb!! 🙂 Thank you for this very “down-to-earth” post. Not only do I LOVE all of your novels, but enjoy your blog posts too. 😉 I’m not at all familiar with Scrivener (other than reading a tiny bit about it) so your information has been a big help. ~ Cannot wait to see you again at ACFW!
    Signed, Your Biggest Fan 😉

  10. Cristine Eastin January 20, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Deborah, I’m with you—I don’t nearly use Scrivener to its full potential, but I LOVE IT. Scrivener saved my writing when I was stuck with my first novel. I was writing with whatever my pc had on it for a word processor, and I could not figure out how to make it a large document I could work with. Then I switched to Mac which opened up the Mac software world. Enter Scrivener (which is now available for pc as well).

    Scrivener lets me bring in research, write character sketches, create scenes and shift them around, work with two scenes on the screen at the same time, take snapshots of a scene to restore later if necessary, save cuts—and on and on.

    I can’t wait to explore the corkboard like you pictured. I keep a visual of my characters in my head, but having them on the screen would be great.

    And, Scrivener tech support has been very helpful.

  11. Rebecca Barlow Jordan January 20, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Hi, Deborah!

    Loved your guest post (and loved finally meeting you at the 2012 ACFW conference)! Hearing what you do with Scrivener makes me want to try it. I loved what you did with the cork board.

    After so many years of writing non-fiction, I’m now working on my first novel (thanks to your encouragement). I discovered years ago from a college fiction class that I was a seat of the pants writer, too. But I have not tried Scrivener because of that reason. Hearing how you’ve incorporated it into your writing convinces me that it might be worth a try. I, too, use pages, but only on my i-pad away from home. I still use Word, otherwise, on my desktop.

    The best part of your post was whetting my interest for the book you’re working on. I think I’ve read all your books so far. I’m ready for the next one. You’re one of my favorite authors! 🙂

    • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      Awww! Thanks, Rebecca. I appreciate the encouraging words! You only have to wait until August for my next book, the first in the fun, new Chicory Inn Series from Abingdon Press.

  12. Pat Lee January 20, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Thanks for the information. Great post.

  13. Angela Mills January 20, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    I was so excited to see this post! I am going, God willing, to Mount Hermon and hope to be able to take your morning fiction class 🙂

    I use Scrivener, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t use the bulletin board the way I thought, because it is just titles and descriptions of chapters. Now I see that I can use it, and instead of chapters, put in the photos and research in a different section. I’m really glad you shared that screenshot!

    • Deborah Raney January 20, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

      That’s awesome, Angela. I’m so excited to be back at Mount Hermon this year! And glad the screenshot helped you see how you could use the cork board!

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