East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Adopting Scrivener


Scrivener (software)

Now, it was Douglas Adams, I think, that used to say that trying new software was an excellent procrastination tool to avoid the actual act of writing.
I must agree.
And so, being finally able to run Scrivener on my Ubuntu-based old pc, I jumped at the opportunity of burning a weekend toying with the new writing tool.

For the uninitiated, Scrivener is a word processing software and a writing environment aimed at creative writers – it comes with presets for authors of fiction and non fiction, for screenwriters etc.
It’s highly popular and comes with rave reviews, and there’s a Linux version – which is fine, because sometimes the “sorry, Win/Mac users only” thing is frustrating.

I’ve always been fascinated by this sort of software for writers, and I tried a few – Writers’ Café is another good one, while StorYBook and yWriter are free options.
A few people I admire and trust swear by Scrivener, and this got me very curious.
So I got me the latest beta of the Linux version of the software, and gave it a try.
Past attempts at running it had been unsuccessful (due to my systems’ quirks, I think), but right now the thing works, and going through the tutorial let me discover a number of great tools and functions that might really speed my work up.
I spent the weekend toying with it, and it seems like the right tool for the job, considering the way I do the job (when I do it).
The good bit is, the software allows me to keep all my stuff in one place – notes, character sheets, various drafts, single chapters, documentation, stuff.
And everything’s integrated.

Right now, having gone throughthe tutorial included with the release, I’m looking for some reference material – just in case, I like to be prepared.
My main pet peeve, in fact, is the lack of support – in terms of handbooks and such – for the Linux version.
I can get well-reviewed handbooks for Mac and Win version, but the Linux, being still in Beta, is unsupported – apart from the standard User’s Manual.
A pity.


On the plus side – I’m particularly in love with the corkboard, a visual tool that allows the user to outline a plot and rearrange scenes freely.
The fact that no single, off-line, standalone utility exists to do such a thing on Linux* has been a source of frustration for a few years now.

GhostintheShell_M-ShirowSo far, my more complicated outlines and scene- by-scene breaks have been done using Makoto Kusanagi – I have a large poster of the Ghost in the Shell main character, here at my right by my work pod, and I normally place and rearrange post-its on the poster’s glass.
It worked great for my doctoral dissertation.
But it’s messy, it covers Makoto Kusanagi’s picture, and it gets me lots of weird looks when people come in the room.

The corkboard-like outliner is just one of the great features of the software – but there’s a lot more.
So much so that I get this usual vibe, that it might be too much.
And yet from what I see, the interface can be tailored pretty easily to my needs.
It’s good.
Also, the software seems to suit the structural approach I try and have when writing, and so it is likely to work for me.

So, so far I’m pretty enthusiastic about Scrivener – I’ve wanted to try it for ages, as I explained, and now that I’m trying it, I like what I see.
Will I use it?
I don’t know.
My old mix of supermarket-grade copybook + Gedit [+/- Makoto Kusanagi & Post-its] + LibreOffice + Calibre works just fine for my short works.
But should I ever start – as I hope to do – work on something larger and more complicated, I’ll certainly get it to work and use it.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on future developments.

In case you’re interested, the Linux beta is currently free, while the Windows and Mac versions go for roughly 40 bucks,and from what I can see, the package is well worth the expense.

*Or, if it exists, it has so far escaped my attempts at finding it.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Adopting Scrivener

  1. Davide,

    First, I love your blog. Your notifications lead to a welcome diversion from my normal email junk.

    I switched to Scrivner about 8 months ago! I find that I spend way too much time slipping into editor mode and formatting when working in Word — even with styles. Scrivner is easy, inexpensive, powerful, and has only the features I need, not bloated.

    It works great with cloud drives and sharing with internal lock mechanisms, and it interfaces well with my layout software (Indesign).

    I work using outlines and the outline support is wonderful with colored icons and section statuses. With several projects in work at any time, difficulty arises to find the place where I left off. The document status mechanism (programmable) allows me to quickly find where I need to focus.

    Glad you are on board and I hope that the Scrivner peeps continue to develop the Linux versions.

    Keep ’em coming, my friend!



    • Hi, Norm!
      Thanks for the comment.
      I’m currently experimenting with Scrivener and indeed, it’s quite satisfactory.
      I too get lost in formatting and other time-wasting when using Office – so much so that I normally do my first drafts using a notepad application.
      Scrivener is upping my productivity, too – another welcome side effect.
      Looks like I finally picked a winner 🙂


  2. I love Scrivener it’s been a massive help in fine tuning my novel 🙂


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