Can I Live In Scrivener?

I am forever looking for the perfect place to capture all of my writing. As in, all of it: Notebook-y stuff I want to jot down, The Novel that’s not getting written, screenplays and pilots and pitch documents, important emails (the kind I edit before I send), the odd commercial script, even forum posts like this one.

My needs are pretty simple. I write in text, just text, and I tend not to add photos or movies or big files of any kind to my stuff. There’s no need.

So, tonight, the following occurred to me: “Why would I ever leave Scrivener?” And, more specifically, “Why would I ever leave this Scrivener project?”

Why would I not just make one single Scrivener file (that gets backed redundantly) with everything in it. Is there any reason not to do that? With just text, there’s no chance of the project getting too big. I back up like a crazy person — even to the point of printing hard copies for files — so I’m not worried about having all my eggs in one basket.

I mean, I’m right, right? There is no earthly reason not to just write everything in one, big Scrivener project. It’s going to be a lot of words all in one place, but Scrivener can do that, yes?

I would love the forum’s input as to why I’m wrong/right/crazy.



The only reason I could see for not wanting to do this would be a speed issue. I believe that the larger your Scrivener project file, the slower it will run. That might just have been with some older versions, though, and maybe they’ve eliminated problems of that sort.

I do almost the same thing, though I split my work into a handful of projects. I have one project for all of my short stories (around 40-50 stories anywhere from 10-40 pages each), one for all of my novels-in-progress (3 totalling roughly 500 pages), one for a journal/general ideas repository, and one for academic papers. I haven’t thought about using Scrivener for email, as Outlook seems to work perfectly for what I need it for.

If it works for you, though, I say do it. Don’t do something one way just because everyone else is doing it that way. Innovation never occurs when everyone is of the same mind.

Sean, I’m using Scrivener pretty much the same way–not by design, but simply by incremental evolution. Things I used to do in that program, things I used to in this program, things I’d do in the other program, somehow morphed into being done exclusively in Scrivener.

I haven’t evolved into one gihungus project yet, and may never. Basically, there’s a project for the novel-in-progress, another for the magazine I edit, and one embracingly called Home Stuff, which encompasses everything from collected recipes and plans for a new duck hut to paper-trail arguments with insurance companies and other nuisances. Important emails that need more writing than I’m capable of doing in Mail originate here, along with flap copy, blurbs, freelance magazine pieces, Letters to the unconnected, whatever. Icons, or whatever they’re called these days, for each project live in the Finder sidebar. Click, and up she comes.

I’m not saying Scrivener is perfect for all these uses, intended or unintended. But it’s perfect for some and good enough for many, and so my applications folder is now full of tombstones and tumbleweeds. I have to crack open Numbers, still, and Moneydance, because Scrivener, like me, doesn’t understand Math, but Macjournal and Pages and Word and TaskPaper (Hog Bay Notebook that was) haven’t been opened in I don’t know when.

The only thing still getting any wordish action is InCopy, for proofing the laid-out magazine pages from production. After living in Scrivener all day, every day, it’s like entering a harsh alien environment. Everything else on my end of the magazine, from the acquisitions and dejection letters to the back-and-forth editing with the authors to transmittal of faux Word files to production and bogus Goals memos to the Suits, all happen in Scrivener.

Like aging, it just kind of crept up on me.

Living in just one project can make some features less helpful than if you have projects for each kind of writing, or for each long-form text. Labels, for instance, can be vastly different for me when I’m creating blog entries, vs when I’m creating scenes in the first novel of a series. Tracking characters with keywords could get messy if you have three unrelated novels in the same project.

I have a few projects that gather similar scribblings together though. “Shorts” is for my occasional twitter #TuesdaysAreForHaiku that a friend started. It’s also for preserving NaNoWriMo forum posts that I’ve been told are encouraging or helpful (they wipe the forums every year). Then there’s my “Story Ideas” project, which is what you would expect. Any idea I have that seems promising goes here while I mull it over. I store all of them in a non-Draft folder, and add inspirational images & articles to any notes of my own. Once I’ve allowed the idea to germinate long enough, it gets its own project, or goes into another appropriate project if there is one.

If it works for you to gather everything in one place, then I see no technical reason not to. With lots of backups, you’ll mitigate internal project corruption issues. I would never do it this way though… it just seems so wrong! :wink:


I’m in a sort of hybrid mode as well – I have three regular Scrivener projects – Organizer, Tasks and Writing that cover all my research and business project information, things to do and writing. Folders and files tend to migrate from one project to another (I love that copy function :slight_smile: ) so I may start with something in Tasks and then migrate to Organizer as project documentation or research notes, or migrate to Writing. I’ll also spin off separate Scrivener projects for specific writing projects – such as a novel or technical documentation.

Some of the corporate documents I work on like Statements of Work have very specific templates and I haven’t worked out how to compile to those yet - just need some time with the tutorials and manual, but increasingly I spend more time in Scrivener for just about anything that doesn’t require a spreadsheet.

Ahab, I’m intrigued how you use Scrivener for email – are you saying you build drafts and then cut/paste into email or use Scrivener to manage all emails? I have nearly 5Gb of data in an Outlook archive I would welcome getting into a more accessible format.


I just build the body of the email in Scrivener, where I am for whatever reason more articulate, and then paste it into Mail, usually as a cover letter to an attached .doc or .rtf or .docx file created in Scrivener. Managing the whole of the email archives is something I keep meaning to do, in the same way I keep meaning to paint that spare room that will still be unpainted when I croak. Right now, I “manage” my emails back to 2008 in various digital shoeboxes in Mail. In 2008, for some reason, I archived everything into an mbox or something like that; they sit on my hard drive, gathering dust. Someday I’ll muster the courage to drag them to the trash.

I thought about doing this, but I felt that when it came to compiling, for exporting some text, things would get complicated! I have huge projects, such as novels, non-fiction books, and correspondence courses, and then I have smaller projects for short stories and article.

At the moment, large projects (novels an non-fiction books) have their own Scrivener files, but all of my short stories are in one file, and my articles are in another file.

It all seems to be working at present, but if anything needs changing, importing and exporting is easy enough!

Thank you all for the replies. Just 24 hours in to doing this, I’m already starting to see the potential problems—that tracking characters with keywords thing (good point, Robert!) was the first red flag I noticed.

And I agree: it just seems wrong. I think I’m going to go the hybrid route, with two or three Scrivener projects going at once, rather than one big one.

I dared to dream. As Jimmy Breslin said, don’t trust any brilliant idea unless it survives the hangover.

I have been using Scrivener now for about 3 years. I don’t think I use it as well as I could, but I use it almost exclusively. I have a separate file for each book, One file for all the blogs, One for random writings.
I have ended up using Word to make more in depth grammatical corrections. I also use “Edit” to help with other corrections.
But the day-to-day writing is always in Scrivener.

I tried that for awhile, using Scriv to hold all my short journalistic pieces in one big project, and separate projects for longer stories. It wound up being more trouble than it was worth, especially when trying to find old stuff. I wound up exporting all those short pieces to text files. Now I use Scrivener for only long form or other multi part stories that work better written in chunks and rearranged, and shorter pieces in IAWriter (after years of using Bean). Spotlight works fine for tagging, and I still use folders for organizing, though that may change with built in easy tagging coming in Mavericks. Scrivener is still unbeatable for organizing anything I can’t write from top to bottom in one take, from my book to articles > 500 or so words.

Instead of “living in one file”, you might like to consider “living in web of connected files” by using a master file that links into sub projects but is a kind of default landing place for any ideas, collections of random stuff and so on.

I wrote about something I used to use for some time here.

I pretty much live in Scrivener, using multiple projects (it’s easy enough to switch between windows): one for each of the several novels I’m writing/planning; one for all the short stories; one for general correspondence; one for each of my (increasing number of) university modules; one for each of my three kids (for homework, etc.); one for work-related stuff; one for personal/general notes; and now one to keep all my divorce notes in order :smiley:
Who knew it could be so useful!

Multiple projects for me. The subject matter I write about is broad enough that putting it all in one project would just be a mess. I’ve got one for each client, which I keep in that client’s folder along with contracts, invoices, final drafts, marked up versions from the client, and so on. For long-term relationships, these get archived every few years. Every book length project gets its own.

Also, most research materials get archived separately, in DevonThink Pro. I might use some of the same materials for multiple Scrivener projects; having a separate archive ensures that I can find everything when I need it.


I am fairly new to Scrivener, but HOLY COW am I a happy camper. Scrivener was a birthday gift to myself that I had long intended to purchase and I am so glad I chose it over other programs I was considering. I downloaded some extra templates that have been extremely helpful but once I started using the Writer’s Notebook template (and customizing it accordingly) I have been using Scrivener for everything. I have several projects going for writing, blogging, a content company I am starting and another business. I have started using Scrivener for just about all of these projects instead of paper, an assortment of other programs and it has even started to replace Evernote for a lot of things that are more research related. The one thing that would make this totally absolutely livable for me would be the ability to sync with Evernote (or like Evernote).

One of the beauties of programs like Scrivener (such as FileMaker) is they can be customized to suit whatever you need them to do and they do it well. For this reason I can easily use Scrivener for more than just writing easily and happily. It is a wonderful tool for organizing, moving thoughts around, logging receipts for projects, ideas, resources, research, webpages, costing products and projects as well as writing books, posts or letters.

I have some pretty big files, but have not noticed much slowing from them. I do notice slowing on Scrivener and my MacBook Pro in general when I leave projects open for a long time. Bad habit. I tend to use a lot of Scrivener Projects at the same time and then leave them open for days on end because I just jump to them when I wake my laptop from sleep. Yup. I am one of these folks who has 7 windows of a web browser with 12 or more tabs each open for days on end too. (Ooops. I had to count just now - 20 tabs and 3 windows currently).

I have several projects in Scrivener and within those I break down categories to further organize. While doing the breakdown using categories/folders is great, I can not imagine putting all my things into just one project. I suppose your choice will depend on how your mind works.