First Time Scrivener User

I have been using WriteWay Pro for the past four years. Never needed to consult the user manual. Totally intuitive product, unlike Scrivener. I have had Scrivener for three years. Every time I think I will learn to use it, it is so overwhelming that I go back to WriteWay Pro. I have the following books on Scrivener:

  • Scrivener for Dummies
  • Scrivener for Writers
  • Writing a Novel with Scrivener
  • Scrivener Essentials
    None of these books does a thing for me. All I want to do is Fire up Scrivener, and use one of the many free templates I have found for Scrivener. I can’t even figure how to get Scrivener to open the templates. Any and all help will be gratefully appreciated.

Launch Scrivener, use the template chooser to create a new project from the Blank template, and start typing.

If you want to import someone else’s templates, you’ll need to look in the manual to see where to put them. But once you’ve done that, they should just appear in the template chooser window.

Personally, I would recommend looking over at least the Quick Start portion of the Tutorial project. Part of why Scrivener is less intuitive is because it handles things a little differently from most word processors.

Katherine

The only way to learn how to use Scrivener is to use it, with the help of some advice from others. I read two introductory e-books on Scrivener while I started to use it, and started using it for smaller writing projects before starting larger, book-level projects.

  • Take control of Scrivener 2

  • Your guide to Scrivener, the ultimate tool for writers

You don’t have to master all aspects of Scrivener to find it useful, just start using the things you need.

I would suggest you start with the blank template and go from there - personally, I find a lot of the extra bells and whistles are surplus to my requirements. It opens with a Draft folder, together with folders for Research and Trash. IMO this should ensure an easier learning curve.

You can take on other functions as and when you need them. If you hit a snag, you can then consult the manual and, if you are still stumped come to this board for assistance.

I worked through the Scrivener tutorial. The tutorial does not provide the step by step instructions to create a novel, chapters, scenes, characters, etc.
I have Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies, and that is no help. I also have David Hewson’s Writing a Novel With Scrivener, and neither of those come close to actually providing the information to start a novel. What I’d like to see is Step by step instructions for creating a fictional novel, chapter, scene, characters, etc. So far I have not found that. Does something like that exist?

1 Like

You’re the writer. Creating those things is your job.

Fundamentally, you create objects – either folders or documents – inside the Draft folder. Those are chapters and/or scenes. Then you create other objects inside the Research folder. Those are character sketches, location descriptions, whatever else you want.

Scrivener is a very flexible tool that can support whatever creative process works for you. It is not a handbook for novel (or any other kind of) writing.

Katherine

Hi,

I am a big fan of Scrivener, but it does not suit everybody and there comes a point, where if it does not fit into your way of working, it may be time to call it a day. Before that, however, you might consider simplifying how you use the app.

Personally, I find I prefer the blank template on the startup screen. I am sure you have this already figured out, but this gives you a draft folder (into which you create sub-folders for chapters and scenes); a research folder; a trash folder.

Scrivener has a whole host of bells and whistles, but perhaps if you just concentrated on the core functions, and just typed away in the editor, without thinking too much of the other functions, you would get a better handle on it. You might then adopt other functions once you had gained a greater familiarity.

The functions I would now not be without are scrivenings, compile, the wordcount in the footer, the snapshot function, keywords, and one or two other bells I find indispensable. I use only a portion of what Scrivener can do and that suits me just fine.

I agree with this advice. I write nonfiction, and basically I have learned Scrivener by finding the parts that help me work and ignoring the rest. As an entire product, it is intimidating, no doubt. But then, so is writing a book. “Bird by bird,” as Anne Lamott says. If you have the courage to say, “I am going to write a book,” and the awareness that you are going to write that book one sentence, one paragraph at a time (with false starts and many deletions!), I think you can apply that courage to sitting down with Scrivener and using it as best suits you. To me, that’s the greatest feature of Scrivener: it lets you use it largely in accord with your work style, rather than demanding that you follow its processes. For me, it’s mostly a tool for organizing information and my own ideas. If I need something more (labels … they must be good for something, and heaven knows I need to organize all this!), then I consult the manual and figure it out. Some things I never use–I’ve never yet compiled, and doubt that I ever will, since I use Scrivener for drafting and then write in a word processor other than MS Word. Exporting RTFs is all I need, and Scrivener lets me do that. Use what works for you and never mind the rest.

Hi Ray,

First, some expectation management: Scrivener is software that supports writing of long form works, You can happily use it to write novels, but it is not dedicated to novel writing. My sense is that perhaps you are used to software that provides guidance and specific tools focused on novel writing. Scrivener provides very little hand holding – maybe that’s where the disconnect is.

Here is a very stripped down overview of writing a novel, using Scrivener’s basic functions. I am purposefully leaving out many functions and features, to focus only on the basics required to write a novel. Read the whole thing through a couple of times before actually doing anything!

First thing is to create a New Project. From the New Project screen:
→ Select the project template. If your novel will be structured as a list of Chapters (your Table of Contents will not be broken into Acts or Parts), then choose the template Fiction > Novel.
→ Specify the project name in the Save As field
→ Specify Where (what folder) you want to store the project. Be sure to remember Where you put it!

If you chose the Novel template, the Manuscript section of the new Scrivener project will initially be organized like this:

MANUSCRIPT

  • Chapter
    ++ Scene

The Manuscript section is where your novel will live. If you are the type of writer who creates an outline in advance (a Plotter), then develop your outline by Adding new Folders (Chapters) and empty Texts (Scenes), and renaming the Chapters and Scenes as necessary. So you might end up with:

MANUSCRIPT

  • Chapter One
    ++ Harry and Sally meet cute
    ++ Harry tells Fred he likes Sally
    ++ Sally tells Wilma that Harry is a pig

  • Chapter Twelve
    ++ Fred sells his body for weapons
    ++ Harry and Sally evade zombies

  • Chapter Twenty-Two
    ++ Sally reflects on Harry’s death while she nurses her newborn son

One of the strengths of Scrivener is that you can develop your outline this way before you write a word of text. You can use the Cordboard or Outliner views as alternative means of visualizing the novel’s structure.

When you are ready to start writing, another strength of Scrivener is that you can write the scenes in whatever order you are inspired to. Simply select a scene and start writing it.

If you are the type of writer who disdains outlines and discovers the novel by writing it (a Pantser), then select the first scene and start writing. When you are done with the first scene, rename it if you like, then add a new empty Text (Scene) underneath the first scene, and start writing your second scene. Add new Folders (Chapters) as needed. And so on.

If your novel will be composed of Acts or Parts, then when you create the new project, choose the template Fiction > Novel (with Parts). The new project’s Manuscript will be organized like this:

MANUSCRIPT
Part

  • Chapter
    ++ Scene
    ++ Scene
  • Chapter
    ++ Scene
    Part
  • Chapter
    ++ Scene

A Plotter would then modify the default structure and create an outline. In this particular example novel, the “Parts” are Acts.

MANUSCRIPT
Act One

  • Chapter One
    ++ Harry and Sally meet cute
    ++ Harry tells Fred he likes Sally
    ++ Sally tells Wilma that Harry is a pig


    Act Two

  • Chapter Twelve
    ++ Fred sells his body for weapons
    ++ Harry and Sally evade zombies


    Act Three

  • Chapter Twenty-Two
    ++ Sally reflects on Harry’s death while she nurses her newborn son

The thing to remember about Parts/Chapters (Folders) and Scenes (Texts) is that they can be reorganized in the Binder, similar to how you would move files and folders around in Windows Explorer. So you can change your structure after the fact. You can insert or remove or move items as needed.

Once you are in the writing process and have drafted scenes, another Scrivener strength is the Scrivenings view. Scrivenings will consolidate all of the scenes of your novel. This is a “virtual” consolidation – your novel’s structure is not changed – but it provides a way to read how well your work flows, and edit in context.

If you are the sort of writer who likes to develop sketches of Characters or Places, then Scrivener’s Novel project templates include templates for these. To create a Character sketch, click on the Characters folder in the Binder, then press the Add Item pulldown, select New From Template > Character Sketch. This will create an empty Character Sketch doc within the Characters folder in the Binder. Rename the new doc to “Harry” and write his character sketch by filling in the blanks. You can do the same thing for Places. If you want to customize the Characters or Places templates for your particular workflow, the templates are located within the Template Sheets folder. Any changes you make there will be applied to all new Character or Place sketches.

If you like to develop story notes or research to support your writing process, then create folders and documents within the Research folder for that. Items in the Research folder are not considered part of your Manuscript.

Ray, the steps I’ve listed above are only one way to use Scrivener for writing a novel. Every novelist that uses Scrivener will have their own unique approach on how to best use it to support their writing process. But the above should get you started. The idea is to first get a grip on the basics, and then move on to more advanced features as you need to.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to ask. The more specific your question, the more likely you’ll get a helpful answer. :slight_smile:

Hope that helps,
Jim

I’m always amazed at the number of caring people here who take the time to write extremely thorough explanatory posts.

Great job, Jim!

Perhaps Scrivener is not the right choice for me, I’m a published author and don’t feel I should have to invest more time in learning to use the tool than writing a 75,000 word novel ,. I have another tool that does everything scrivener does and I didn’t have to read a book to learn to use it.
Scrivener appears to be the be all do all for everyone but me, The application I currently use was intuitive enough to use without a manual from the start… the only reason I tried /scrivener in the first place was because of all the glowing reviews.Maybe those reviewers didn’t mind spending three months learning how to use Scrivener, I do mind, and have had enough of Scrivener.
The only other product that rivals Scrivener for complexity is Dramatica.

Wrting has been an important part of my job for the last 35 years and I have tried many different softwares over the years. But I must have missed the tool you use.

Would you mind telling us of the tool you have, that does everything Scrivener does but is easier to learn?

RayD1942 has been dropping by every year or so since 2015 to post on how powerful WriteWay Pro is, and how much simpler it is than Scrivener. Perhaps that is the tool to which he refers in his most recent post. If that assumption is correct, I wish he’d make up his mind already between the two of them. :slight_smile:

For those who don’t know WritewayPro is Windows only. The good news is that since the start of the year it is completely free. The possibly bad news is that this is because the developer has retired and the current version is the final version.

Personally I am happily using Scrivener 1.9 every day and waiting for version 3 to mature to the point that I can buy it.

Owen

It looks basically as a Windows version of Scrivener with the same basic structure.

What I don’t understand is why RayD1942 complains about Scrivener if he has a tool that is so much better…

I think poor Ray has fallen for the hype of a Scrivener lover like me, whose first exposure to it was drafting a trunk novel on the fly and who then learned Scrivener as they went. Learning Scrivener is far easier if you don’t come to it hoping it’ll work the way another program works, and especially if you don’t have deadlines.

For me, everything that I knew I wanted (which was a very small subset of Scrivener’s capabilities) worked as I expected and took very little time to comprehend. Every entry in the binder corresponds to an index on the cork board? Got it. Every index card is attached to a space to write a portion of my novel in it? Makes sense. There are also document notes for more detailed notes on my chapter? Nifty!

I didn’t immediately use keywords, but understood tagging from my brief foray into Live Journal. I liked the status stamps in the cork board and used them immediately, but the labels didn’t come into it until much later.

Compiling was nice, but as an un-published hobbyist, I had no specific requirements, so I learned by playing with those settings to make my disaster of a story at least look professional.

In short, I learned at my own pace, with no time pressure.

So, Ray… I assume that the tool you love to use is WriteWay Pro, and despite your assertions that it does everything you need, it’s failing you in some way that you hope Scrivener will not. So you delve into Scrivener, trying to learn it all at once and bend it to work like WWP, get frustrated, and come to the forums asking how to import templates, or complaining that it’s not intuitive…

So please let me make a suggestion; if you want to use it, start a project at the idea phase. Start outlining (in THE outline view, or cork board, or in a single document) however you like, and then come to the forums when you have a specific question or need that isn’t obvious. As you progress in your project, you can then adapt Scrivener’s features to the needs you have at that moment and come to the forums for more specific questions.

The people on this forum have put up with my many inane questions and suggestions over the years, questions I could have solved by searching through the manual, or would have learned from my tour via the tutorial project. When I asked questions, I tried to keep in mind that I’m entering a club of enthusiasts (the forums are mostly for us users, with frequent interjections by the developers/paid staff), and asking for help in a way that respects their time and enthusiasm. Think of this place as a writer’s club, and not as a company’s complaint department, and you’ll get a lot more out of being here.

Today, I try to pay the kindness of forum regulars forward, but as someone who’s just here to give my brain a break from my demanding day job, I’m more inclined to help someone who’s able to articulate what they want, and willing to adapt a bit to how Scrivener can help them accomplish their desired workflow. I’m less inclined to respond to vague complaints about my favorite writing tool, or frustrated posts about how it’s not like another writing tool that does ‘everything’ that you need. There’s just not a lot of joy for me in trying to becalm someone’s frustrations or in helping someone who’s mad that they have to learn.

Whatever your choices are regarding Scrivener, I hope you find what you need.