How does it go from Word to Scrivener?

First I apologize that I am probably asking a question that has been asked many times before. :blush: I have tried to find the question here somewhere in the Forum but have not yet succeeded.

A week ago I heard about Scrivener, I read about it in a Dutch computer magazine. I have downloaded the trial version and will probably buy it. I am studying the manual.

My question is this - I have written a manuscript, (novel) it is not yet finished. So far I have some 83 pages in Word. I have several chapters. I am re-writing it now.

Can you please advice me if it is a good idea to continue the writing process in Scrivener?
Should I copy my story and paste it into Scrivener?
Would this mean I have to write another outline?
Would this mean I have to make synopsis of each chapter?
Or does Scrivener do this for me?
Do I still need to work in Word?

Maybe these are silly questions you laugh about, but I hope someone will understand these and respect me as the beginner I am in using this.

Thanks so much for reading and for your advice.
I read all these enthousiastic reports but I couldn’t find an answer to my questions.

Scrivener is actually very flexible, so there are many ways of using it. If you are completely new to it, it might be as well to experiment first by starting a new piece of writing in Scrivener while keeping your existing novel in Word. (There is an old proverb in English to the effect that it is not a good idea to change horses while crossing a stream.) But the choice is yours! You can easily import your existing writing into Scrivener, but be aware that if you have used Word’s styles to create an outline, that will not show up in Scrivener. Scrivener does things a different way. If I were you I would keep the novel writing and the experiments with the software separate until you know what Scrivener can offer you. There is a lot to learn in Scrivener. Others may advise differently.

Best, Martin.

I agree with Martin. But just to add, rather than reading the Manual at this stage, if I were you I’d spend spend an hour or so working through the Interactive Tutorial (under the Help menu).

I think the answer to your question about whether or not to import your Word-based draft into Scrivener might depend on what stage you are at with the draft. If you’re largely happy with the organization and are just massaging the text, keep working in Word. But if you find you’re unhappy with the organization/flow of text, you might find it easier to adjust the organization from within Scrivener, where you can cut it down into chunks as small as paragraphs (or even smaller).

I did this with a long piece of writing (about 120 pages) that I had to make some sense of. I just imported the whole document into Scrivener, opened that file in the editor and then manually ripped it apart – highlighting each piece of text I wanted to remove and dragging it to the appropriate folder out of a set of folders I’d created under the draft folder. This way I could easily break it apart and reassemble it.

Steve Z.


First of all, thanks so much for asking this question. I have this question also and in reading the 3 replies you got, I don’t actually see an answer to your/my question.

My situation is that I have a novel (actually I have several in process) with substantial work invested in early drafting (I don’t write sequentially, so the chunks I have are scenes or sequences of scenes from all over the book–NOT including the opener OR the ending, neither of which has been written yet, oddly enough, given I usually write the ending first and work backwards)

I don’t normally outline but wanted to start trying to do that and would definitely like to know if Scrivener would generate an outline or help me outline or otherwise help me organize the structure of the plot so I can see where the “holes” are for scenes I haven’t yet written. Believe it or not, usually I do this with stickies or cards taped up on a wall or whiteboard - the old-fashioned fully-manual way! I’d like to move into the 21st century sometime soon ((grin)) It’s either that or I’ll need to go back to using quill pens at this point. (kidding, really kidding, I cannot write by hand, it’s WAY too slow for my brain!)

My novels are part of a series and I really want to migrate my entire work process to a better environment where “some tool” can keep track of my novel series for me rather than my trying to keep all this stuff in my head. Currently, I organize my work in folders using Windows Explorer. I have a folder for each series I write (I currently have 4 series under 2 pen names) and I then make a folder for each book, then a folder under the book for “images” and “research” and anything else I need to segregate into a folder (e.g., eBook release versions after it’s all done) THEN I segregate my writing of scenes into documents, ultimately using copy/paste to move all scenes into a final (single) document for final editing and formatting to publish in eBook form. I used to write one chapter per document and use Word’s TOC compilation method but with the formatting requirements of eBooks, it’s much easier to just use a clean template with limited Styles and contain everything in one file from the start.

I’ve been using Word since Microsoft released it in the 1990s and I kind of doubt anyone knows any better how to exploit every trick Word has but it’s useless for helping me to organize beyond what I’m already doing.

I don’t want to give up my ease with the tool in order to migrate to Scrivener so I’m trepiditious about it, to say the least. That is, I don’t want to suddenly find myself clueless as to how to move text or scenes around, insert new story elements, reference things in “note to self” fashion. I need to be productive in those rare times I have time to writer–I work 2 jobs and have quite a few projects on all at once. I get very little time off. If I have to spend most of my time off figuring out how to make the tool do one thing, then I have wasted potential writing production time on a tool instead of “the next book.”

You don’t sell books by learning to use tools. You sell books by writing them so I need to know if I’ll regret giving up Word for the potential organizational power Scrivener claims it will unleash for me.

Adiah has a simple question, Webbie a more complex one. But both are in a tough situation because they are Windows and Word users, two environments that demand lots of orthodoxy from their users. I gave up on Word in '08 because it’s a resource hog and built for business users, not creative writers. Scrivener for Windows is coming along, but it’s in a long development arc, and right now Scrivener for Mac is a far superior tool. (Sorry, not trying to launch a religious war, it’s just historical fact.) :open_mouth:

Both A&W are asking if they should take an old set of habits and move into a new home. They’d really like to keep the old habits, a major learning investment, and they fear that the new place will make that difficult. It’s better to think more positively, that Scrivener will free them from many old restrictions they suffered under Word. But yes, it will take a fresh investment of learning time to make the transition.

I can’t answer A’s questions for Windows, but on a Mac, all of those steps are simple. Copy & paste the document, or import it, or drag-drop it into the Scriv project’s Binder. Go the bottom of the text, position the cursor at a chapter break, and type Cmd-K. If you want to preserve a chapter title, select that phrase and type Cmd-Opt K. Do that for every chapter, and you have the project outlined in the Binder. The Synopsis window in Scrivener is available, and you may type there whatever you wish, but it’s not required. You don’t need Word again until the very late stages of MS preparation. Then export the Draft to Word, and use it for whatever WP steps you need, like adding headers, etc.

W’s questions are more on the conceptual level, about working methods, so I’ll take them seriatim.

They are all fine answers, but note they are from Mac users, like me, and may not be what you expect to hear. See my proviso above about the combination of Windows and Word.

Maybe we all think that our writing situations are unique, but to me that sounds universal: multiple projects, chunks of story not in final order, and caught in the middle rather than start or finish. Believe me, Scrivener is made for you. It’s an idea and story processor that helps you get disconnected bits together. With the added bonus that the Research folder can hold all sorts of files and web links, arranged as you please.

The Binder (left-hand pane) is where you place your scenes, and slide them up and down until they make sense as a narrative. If you have missing chunks, you create a new blank text and title it “Missing Scene” or “Transition Needed” and in the Synopsis pane (top right) you type a few words as a reminder: “Bob needs to get money somewhere.” As these scenes form into groups, you may see them as a chapter, and create a folder that holds them called “Chapter Five” or “Bob in Jail,” whatever suits.

Again, this is a classic problem for writers of series, and I can’t say much except wish that you’d convert to Mac. :wink: Many of us use DevonThink Pro as a large scale data organizer. Its interface is the familiar iTunes setup, like Scrivener, with a left-hand pane of folders and docs, but many powerful tools that let you do very fast searches. In Windows, I believe you could just make a Scrivener project for each novel, group projects into folders that make sense, and use Windows Explorer to search them. I assume it functions like Mac’s Spotlight or many other search utilities on the market. As for making e-books, Scrivener does that for you, through the compiling process.

Yup, exactly my point. Scrivener lets you draft, organize, track in ways that are not possible in Word.

You won’t spend “most of your time” learning, but you WILL need some start-up time, which might be a few days at most. (1) Start with the video tutorials, practice what they preach, until you have the basics. (2) Then take one of your published works and convert it into a Scrivener project. (3) Finally, take a work-in-progress and do the same. You will learn other stuff as you go along by consulting the manual, as needed. There are also good “how to” books available, though I don’t know if for the Windows side.

This is really a question about the value of learning. I’m an educator, so I’d argue that you absolutely must learn first before applying that learning. I’m also a pragmatist, who knows that we learn by doing. You need to try and relax, realize that you’re not walking a plank but moving into a new place and trying it out for a while. You won’t lose/forget what you already know. But after a while, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long to make the move. Good luck, and congratulations on having already established yourself as a prolific and professional writer.

I think Duid has said it all, but if I can add a relative newbie’s perspective … I used Word for all of my academic writing for well over a decade (full lecture load, publication and conference papers) and though I bought Scrivener a couple of years ago I was very slow to move anything across and it was woefully under-utilized, even though I was writing a book which (I now realize) would have developed much more quickly and easily in the Scrivener environment.

In the end I was pushed: I upgraded my MacBook to 10.8, which flatly denied me access to my Word files, so I took everything for the book into Scrivener (a painless process); ran through the interactive tutorial; and have never looked back.



Another Mac user here (although I also use Windows, I have not used Scrivener on Windows). I agree that Druid’s answer is thorough. Like Eric, my experience was that once I’d made the commitment to change to Scrivener, spent a few days learning it and importing all my data, I couldn’t go back to Word. Like webbiegrrlwriter, I was a power user of Word: extensive use of styles, different folders for chapters, all linked into a master document. If I could find a way of using Word’s power to help, I did. And I have no regrets switching to Scrivener. There are some things that Word does better (styles come to mind) but they are minor in comparison to the benefits Scrivener brings.

The Cmd-K shortcut (or windows equivalent) that Druid explained is a wonderful tool when you first bring in an existing project.

Hi everyone,

I’ve got about 10 min (literally) and about 6 replies to write so I’ll be quick (haha)

I’m not “afraid” to switch and certainly not afraid of the learning curve–I expect there to be one. I’ve been trying to find a quick start guide (rather than the incredibly deep and IMO antithesis of “quick for starting” tutorial) but otherwise, I’ll just teach myself. I’ve done it before with FAR more complex software environments. Of course, the more complex the s/w, usually, the better (and simpler) the documentation. I do realize, of course, that Scrivener was really more of a labor of love when created than it was a sophisticated s/w package–and I do also realize it is far more sophisticated than your average “labor of love” deal.

As for power user of Word losing styles, which you are all correct is one of the critical points for an Indie Publisher, I’m not exactly concerned. To be honest, my intention from the start has been to export from Scrivener an HTML file (or set of HTML files) and just use my Dreamweaver web dev environment to do all of the necessary formatting of styles. CSS is pretty simple and it’s way better for the end product (eBook) to clean up CSS and HTML than it is to export a Word doc anyway. And now, Smashwords takes ePubs directily so I’m all set on that count :slight_smile:

My mention of Styles and the Smashwords Style Guide was my attempt to offer a tip to others…guess it wasn’t needed after all :slight_smile:

We do have a quick tour guide in the user manual, introduction section, but it’s very basic. If you already know what an index card on the corkboard is, and how to type into sections of the binder, then it may not help you out—but it is designed to teach you the basics in 15 to 20 minutes, so it wouldn’t be a huge waste. We’ll probably put an even shorter bullet-point quick tour in the help menu, too.