Learn-by-doing: Scrivener A la Carte

I’m brand new to Scrivener but excited to be learning the apparently premier writing process automation tool. In a past life, I have taught complex software to Design Engineers, and they can be an ornery bunch at times, I found them impatient and wanting to get on with their assigned productivity. So I taught my own favorite way of learning complex software, which is to get familiar with the interface and high-level capabilities and then start learning specific workflows related to the work they were doing day to day.

Now I’m doing this with Scrivener. I write professionally these days. When I had a draft of my fourth book, a novella, in Word, I downloaded the software and installed it. Then ran the tutorial twice and started reading the manual, page by page. I soon tired of the insane amount of detail unrelated to my real interests so I’ll treat it as a reference book.

I brought my WIP into Scrivener by a process I already knew, copy/paste, though I want to learn more direct and automated processes for importing. Is anyone else taking a workflow-based approach to learning how to become as productive in Scrivener as possible in the shortest time needed?

Now I’m continuing development of my next book by figuring out how to do what is immediately important to me: edits, additions, moving text blocks around, etc. I’ll continue learning just what I need to get the next steps done until the book is published. I look forward to NOT hiring a formatter for the different published versions.

I also look forward to offering specific workflows to accomplish particular tasks. I’m hopeful others may also want to trade workflows and explore the best ways to learn this powerful tool.



Hi Joseph,

I don’t have any specific workflows to share, but if I can think of anything that might be useful I will circle back to this thread.

I have a few suggestions regarding the user manual, which is certainly quite the tome.

The first and most important thing: if you do nothing else, read and know the sections of the manual that speak to how Scrivener’s backup system works. Then implement and test your backup process. I just replied to a post earlier today from a user who has been unable to get any work done for a week, because their project is botched and they don’t have a good backup to fall back on. Don’t be that guy. :slight_smile:

Second is that, at the start of each section, the Mac manual has an overview of topics that are covered. You may want to have a read through each section’s overview, without reading the detail, just to see which features are available and where they are documented. Something may pop up that piques your interest now, or maybe later when you have a problem to solve, you’ll remember a feature name that sounds promising as a solution.

Finally, at some point you will want to acquaint yourself with Scrivener’s compile process. It’s really the only thing that is complex about Scrivener, from my perspective. I wouldn’t start digging into that right away, but perhaps after you’ve been working with Scrivener for a month or two, you may want to have a look at it. Experiment with compiling your book and learning what the choices are. You may find that leads you to tweaking how you’ve got the project structured (or not).

Just my $.02.

Jim, I greatly appreciate your kind offering of tips based on your experience. I see the wisdom in what you’re saying. Turns out, this is really not terribly different from other complex software I have learned. It’s not nearly as tough as the people selling related books make out, though they may be helpful. Learn-by-doing really works well when you have others around who are so willing to help a newcomer. So, thanks!

Progress Report on Adopting Scrivener 3

I write nonfiction books, articles, and blog posts; fiction stories and longer forms: mostly, how-to nonfiction and short fiction, moving toward longer-form fiction.

Two days after starting to adopt Scrivener 3, I am up and running and doing everything I was formerly doing in MS Word and a lot more, only better. I am productive again with a minimal incursion on my schedule. Using this new tool will make me more prolific and also a better writer. That’s clear.

I ran through the tutorial twice allowing a day between runs to let things sink in and to let questions bubble up and get answered.

I started reading through the manual like a book. Um, no, that’s the wrong way to use it because it is far too detailed. It’s like a cross-country bus that stops at every intersection and signpost from coast to coast. It will be far more useful as a reference to search in when I want to jump into new areas of functionality.

I did a tour of all the buttons in the interface. It’s like an iceberg. Only a small part of it shows at the surface.

I imported all my work-in-progress, comprising 3 short stories and a novella that is trying to become a full novel. A piece of cake using cut-and-paste. Maybe someday I’ll need the more automated processes but right now I want to finish a couple actual works and proceed on that level and get answers as I go along.

The way ahead is to finish a story and compile it. That will take me into learning how to get work out. Eventually, the novella will become ready to compile, too.

It helps that I have created and manually compiled 3 books already so I’m very familiar with what it takes, however you do it, including all the fiddling with the cover art and marketing blurb, producing the artwork, PDFs and/or digital book files like mobi and epub, and so on. This is going to get faster, cheaper, and easier.

I look forward to breaking a finished story up into scenes to see what that does to help make the writing better. I am stiill new enough to fiction that I do too much telling in my stories. It’s becoming easy to see it now and to convert it into shown prose or delete the told parts.

I also look forward to starting a fresh work inside Scrivener. That way I can avoid writing told prose in the first place.

So far, the best insight is that you can improve the actual production of writing fundamentally with the right tool. It takes an essential change of perspective from working in a tool that only helps you to manually produce the final copy to a tool that helps you to generate prose information by assisting the imaginative production process.

Scrivener will help me become the best writer I can be and the most productive as it improves everything in writing production. How much? Maybe a 100% improvement is not too much to hope for. Becoming twice as productive and twice as good a writer is a heady, exciting concept.

This is the best thing that has happened to me since I started off in the self-publishing direction. Now if something would come along and market my work for me even better than Amazon does. . .

Now that you’ve got the software sorted – and I agree that Scrivener is unrivalled as a writer’s tool – you are free to concentrate on the craft of writing. I probably shouldn’t be throwing out ideas, as everyone has their own way, but having once spent about ten years teaching English language and literature, I have profound respect for the great writers of the past, and I found analysing their prose was very rewarding. For me, one of the unexpected things was to discover their often extraordinary command of sound and rhythm. I still think it is worth considering why Churchill wrote “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” rather than “Blood, sweat and tears”. But that is my particular hobby-horse. There are many others. I wish you luck with the journey – some of the best journeys are the ones we make inside our heads, I believe.

Why don’t you just start writing? Like the title of this thread states: Learn by Doing! :slight_smile: