New potential user question

I have a 500+ page novel I have worked on for a number of years that is part of a trilogy, the first three chapters of what I hope to be a middle reader series, and most of a play - all written and in Word. I am considering making the move to Scrivener, especially with the first in the trilogy because it is a relatively complicated novel. How difficult is it to make such a move to this software and how beneficial might it be? The primary novel is complex and I could use some help in keeping all the parts of it straight. Should I just stick to Word and tough it out, or will this really help? Is the learning curve tall enough to interfere with actually writing?


I think I’ll leave other users to answer your questions, as obviously my own answers would be biased. I will say that this is exactly the sort of thing for which I designed Scrivener, but it all depends on how well you get on with the program. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend downloading the free 30-day trial and going through the tutorial that comes with that, and then also looking at some of our tutorial videos (starting with the introductory video):

This should give you a good idea of what you can do in Scrivener, and whether you think it will help you with your projects.

I hope some fellow users will be able to give you their opinions.

Thanks for your interest,
All the best,

The short answer: yes, it’s very definitely worth switching to Scrivener from Word for all future work, but whether it’s worth transferring what you’ve already done could depend on how complete the pieces are.

The slightly longer answer: I used to work in Word (on Windows) and it worried me, after the software became unstable as the number of pages rose and I lost many hours. The application is probably much more stable now, but I still would not trust it. Scrivener is designed for long-form writing, unlike Word of course, which is mainly designed for business — correspondence, reports, memos and the like. There’s quite a lot to learn with Scrivener, but there’s also a huge amount of guidance available — Help, Tutorials, videos, FAQ, Wiki, this forum — and you certainly don’t have to absorb it all at once in order to start using the software. There are still features I’m learning about now after two-plus years.

But the task of transferring the 500 pages and the play to Scrivener in forms which would enable you to use Scr.'s functionality to the full may not be worth the effort. It could depend on how much work you still have to do on them.


Trundling a 500-page ms through the bogs and fens of Word seems to me a hell of a lot more work than transferring the whole to Scrivener, where you can shift and twist and re-arrange and edit – and add to – with enormous ease. The actual transfer process depends to some degree on your novel’s structure. I began trying Scr with about a 300-page ms which I dumped en masse into a single project, then broke down into sections and later into chapters and eventually into sub-chapters. Sounds intimidating, but actually was fairly simple and straightforward (and in the process, I discovered a number of structural flaws in the novel).

I was convinced, and bought the program, before I even finished setting up that first ms. Best software move I ever made.


My writing partner and I had all of our research data for a novel in a giant DTP database, and we were struggling to create a draft in Word. Along came Scrivener. We dumped the draft files into Scrivener, split them up into Binder items, and suddenly started moving along at a far better pace. We kept multiple draft versions in Scrivener until quite late in the process, when agent and editors wanted to read a complete version. We exported that to Pages, applied word processing tools to create a uniform appearance, and we stayed in Pages right through the comment and revise stages with editors. So, the secondary moral here is, that you don’t need Word at all. (PS: novel appears in Feb 2010)

I find that moving documents from Word into Scrivener is a relatively pain-free process. Just drag in each of the individual chapters, then use the text-splitting functionality in Scrivener to break up each of the pieces as you like. If you have endnotes or footnotes, you’ll need to save the Word file as .rtf first.

Full disclosure: I will do almost anything to avoid writing in Word.