New User Fast Tracks Up The Learning Curve

First let me say that the learning curve is not too huge. But I have a job and my time is limited, especially for learning new software programs. I also need a good reason to commit to a software program which I found when some creative ideas for a ‘personal’ writing project popped into my grey matter. One idea in particular decided to stick around. So I began jotting down these ideas in my Moleskine notebook .

My day job is writing advertising and marketing communications so most of my time is spent in Quark or InDesign. And I too loathe MS Word. On-line, I researched various writing programs and quickly narrowed my choice to Scrivener for three reasons: First, the fabulous logo. (I’m a sucker for great design). Second, the developer’s philosophy on program development. (It was like finding a soul mate.) Third, the active base of committed users and knowledgeable, friendly support on the Scrivener Forum. So I downloaded the demo.

30 Days: how to make the best use of my time. I did all the regular stuff. I looked at the on-line video demo (3 times). I’ve done the tutorial (twice). I downloaded the ScrivenerHelp.pdf file and gave it a quick read. And most important, I spent some time reading the comments in the Technical Support section of the Forum, so now I know that I won’t be using the Tutorial Project for my personal writing project. And if I press the Delete button and something disappears, I’ll look in the Trash and it will miraculously re-appear. Neat!

Time to get to the Fast Tracking bit, eh?

Ok, here goes. I created a New Project for my very own creative project in Scrivener, took all my ideas from the notebook and created separate text files in the Research folder. Import some pdf files and some images into the Research folder, created five Chapter folders in the Draft/Manuscript folder. Then came to a quick stop!

Did I really want to experiment with my very own creative project? I needed a ‘safer’, more non-threating way to to go beyond the basics and really experiment within Scrivener.

Now there’s an on-line story that I really, really love. I’ve read it twice over the years and wanted to spend more time with it inside Scrivener. So I made one long Rich Text document of the story, created a new Scrivener project for it and dragged the file into the Research folder.

What’s the difference between this project file and my own personal creative project file? In a word: Freedom. Yes, I like the story, but it’s not mine so I can mess about with it all I like inside Scrivener. Explore features galore. The sense of freedom is liberating and my learning truly did accelerate.

This particular story runs over 28 chapters and prints out at 404 pages. Scrivener tells me that it contains 131,459 words and 710,110 characters.

Within the Draft/Manuscript folder, I created separate folders for each Chapter and then divided the one text file into individual chapters using Split at Selection and placed each file inside its corresponding Chapter folder. Then I started ‘close reading’ at Chapter 1 and divided each chapter into individual scenes annotating the story as I went. I used Document Notes to make lengthier comments on individual scenes. I use Project Notes to record comments on what I was learning about Scrivener and what I want to do: like customizing the Labels within the meta-data. By the time I got to Chapter 6, I’ve decided to change Labels to Story Arc and create individual labels based on how I perceived the tone of each scene ie: Positive, Negative, Neutral, Positive to Neutral, etc.

Keywords are fun and handy. I’ve created a keyword for each major and minor character within the story and keywords for several major themes. This really expanded my searching capabilities.

I’ve processed all 28 chapters and learned much more about Styles, Compile Manuscript and other features – all risk free and fun too. I can experiment to my hearts content with this project file and apply what I’ve learnt to my own creative project.

One final thing: In my ‘close reading’ of this story, I was somewhere in Chapter 18 when I made my first annotation about this being a ‘key scene for a screenplay’.

You never know what you’ll discover when you learn Scrivener, do you?
I guess I have a new creative project on my hands.

Thanks for reading.


Not only a good way to learn Scrivener - that’s a good way to learn plot and structure!