Learning Scrivener

Scrivener is for big writing such as novels and non-fiction books. It is also wonderful with briefer works such as short stories, blog posts, and things that start small but might later bloom.

To cope with the big works, Scrivener can do a lot of things.

And there’s the rub: like the works it supports, Scrivener is also big.

“Too big,” beginners might say looking at the 900 page reference manual.

The good news is you don’t need everything. It’s there if you do but, for the most part, you can ignore any/all things that you don’t know how to use.

Let me say that again. With Scrivener, it’s safe to ignore what you don’t know. You can still use it, and it’ll still be a valuable tool for you.

And, as time passes, you can delve a little deeper here and there, learn something new, and then go back and apply it–as you want–to your earlier works. Or not!

Here’s a suggested strategy and some on-going warnings. If you’re like me, this will take a long time. Expand your knowledge when time and inclination permit. Meanwhile, live your life and use what little you know of Scrivener to write stuff. (Your use of Scrivener will never be perfect. “Good enough” is good enough.)

  1. Don’t Panic! (Hat tip to Douglas Adams.)
  2. Beware of unconscious prejudices you’ve learned from Microsoft Word and other document editors. Scrivener appears to be WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) but that is like saying the white part above the water is an iceberg. In fact, that’s only 5% of it. Scrivener is a whole lot more. [Added 03/11/2021]
  3. Install Scrivener on your computer.
  4. Do the built-in Help -> Interactive Tutorial.
  5. Closed book test: Re-write “Little Red Riding Hood” or some other simple fable in Scrivener. (Don’t copy/paste it. Outline the story in your head, transfer that to Scrivener, and then write the story as if it were your own.)
  6. Watch some of the Help -> Video Tutorials and, as the spirit moves you, create a File -> New Project to experiment. (I name mine “DeleteMe-xxx” where “xxx” is something descriptive, and the “DeleteMe” is so I later know it can be trashed.)
  7. Find a place to ask stupid questions. Scrivener Users on Facebook is pretty good. There’s a similar group on MeWe, and probably many others. Read the posts, ask your questions, ignore the assholes, and experiment in Scrivener.
  8. Print the entire Help -> Scrivener Manual. Don’t Panic! Yeah, I know. It’s 900 pages. Three-hole punch it and stick it in a binder. You’re gonna want a hardcopy to scribble your notes. (Don’t want to? Okay, it’s your printer, not mine. Do this how you want.)
  9. Repeat indefinitely as time and interest permits:
    1. Read the Scrivener Manual, write notes in the margin. Ignore sections you don’t (yet) understand, and when you find something intriguing, use a paper clip or something else to mark the spot and go play around with Scrivener.
    2. Go to Youtube and search for Scrivener. Watch any tutorials that look interesting. Create new projects and experiment as the spirit moves you.
    3. Check the blog at Literature & Latte on a periodic basis. (Once a month? Put it in your calendar.)
    4. Google Scrivener and follow any interesting links. Dabble more.
    5. But most of all, write your stuff in Scrivener.

Nobody knows or uses all of Scrivener. Instead, we all use the parts that help us do what we do, and glide blissfully past the parts we don’t. If parts of Scrivener can help you write, then use them. If other parts don’t seem to apply, then ignore them. Maybe they’ll be useful later. Maybe not.

In time, you’ll use more and more of Scrivener, and it’ll help make your writing better and better.

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