I have a picture of EB White hanging on the wall in my office. He is sitting at his writing desk, which is in a boathouse. White sits on a stark bench, hands poised over his typewriter. The only other items in the room are the ashtray on the table, and the waste can. To me, this photo represents the essence of writing. No distractions. No procrastinating. Just a man, his writing tool of choice, and the words.
Once upon a time, I loved the writing tools more than the writing itself. I loved to talk about writing, to speculate about writing, and to collect writing pens, writing paper, and writing software. One day, when I was complaining about not having time to actually write, my wife asked me, “Why does it bother you?”
“Because I want to write,” I said. I am certain it came out in an exasperated tone.
“No you don’t,” she said. “If you wanted to write, you would write.”
I started to write, and I haven’t been able to stop since.
I have experimented with lots of tools, but I have reached a point where the tools themselves have lost their luster, and what matters most to me is being able to get the words. And, ironically, now that I have reached this point, the tools I use to do my writing has become very important.
I have tried a lot of word processors, “distraction-free writing” apps, etc. And I have settled on one tool to do virtually all of my writing. If you are a serious writer I think you should consider switching to this tool for your writing, too. The tool? Scrivener.
7 Reasons You Should Switch to Scrivener for Your Writing
- Scrivener – One Tool to Rule Them All. In the past, I used different writing software, depending on what stage of writing I happened to be in. For capturing random notes and ideas, for instance, I used TextWrangler or ByWord. For more formalized note taking, I used Evernote, or even the Notes app on my Mac (only God knows why I did that, but I did.) The result was I had notes and bits of writing scattered across all sorts of apps and in various folders, making them difficult to find and nearly impossible to organize. Now I am committed to one tool-Scrivener. All the functionality I need for my writing is contained in this one app. I always know where to find what I wrote, because there’s only one place where I wrote it.
- Scrivener Works Like Writers Think. The software uses metaphors familiar to any writer. It uses a binder for organizing the various pieces of your writing. You can view your writing in composition mode, or in the outline view, and you can move your notes around as if they were separate sheets of paper, organizing and reorganizing them until you get the flow you really want. There’s even a corkboard view, where you can make your notes on virtual 3 x 5 cards and spread them out, just like the great copywriter Gary Halbert used to do. Beautiful.
- Scrivener Is a Great Outliner. Once upon a time, I used mindmaps quite a bit to plan my writing. I discovered, however, that I seemed to spend more time mindmapping that I did actually writing. A friend of mine, Armand Morin, told me once: “Mindmaps are not how people think. Mindmaps are cartoons. It’s not how you write. It’s not how you create. You do all that linearly. Make outlines. Steps.” He was right. I am now a great proponent of outlining, and I have also tried many different outlining tools. There are some very good ones available. Scrivener has an outlining tool built-in, which makes my outliner part of the software I actually use to do my writing. So there’s no need to switch programs or get distracted from the work I’m doing. Mindmaps are cartoons, but we are not cartoonists, we are writers. Outlines are for writers.
- Scrivener Has a Fantastic “Distraction-Free Writing Mode”. I think of this as “EB White mode”. Sure, there are plenty of other apps on the market that give you a distraction-free writing mode. But once again, this feature is built into Scrivener and there’s no need to switch programs. What’s more, it turns out that I find Scrivener’s version of this feature to be the best implementation I’ve seen; a single, pristine column of text.
- In Scrivener, You Are Writing in Plain Text (Sort Of). Over the years, I’ve done quite a bit of writing in text editors like TextWrangler. I like those tools, because they keep me from getting caught up in playing around with fonts, typefaces, and other design elements I should leave alone (because I’m not a designer, I’m a writer.) When you write in Scrivener, you are writing in plain text, but the software does offer multi-markdown functionality. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry about it. It’s just a way to introduce some very basic formatting to the text that you are writing, using some simple “markdown” commands that are universally translatable to other file formats. This way your document always looks the way you intended it to look. You don’t need to know anything about multi-markdown to use Scrivener, but once you learn a few simple commands, I predict you’ll be using it quite a bit. It becomes second nature.
- Scrivener Allows You to Export To Almost Any Format. This is one of the software’s strongest features. Even though you are writing in plain text, you can easily export your work to Microsoft Word, HTML, multi-markdown, PDF, EPUB, Kindle, or iBooks author formats. All your work is easily exportable to other tools so that you can work with publishers and editors no matter what software they may be using. No need to work with bloated, overly complex software like Microsoft Word, when all you are trying to do is write.
- Scrivener Keeps Score. As a working writer, it’s important to me to keep up with my daily word count. I have deadlines, goals, and milestones that have to be met if I am to keep on schedule. For me, that means keeping score. Scrivener has built-in tools for showing you your word count, giving you stats about your writing, even letting you track your progress against goals you have set. It makes writing feel sort of like playing a video game.
Scrivener Has One Downside, But There Is a Solution
The price you have to pay for all of this power and functionality is: Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve. To say the least. Which is not to say that it is difficult to use, but the way it works is so different from other writing software, it does take a little getting used to. And I have found that the most powerful features are not intuitively available-you really do have to learn how to use it in order to get the most out of it.
The power Scrivener gives you to improve your writing is well worth the small investment in time and effort it will take to learn the software. The company that makes a Scrivener provides some very good tutorials and instructions.
But recently, I discovered a much better resource for learning how to truly unleash the power of Scrivener: my good friend Joseph Michael of LearnScrivenerFast.com. I highly recommend his online training course on learning to use Scrivener quickly. This material has really ramped up my knowledge and mastery of Scrivener in record time.
And here’s some good news: I’ve invited Joseph to share some of his best tips and tricks, during a free educational online workshop for my readers. Some of the things you'll discover include:
- How To Get Up & Running With Scrivener Quickly.
- Simple Tricks For Organizing & Working With All of Your Writing Using The Binder
- How To Export Your Book Into Various Formats Including .Mobi, .ePub, .PDF, Doc, & more.
- How To Edit & Save Every Single Version of Your Work (Worry Free)
- A Few Jaw-Dropping Tips & Tricks To Wow Your Peers With 😉
Simply click here to register your seat for the webinar workshop. The online workshop is Wednesday, October 1, 2014, at 4 PM Eastern time.
What to Do Now
If you are not currently using Scrivener, I urge you to take a look at the software and give it strong consideration. I’ve given you 7 reasons why I think you should switch to the software for your writing.
Once you’ve made the decision, go ahead and get Scrivener, and dive in. Commit to the time it will take up front to learn this new tool, so that you can get the tool out of the way, and get to the important part: the writing.
Question: if you use Scrivener already, what is your favorite feature, and why?