The Writer's Cookbook

Writing, productivity, publishing.

How Scrivener Changed my Writing Life, and Can Change Yours, too

For a full breakdown of Scrivener’s features, check out this post.


I’ve always found novel writing like drowning in words. There’s so many of them I easily lose track of what’s happened where and when.

It doesn’t help that I don’t write chronologically, even if I’ve planned out the story. I write the most important scenes first, then write everything else around them.

Using a program like Microsoft Word to do this can become confusing very quickly.

Almost a year ago, I was first introduced to Scrivener. I’d never heard of it before, but after hearing it I quickly realised a lot of writers use it, and I can see why.

I bought Scrivener whilst sitting on the floor of our old flat, about half an hour before we moved out. We wouldn’t have an internet connection at the new house, nor would we have an aerial for at least a week, so I figured the best thing to do during downtime was to write. I’d already used my free trial and discovered how much more organised my writing process could be, so I was excited to see how much more writing I could get done if I continued to use it.

Eight months and several rewrites later, the light at the end of the novel-writing tunnel is finally, FINALLY visible. 

A screenshot of What Happens in New York in Scrivener.

A screenshot of the opening of What Happens in New York. You can see the chapter layout along the left, as well as some of the notes I’ve left for myself.

I’ve reorganised the chapter structure of What Happens in New York more times than I can count. I’ve cut scenes, I’d added them back in, I’ve completely rewritten characters and even the plot. I didn’t always enjoy doing that, but Scrivener made the whole process so, so much easier.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always an easy program to use. The interface is confusing and frankly intimidating when you first use it, but there are plenty of books, courses and webinars on how to use it. Alternatively if you have a friend that knows how to use it, even better!

I’d recommend Scrivener if you…

  • Have more than one word processing document related to your novel
  • Don’t write chronologically
  • Are incredibly disorganised
  • Struggle to finish writing projects
  • Like to keep things organised

Scrivener has had a huge impact on my writing life, and if I hadn’t purchased it I’m not sure I would’ve finished What Happens in New York: I just wouldn’t have had the patience.

I now feel like I’m swimming in words, not drowning in them, because with Scrivener you can focus on one scene, and that one scene is the only thing you’ll see. The rest of the manuscript fades into the background, ready for when you want to work on it.

Also, I know exactly when and where the page and chapter breaks are.

I can move scenes around and see how they fit into different chapters, or scrap them entirely if they don’t work.

And the best part? It can format it for an eBook, PDF for print, Microsoft Office document, or a custom layout of your choosing. It’ll even automatically generate a contents page for you.

It’s so, so versatile, and it’s the best £30 I’ve ever spent.

(It has since gone up in price—in 2017 it’s now priced at ~£40.)

Scrivener is available for Mac and PC, and you can find out more about it over on their website, Literature and Latte.

Just for the record, nobody from Scrivener has asked me to write this. I’m just a writer whose life has been changed by this program and wants to help change your writing life too.

Want to find out exactly what Scrivener can do?

For more details on what Scrivener can do, check out Scrivener vs Novlr: which is the best writing software for you?

Over to You

Have you used Scrivener? Has it had as significant an impact on your writing life as it has on mine? I’d love to hear your stories! Share them with me in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

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2 Comments

  1. Clare Stevens

    Not used it but now I’m thinking I will give it ago for my next novel as I don’t chronologically and one of the biggest challenges while writing my first one was putting all the bits together!

    • That was the issue I faced too, and was probably part of the reason why I seldom finished things. It’s definitely a great organisational tool for the disorganised mind!

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