Debunked: Top Five Excuses Writers Give For Not Using Scrivener

Here’s why Scrivener can easily become your one love for organizing your research and writing.

I came late to the Scrivener party, when I’d written half of my novel, A Habit of Hiding. But this writing program has been my one love ever since. We’ve been through some tough times together, and have always grown stronger for it. Now that I’m researching my historical fiction novel as I write, I can’t imagine keeping it together without Scriv (my affectionate nickname for my beloved writing parter). No longer must I hunt for what I’ve gathered. Scriv helps me store it all under one roof, and find it at a glance.

Nice and Tidy Thanks to Scrivener | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016
Better Than an iRobot Roomba: Everything in its place under the Scrivener roof  © 2016

I’m a believer in specific items suited to specific tasks—I’ve written much HERE about using Adobe Lightroom to tame the beast that is my image collection of 24,688 photographs, and I’m passionate about its merits. Scrivener is equally impressive in its far-less-costly and much-less-resource-intensive way. While most photographers in our universe use Lightroom, I’ve found far fewer writers using Scrivener.

Here are the Top Five excuses I hear:

1. It’s confusing to learn.

You’re afraid of learning something new? You’re a writer! You eavesdrop on conversations every chance you get, right? You dive into research like a pelican plunging into the ocean, don’t you? Aren’t you capable of losing yourself for days online just because you Googled one tiny stat for your blog?

2. I’ve been using Word forever.

And it never crashes on you, does it? Never announces you need a critical security update the instant you launch it, though your head is ablaze with the fervor of a new plot line, and your fingers are poised to pound out the words that are flowing like raging floodwaters?

3. I’ve got everything organized in folders and bookmarked in my browser.

And you can put your cursor on the proper folder every time, right? No hunting around, trying to recall which folder it’s in and where you filed it? No futile searches that won’t cough up the third chapter you discarded but now realize is better? And you never burrow down into the internet rabbit hole when you’re reviewing your bookmarks, right?

Your research before Scrivener | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016
Your research before Scrivener: Folders, notes and books galore  © 2016

4. That’s what Post-It Notes, folders, books and journals are for.

Don’t you have so many post-it notes stuck to your monitor that your view of those lovely words you’re writing is infringed? Aren’t you distracted from your latest plot twist when the ones that have been stuck there the longest lose their stickiness and float onto your keyboard? Don’t you waste a lot of time paging through all those journals and file folders, looking for the one nugget you wrote down on some napkin that will fully sketch out your antagonist?

5. My 642 color-coded index cards work just fine.

How many times have you crossed them out and rewritten them and then had to reorder them and then found you had to renumber them? And when you finally laid them all out chronologically on the living room floor (kneeling there, because they were too vast to fit on the dining room table), and rearranged them so many times your knees began to scream, the dog chased the cat through the room and messed them all up?

The bottom line is this. You used a binder in high school, didn’t you? Well, that’s what Scrivener is: One very powerful binder for all of your research and words.

Scrivener: Just like your handy high school binder
Scrivener: Just like your handy high school binder

What Scrivener is: One very powerful binder for all of your research and words. Tweet:

You’ll learn Scrivener by using it. That’s how you’ll learn to love it, too, since you’ll always be discovering new ways to use Scrivener. And you’ll come to appreciate it the most as your one-stop shop for all of your writing materials.

You’ll love how you’re able to focus on your words, because you’ve gathered everything—notes, research, websites, images, soundtracks, videos, random files, even texts copied from ebooks—under Scriv’s very sound roof.

Import Videos to Play: Like these waterfalls to ease writer's block
Import Videos and Play Them (Like these waterfalls that ease writer’s block)

You’ll soon be dragging and dropping files and sites and images (even videos!) into Scrivener with abandon, no longer having to hunt around for them or switch between applications or launch websites.

You’ll find yourself rearranging and organizing the color-coded index cards you’ve created for your scenes, chapters and ideas on your corkboard, and rewriting them on the fly. Your index card budget can be repurposed for redecorating your writing space.

You’ll be consulting your general notes and your document-specific notes distraction-free from those Post-Its that once circled your monitor like vultures looming for the kill.

Handy to Have Handy on Your Kindle App | iPhoneography by Jann Alexander © 2016
Handy to Have Handy on Your Kindle App: Your Guide to Scrivener  © 2016

And here are three more Things Scrivener Can Do You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

There are lots of resources, most of them free, for learning how to use Scrivener, starting with the tutorial built right into the program when you launch it. If you’ve already got a manuscript in progress, you can import it into Scrivener and keep writing—that’s how I  learned it, in addition to consulting these sites:

Here are a few visuals to show you what Scriv does for me—besides tidying up my workspace faster than an iRobot Roomba:

The Corkboard: Putting the index card manufacturers out of business
Scrivener’s Corkboard, All Labeled: Putting the index card manufacturers out of business

Scrivener: A built-in editor to slash and burn wordy novels
Scrivener’s Project Statistics: A built-in editor to slash and burn wordy novels

Pro Tip: Copy research text from a Kindle app to a Scrivener doc, and its annotation comes along for the ride.   Tweet:

Multitasking: Scrivener at a Glance
Multitasking: Putting Scrivener to work with web imports and annotated Kindle text

Timeline for my Historical Fiction Novel: Drag and Drop into Scrivener
Drag and Drop: An Excel timeline for my historical fiction novel with a link to launch its file

What’s missing from Scrivener? Not much. But to be frank, there are two things I’d like to have built in:

  • A timeline-building function (As a workaround, I create my timelines in Excel, and drag the file icon into Scrivener for a direct link, or copy/paste it to preserve its tables as a read-only scaleable graphic)
  • A browser extension (For clipping and saving directly from websites, similar to the Evernote extension)

But rest assured, what’s missing from Scriv is minor, compared to how essential it’s become in our creative relationship.

When my debut novel, A Habit Of Hiding, finds its publisher and you’ve finished reading it (read an excerpt HERE), you’ll see this tribute to Scriv in my acknowledgements:

“And finally, my eternal gratitude to Scriv for your unfailing organizational prowess and your readiness to tackle any writing challenge. Your grateful author thanks you.”

Convinced? I’d love to hear how you use Scrivener in the comments.

You can read up on its features and download a free trial of Scrivener HERE (I don’t get a dime, I’m just one of the legions of fans). If you decide to purchase it, you can frequently find a coupon code for savings, or a better price from a reseller, if you hunt around online. Hat tip to the Daily Post for its weekly photo challenge, which dovetails so nicely with this writer’s One Love: Scrivener.

Jann Alexander's A Habit of Hiding_Book Cover

You can get a sneak peek of my upcoming novel: 

Read an excerpt from A Habit of Hiding here

For more on the art of writing, look HERE.

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82 thoughts on “Debunked: Top Five Excuses Writers Give For Not Using Scrivener

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        1. Thanks, Sarah, I’ve been eager to see it arrive—appreciate the headsup! I’ve got a smaller iPad, so I’m not sure I’d use it. It would be a godsend if I have a larger one. The App Store shows it’s getting stunning 5-star reviews. How are you using it and liking it?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Don’t have the app yet but loving the laptop version. I mostly still write in Word (I know) but Scrivener keeps things so organized! SO much better than scrolling through pages and pages of Word. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        3. You’ve nailed it Sarah, it keeps everything organized in ONE environment. All under one roof. Did you realize there’s a 40% off sale on Scrivener for desktop, Mac and Win, that ends today at midnight? It’s a pretty sweet deal on a pretty sweet product. Thanks for responding. Happy writing, wherever you write!


  1. Great post and advice, Jann. I have Scrivener and am not using it.I could say that it is on the To-Do list, but the truth is that it is low down the list. You have inspired me to get off my rump and learn to use it. I have been through the tutorials twice, but that’s as far as I have gone with it.

    After NaNo this year I got a discount on Aeon Timeline by Scribble Code). I have given it a half-hearted shot and it is actually quite nice. It may be what you are looking for because it syncs with Scriv.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I adore Scrivener! It has made my writing process so much more manageable, from first draft to all those revisions. It’s a great organization tool. I was skeptical at first, but if I can learn it, anyone can. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been using Scriviner for a while now. I run Linux, so my Scrivener version is free (as it is still in beta and probably will be for a long time), but the second I need to start paying to use it, I will be warming up my credit card. I can’t imagine writing without it anymore. It is absolutely awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How do you get scrivener on Linux I tried to install it but could not, and I looked it up and found out that they stopped supporting linux.


  4. I started writing with Scrivener. I tried a few times using word or something else, but I found that it couldn’t keep up with the way I thought. As I would rough out a chapter, I would make notes in another chapter. If I changed the action in one chapter, I would have to remember to deal with it in another.

    Scrivener works the way I think. I can jump all over the place or I can do heads down writing without breaking the mood and having to think about the technology.

    I was hooked right off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your description of Scrivener’s versatility is spot on. Each of us work differently, yet fans have the sense you describe so beautifully: “Scrivener works the way I think.” Terrific point about the ability to change things at a glance, too.


  5. As soon as they have a seamless way of swapping between Mac and iPad I’ll be back. They’ve promised an OS version for years; meanwhile the tablet not the desk has become the norm for many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was longing for an iPad version too, but I’m not sure how the many functions Scrivener offers on the desktop will translate to an iPad (especially a mini, which I have). I’m hooked on using it on a big iMac screen since I can see so many views side by side and all at once. But I’m intrigued by the iPad app possibilities.


  6. As scientist i miss PDF viewer with selecting and coloring some parts. I have to use third part app (as preview app from Apple)


  7. I just started using Scrivener, Jann, and I love it too! Got the free trial for 45 days and now I’m hooked. Haven’t gotten nearly as far along as you as far as implementing all the tools, but my favorite thing so far is what you said—everything is there at a glance. I no longer have to shuffle back through pages or files to find something I wrote several chapters ago. Also LOVE the ability to break everything down into scenes rather than chapters. That has helped a ton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All true, Colleen, I second that! It’s great to be able to stay in the Scrivener world and not become distracted by opening other software or going online. Glad you’re jumping right in, let me know what tricks you discover and love. Next on my list is to start using tags effectively. Seems like that could be helpful during edits of a novel or just during the writing stage.


  8. An option for timelines might be Scapple, also by Literature and Latte. I haven’t actually tried it myself, and it’s more of brainstorming software than timeline software, but it might be worth a look. You might find it useful in other ways instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An update—I heard back from Literature & Latte about timelines. The recommendation is Aeon Timeline, which integrates with Scriv. I gave it a go once, and decided I could crank through an Excel version faster. But I’ll give it another look.


  9. I have been using Scrivener for 5+ years. Great app. Two primary projects: 1. Seminary curriculum: including weekly teaching notes, courses, professors, etc. (nice to have hundreds of files sorted and easy to find and continue writing and expanding); 2. Blogs: I maintain four blogs, and this allows me to sort, rearrange, and focus my writing. In addition, i have written two published articles and one major presentation. If i need to I can export to .docx or .rtf files, and have never had a problem. Scrivener is top notch (along with Nisus Writer Pro), and my experience reflects Jann’s.

    Keep in mind that I come from an era using a 1919 typewriter through high school (true story). Never took typing classes, but managed to get 4 years of college, plus 9 years postgraduate education all before computers. I still have every note and every paper written for the postgraduate education. When I retire (I’m old enough now, but…) I hope to put all of that intro the computer and major sections into Scrivener.

    Very nice article, Jann.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re really putting Scrivener through its paces! I’m impressed with all the ways you’re using it. Good to know it’s capable of handling what sounds like a huge database you’ve built. Getting all of your typed work into digital format sounds daunting, but Scrivener is certainly up to the task. Your 1919 typewriter wouldn’t be one of these, would it?
      “Where Old Typewriters Go To Die”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great photo. The one just left of center is the type I used from 1964-1971. When I got married in 1971 my wife had a Smith-Corona portable, and used that until 1990 when I bought my first Mac.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Glad if these rang a sweet memory bell for you. I grew up with an old Underwood that my dad had once used. Later I started collecting old manuals, and alas, gave them all away before a move. Wish I had that Underwood back. Not that I’d use it. Just loved looking at it.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Good ideas in this thread. I used Word for many papers and articles and for my Thesis and hope never to repeat that nightmare again. I use Scrivener to organize post ideas and to write posts for my blog and I am beginning to use it for my dissertation. Hoping it can save me some stress.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. My hangup with Scrivener is its labyrinthine and inadequate Compile feature, which despite its complexity still describes itself as “Export…for final formatting in a dedicated word processor.” The amount of “final” fixup can be startling, even for simple short stories. For example: having compiled my story as a Word file, I find that it has no concept of styling – section breaks between source files are dutifully marked with # as requested, but as plain text, not as a heading style. The failure of the software to produce clean, professional output as demanded by typesetters and book designers — I’m talking about the simplest conventional novel, not a medical textbook — is a deal breaker. After struggling with it, I’m sticking with Evernote, Dropbox, and a careful hierarchy of folders.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was initially stymied by Compile, on my first-ever attempts with a novel I hadn’t properly set up with each chapter in its own folder (I learned my lesson). I haven’t had a need yet to do much more compiling with it, finding that exporting it all back to Word was the output required by my copy editor and agents. Still, the bennies of its features make it worthwhile for me to figure out whatever perplexes me. The more I use Scriv, the easier it gets.


  11. Do you really think all the great novels written before Scrivener would have been better if written with Scrivener? Whatever floats your own boat, Jann. IMO, writing software may facilitate getting books written, but can’t do much to make them better books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scrivener, computers, typewriters and journals don’t make a writer talented. But authors writing the great novels before the internet age didn’t have access to the massive amounts of research from many sources that we do today. That’s what makes Scrivener relevant—corralling all of that so that writers can focus on writing this century’s great novels.


  12. I’ve been using (and loving) Scriv for years and I’m still learning new tricks. Everything—books, blog posts, blurbs, bios—goes on Scriv where they can been kept, found & organized! One word: Indispensable.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve never used it, but from what you’ve written and the comments, I can see why you love it. I see you mention Lightroom. You prefer that to Photoshop evidently. Do you have a minute to tell me why? I’m thinking about getting one or the other before my photos get any further out of control.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to offer insights about Lightroom v. Photoshop, Janet! Sounds like Lightroom will be the best choice for corralling all of your photos—that’s what it’s for, to act as a giant library (database) for all photos in their original state, and you’ll have the ability to do almost any image edit you desire right within the Lightroom environment. It won’t alter your photos; Lightroom just saves the alterations you make, and applies them on export. You’re able to automate common functions to apply to batches of images, and it has powerful search options. Photoshop, on the other hand, is many things to many people and allows massive creative alterations, but isn’t a dedicated library. Perhaps you can download a Lightroom trial and check it out? Let me know what you think.


  14. Been using Scrivener since the PC beta. I have it on both my PC and my Mac. Never did any formal learning, just playing as I go. Kind of like football. Reading and watching are okay, but you gotta put on a uniform to learn what you can do.
    I use mine for fiction writing, blog writing, recipes, research holding.
    I color code my fiction cards based on what type of scene it is.
    I can see if characters or special words are shining enough or not.
    I have pictures of my characters so I don’t change their eye color mid-story.
    I’m an organization freak, so this has been perfect for me.
    I LOVE Scrivener, and try to convert people if they ask my opinion on what to use.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love Scrivener and did find quite a learning curve. I took a couple of courses offered through Udemy that were quite helpful. I would also point out that you get to use it free for 30 days, non-consecutive days that is.


  16. Interesting post. I once thought writing software like Scrivener was silly, but once I started using writing software I saw the benefits. However, I won’t use Scrivener because I found a free alternative. yWriter gives me everything I need without the gimmicky bells and whistles of Scrivener.


    1. There are plenty of benefits. Not familiar with yWriter. Will check it out. The cost of Scrivener isn’t much, though, for the many features it offers—I think it’s now around $45 but there is always a coupon code out there somewhere for at least 20% off.


  17. Lightroom and Scrivener are my two favourite programs. I used Word trying to make progress writing my book. The bigger the manuscript got, the more depressed I became: the usual Word problems of unwanted format changes etc.. Scrivener changed all that and I never look back. Now I’m an evangelist for it, and recently converted my wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Jann,
    Look at all these interested people! I have heard of Scrivener, but have no idea what it is. If you would like to write a guest post for my readers explaining what Scrivener is, and how it could help bloggers, you would be welcome.If you are interested, let me know. I write at a blogging tips site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Had not heard of TimeGlider, Paula, I’ll be checking that out. Thanks. I’ve found that once I got past the pain of creating a timeline template in Excel, it’s working okay for me. Of course, every time change I make is a manual change on the spreadsheet. So I’m glad to know about that option. Appreciate it!

      You know, lots of bloggers swear by Scrivener for their posts. I’m not one of them, yet—I’m content with the system I have on But I’ll be looking into it for the guest post. Thanks for your comments.


  19. Hi Jann 🙂
    Thank you for this lovely article about an app that I started using a while ago. You’re right on every excuse, that’s exactly what I said to myself when I didn’t have it. But now… the app is so cool that I can’t not use it. It’s just perfect to write anything: novel, short story, script,… I love it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Estelle, it’s so great to hear–Thanks for commenting! Nice to have my experiences (assumptions) confirmed. I think back to the first novel I wrote in Word…and how discovering Scrivener midway through that changed my writing life…and now, I’m working on a research-intensive novel that wouldn’t even be possible sans Scrivener.

      Of course I enjoy learning new tricks, too, and Scrivener keeps me on my toes there, in a good way! Would love to hear more about your favorite ways to use it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I basically use it to separate my chapters and get them all together on the same document. I also love the “session target” because it shows me my words are adding up. It’s not always easy to feel it when you’re working on a big project like a novel.
        What are yours? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep, session target is cool. Another useful tool I like (when writing) is the function that shows word usage. Now I’m in a heavy research phase, and using custom meta-data, keywords and status etc to get it all organized and chronological and searchable in the outline mode. Such an diverse program!

          Liked by 1 person

  20. Good to read your article 🙂

    I’m not an author per-se, but work in the IT industry and have to write numerous long winded design documents. Came across Scrivener a number of years ago and now use both Windows and Mac versions.

    I find it ideal for writing technical documents as I can reference lots of other technical documents that I use to build my main one. I also insert excels, word, email, powerpoint, web pages etc into my references. Makes my life so much easier.

    I tend to release versions of the document on an iterative basis so can use the compile function to create these. Also I’ve customised a number of elements to so I can put in who is responsible for providing me details for different sections so makes my ‘To-Do’ list easier.

    Another tool I use alongside Scrivener is Dragon Dictate when using the Mac version. I love being able to relax back in my chair and dictate directly into Scrivener. It take a change to your mindset and most of us speak differently to how we write, but find it a good extension, even though I’m a fast typist.

    The future use I am currently looking at for Scrivener is for blogging as I’ve just started two new blog-sites, one for reviews of technology and one for a new IT methodology I’m developing called ‘Failing Faster’. So looking forwards to trying to build a new workflow for that.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark, you’ve given me a fantastic idea with Dragon Dictate! Much of my research isn’t available in ebook form, so I’ve been reading books the old-fashioned way, taking notes with my pen and transcribing laboriously by typing it back into Scrivener. But by using my Mac OS X Sierra dictation function, I can just read aloud and dictate the pertinent info directly into Scrivener! You have no idea how this rocks my world. BIG THANKS!!

      And thanks for sharing how you use Scrivener. I’m in a heavy research phase now, and it sounds like we use it much the same, even though I’m writing historical fiction at the moment. I like sorting and viewing the custom meta-data, labels, keywords and status in the Outline mode. Plenty of writers use it to track their blog posts, too, though I don’t (yet). If you intended to turn your blog posts into a book one day, it would be worth doing. In any event…Call me a Scrivener Fan Club Member For Life!


  21. Thank you for writing this, I get so tired of people using these excuses. It seems like a whole cottage industry out there catering to the myth that Scrivener is confusing or difficult. It makes my work so much easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate hearing from you! Thanks for validating my premise 😀 Funny how we converts get frustrated by writers who stick to Word, isn’t it? I’m just happy I discovered Scrivener. And that Scrivener exists. It’s clear it was developed by a very passionate writer with writers in mind. Thanks for your comments.


  22. You asked about ‘A browser extension (For clipping and saving directly from websites, similar to the Evernote extension)’.
    Do use (on the Mac) the ‘Services’ feature? Perhaps I’m not picking up on your precise need.
    In a web page (or its Reader view [Command-Shift-R]) select your text then right click to bring up a contextual menu. At the bottom you’ll see ‘Services’ with a variety of items in a further sub-menu. These provide numerous options for getting the text into Scrivener as new clippings or appended clippings to existing texts in your active Scrivener document.
    If this is all coals to Newcastle for you, forgive me

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I would love to use Scrivener, but the copyediting environment I’m part of—which makes (so far) exclusive use of Word’s Track Changes—doesn’t let me. I know that Scrivener has its own commenting and change tracking abilities, but they are not as extensive, nor—more importantly—are they fully compatible with Word’s.

    If I were actually an author, I believe it would be my tool of choice. However, as an editor, with peer collaboration and no control over what “everybody else” uses, I just haven’t been able to make the switch yet.


  24. I love a lot of things about Scrivener, but there are two things that prevent me from raving about it.

    First, you can’t collaborate. Google Docs does none of the great things Scrivener does, but it does allow people to work together on a document.

    Second, and this is for everyone, not just people who write stuff together: Compile.

    Compile. How many hours have I wasted struggling with compile? I’ve resorted to doing the writing on Scrivener and using *cough* Word *cough* to format the document, and that is a horrible confession to have to make.

    The problem isn’t that compile doesn’t work.

    It probably does, but to get it to do something a little out of the default settings… like flying an Airbus from a submarine using an app on a mobile phone. Not comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

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