By the Wind Grieved

By the Wind Grieved
“O lost, And by the wind grieved, Ghost, Come back again.” Thomas Wolfe

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apps for the Memoir Writer: Scrivener

A couple of posts back I wrote about a recording and note-taking app called AudioNote. Now I will share my experience with a word-processing app called Scrivener that provides a format and tools beyond what MS Word and Apple Pages can do. It is compatible with both of these operating systems as well as with more industry-specific formats in publishing.

Even though I am proficient in probably forty percent of the tools this app offers, I love Scrivener. Beginning with the assumption that any long text is comprised of a collection of much shorter texts that need to be arranged in a cohesive manner, Scrivener allows you to create, organize, manipulate and revise these short sections and then compile them into longer texts.

To make it easy right off the bat, Scrivener offers basic templates for projects in book-length fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, poetry and lyrics, and other miscellaneous forms. Because I am working with memoir, I chose the novel template.

When you open this template, you will see a "binder format" that allows you to view the entire project at once and to create folders for each large chunk of text, as well as folders for each smaller section. In the case of a novel or memoir, this means I can create a folder for each chapter in the book and subfolders within that chapter folder for each scene. The beauty of this is that it allows the writer to seamlessly move between sections. If you get stalled on one scene, you can work on another.You can also choose to view the contents of each folder separately, clicking from one to another, or in "scrivenings" mode, view one continuous flow of text for each chapter, or for the book as a whole.

Another neat function is the split view which allows you to open two chunks of text in the viewing panel. As my project grew, and I worked on different scenes, I used the split view to compare sections without having to toggle back and forth. I also used this when referring to a research document (for which you can create folders outside of the main binder) while composing a scene.

There is also a compose view that pulls up only the text you are working on and eliminates the tool bar at the top and binder on the side, as well as other views that I intend to explore more: one that shows individual texts dealing with different scenes or topics as index cards that can be switched around on a Corkboard, and one that provides an outline view to which can be attached labels or status markers (to do; first draft; second draft; done).

As I move into working on the second draft of my client's memoir, I look forward to learning more about the compile function, which provides front matter and compile settings for creating a manuscript using standard submission format, for creating a self-published paperback novel, or for exporting as an e-book.

Below the main binder, (the contents of which, when the project is completed, will be compiled into a final manuscript) Scrivener also provides character and location sketch sheets, a research folder into which web pages, videos, graphics or text can be imported, and a folder of sample output formats for different publishing options.

This app offers far too many features to discuss in this post. For a technologically sophisticated review, see William Fenton writing for  PCMag. Or simply plunge in. Scrivener provides an in-depth, interactive tutorial that I go back to time and again, and online support. Last time I looked the PC version cost $40.00 and the Mac version $45.00.

For writing assignments of any sort, Scrivener is an investment that will pay off with your first project.


  1. This may be what I am looking for...I was just wondering if it worked with ebooks, and as I was just scrolling backwards, I found that it does...will be checking this out shortly! Thanks, Jhere

  2. Thank you so much for this description and review. It sounds very worthwhile. Great to see you blogging again!

  3. Thanks for the comments Jhere and Linda! Would love to know of other apps or tools you are using.

  4. Very helpful, especially to those of us new to the writer's life. Thanks, Jeanne.

  5. Thanks! Very helpful, especially to us new to the writer's life.

  6. Thanks for finding my "scribbles" on Scrivener Air Jordan # 4, and for commenting. Always interested in how others use this app. Drop by again :-)