Writing with Scrivener: Opening Thoughts

I’m very lucky to be married to someone who is as invested in my PhD as I am, and takes the time to help me through this process. While at work one day, after getting a screenshot of my 3 page dissertation dream timeline, he decided to look into dissertation writing tools, and happily discovered posts suggesting Scrivener. Having purchased a license for Scrivener a few years ago, he was no stranger to it. Since I had yet to discover any particular process for getting my prospectus draft started, I decided to give it a go! So far, I LOVE IT…SO SO MUCH. I’m writing this as my reflection on my personal introduction to Scrivener, and include four of the main features that I have been finding super helpful in the early stages of my prospectus.

First, a little bit about Scrivener: It’s put out by Literature and Latte, a UK based company, and costs ~$45 for a lifetime license. (They also offer a free 30-day trial, and an education price!) It’s a writing application designed for large writing projects, like novels, screenplays, etc. There are SO many different features, and I recommend checking out some of their video tutorials.

This might not be a tool for everyone, it might be the tool that changes your whole relationship with writing, or it might fall somewhere in the middle. Either way, here are just four of the features that I’ve been really excited by:

  1. The “writing” mode: Scrivener offers a full-screen writing mode. It changes the color and contrast to be easier on the eyes. It also completely blocks the rest of my computer screen, and as someone who is often and easily sidetracked, this is a huge plus!
  2. Organization and Layout: I have always loved having binders, notebooks, and folders for each of my different classes or projects. Now that I do most things digitally, I find I often miss being able to micro-organize things. Set up as “binders,” with interior folders and texts, Scrivener allows me to draw on my love of organizing, while saving trees! I have to approach large projects and tasks in small chunks; otherwise, I get overwhelmed and can’t do anything. The way I structure my work here is by having separate sections for my free-writing, prospectus, research, and my someday manuscript. It’s nice seeing where I’m heading, and knowing how I’ll get there.
  3. Cork board View: This allows me to view each of my sections as index cards with brief synopses of each section. I can move them around easily, which really helps with my organizing and structuring in these early draft stages.
  4. Split Selection: I don’t quite know how to describe this one, but here goes. Oftentimes, as I write, I’ll start working on a section only to realize it doesn’t quite fit. I like the ideas and what I’m saying, but it really is either its own idea, or belongs in a different piece. With Scrivener, I can select the text that I want to move, and “split it.” This creates a new text within the folder I’m working in. It allows a near seamless motion, as I can move it quickly, and continue working on either selection.

These are just a few of the features in Scrivener that I have found particularly helpful in my early drafting phases. As I continue, I’m sure I’ll start working on progress targets, setting daily word count goals and tracking my writing progression with bars and percentages. I’m also looking forward to the flexibility of sections, headings, and sub-headings, which will be really useful as I begin working on the manuscript and chapters.

It might be that it’s just something new and shiny, but I have found myself getting even more into my writing. I’m sure it also helps that I’m working on research that I chose and that I find rewarding, but having the right tools isn’t so bad either!

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