My path to Scrivener

Most of the authors I know started their novels on Microsoft Word. For the power user it is the paramount in clerical word processing. For general usage LibreOffice, Apple’s Pages and the like are equally suited.

I soon found that as a tool for writing a complex series of novels, the linear nature of a word processor was too limiting. The program structured the text in a way that made locating scenes and shuffling them around arduous. One of the other problems that I encountered was the vast array of disorganised notes that I had created in various programs, website bookmarks and on paper. The third major problem was that I write on a variety of devices in different locations.

Evernote sufficed for a while as it would synchronise with my laptop, home computer, iPhone and iPad, but even this felt clumsy over time. It became next to useless when Evernote changed the amount of devices you could synchronise with.

I had thankfully dropped Evernote before this for Apple Notes, as by this time I had fully converted to Apple. Anyone who has known me for a long time will understand the gravity of this statement. Being from the IT industry, I was a staunch believer of all things Microsoft. The atrocity they called Windows 8 was the last straw for me, for so many technical reasons. Having been impressed by the iPad, I purchased my first Mac, and I have never looked back. Apple Notes synchronises seamlessly with all of my Apple devices; Mac, iPad, iPad Pro and my iPhone.

On the Mac I now use an authoring program called Scrivener. For you Windows users out there, there is a version for you too. This program is amazing; it is so much more than a word processor. Within one window, I can access each book in the series and see the notes that I have created.

In the picture below, you can see the Binder Panel on the left. My three books are clearly visible, and each can be opened up to reveal the chapters, and each chapter contains your scenes as separate documents. Scenes and chapters can be re-organised with a simple drag and drop action. 


Under each book you can see the folders for my notes on Locations, Characters and Items. You can add photos to each file to help you visualise the location, person or item.  You can add new folders and rename them, so you are not stuck to this filing system.


Saving new research is a matter of copy and paste; how you decide to organise these notes is up to you, as we writers are quirky beasts and each has a unique methodology. All I can say is that this ability to quickly cross reference details from my previous novels has helped me to develop a more in-depth and believable science fiction universe, and therefore it has improved my novels.

There are so many tools available within Scrivener that this blog article is only skimming the program’s usefulness. Each scene, chapter and book will show the document’s word count, and you can set targets for each. There is also a distraction free edit mode, a cork board view, none obtrusive comments, recycle bin, and most importantly there is an iPad version that synchronises with the computer version via Dropbox (inserted below).


Scrivener can export your work in a variety of formats such as PDF and EPUB but most importantly it includes the industry standard .doc so you can easily send your work to your proof-reader / editor.

I freely confess that I am not a Scrivener power user, I use what I need, which is only a tiny percentage of its features. Even so, If you find a word processor limiting, then I highly recommend that you give it a go. There is a free trial version available and tutorial videos at


P N Burrows

Author of the Mineran Series