Alternate Uses for Scrivener

I’m avoiding working on my novel again. So, I’m posting this thought I had on my blog instead.

As writers, a lot of us use Scrivener to organize, create and publish our novels. There’s tons of advice out there on how to use this nifty tool for just that purpose. However, the bulk of my writing is short stories, which brings a different set of struggles. As I was searching for markets where I could submit, I stumbled on the handy idea of using Scrivener to compile a list of my stories.

It worked. I could categorize them by status, keep text notes of where and when they’d been submitted, add copies of contracts, paste in advice from editors and see with a quick glance what I have ready that might fit a particular market – all without disrupting the files or folders where the text is actually stored. That prompted me to think what other, non-traditional ways Scrivener might be useful to us writers. So I took to Google and the Scrivener message boards and culled a few for you.

  1. The aforementioned status and submission tracker: While novelists might find it easier to track this with the novel, us short story writers find this tracking process difficult. After all, novelists vary rarely have 15-25 novels waiting in the wings to be placed. I set up a single Scrivener Project to handle this. I created folders called “Incomplete”, “Complete” and “Sold”, then created text files for each story. The text files have a short synopsis and notes that might help place it (themes, character types, etc.) Once the story is finished I move it from “Incomplete” to “Complete” then start a sub-text file with any notes I have on possible markets, submissions/rejections or other thoughts. Once I’ve sold a story, I move it to the “Sold” folder and create a new sub-text file with details of the sale. When I start looking at markets, I can quickly see what I have. Or, if I thought of a particular story, I can see pretty fast if it’s available and if I’ve already sent it to that market before. Yes, I use Duotrope for this as well, but I find having a well-organized list helps me more than having to run a search through a database and poke through multiple levels to cross-check the story and the market submissions. Duotrope is better for quickly seeing what’s out for consideration and finding the market details. Scrivener lets me see the other end of the pipeline, what i’m working on and what’s not sold yet.
  2. Research Binder: While this should be obvious, since there’s a section for research right there in the default outline, people rarely think to use it for JUST research. But a fantasy or science fiction novel might require far more research than you want attached to the main project, not to mention the non-fiction (or even non-writing) uses for a well-organized research file. Since Scrivener allows you to place lots of types of objects into the project, you can create quite the data store.  Pictures, URLs, PDFs, text notes – if you’re using the same research data over and over again, Scrivener provides a great way to organize, categorize and search it without having to recreate your research files or folders every time. The best part is you can set it up the way it makes sense to you. Wanna file genetic engineering under D for DNA? Scrivener doesn’t care.
  3. World Building: A lot of writers don’t write just one novel in their world. They write multiple novels. And all we writers know how hard it is to remember the layout of the King’s palace that our character saw once three books ago. Or the political structure of that kingdom to the south that you created for the last book, but didn’t end up using. You can use Scrivener to hold all your details across books. You can even create a custom world building template for when you need a new world. AND, if you ever collaborate with someone, this world building file will keep the both of you referencing things consistently.
  4. Commonplace Book: Yeah, I hadn’t heard the term either, but a commonplace book is a collection of quotes, thoughts and other things that strike you. So really, it’s kind of an inspiration book. The Scrivener board I stole this from had a huge debate about whether it was appropriate to do this using cut and paste, since they seemed the think the point was to connect with the words by writing them down, but I think that doesn’t really matter. I hear things all the time that I like, or see memes I find interesting for one reason or another, and I think it’s a wonderful idea to put them into a file for inspiration. Not everyone wants to paw through a hand-written book when they’re searching for that thing to spark their creativity. And not everyone wants a haphazard list of quotes arranged only in the order you found them in. I think Scrivener would let you interact with the contents, more easily rearrange them according to your mood or inspiration. Who said your inspirations had to stay in the same order?

I like the thought of taking a tool, especially one as flexible as Scrivener, and utilizing it in creative ways. I also like the idea that you don’t need to use a whole bunch of different tools to help you work towards the same goal.

Speaking of goals, that novel isn’t going to write itself. I suppose I should stop distracting myself and actually get started for the day. Back to the traditional use of Scrivener! It’s still good for that, I suppose.


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