Using Scrivener to Write & Publish Books

When I wrote 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading I tried a new writing software. I used to stick with Microsoft Word for everything. But I’ve been increasingly annoyed with it lately and I’ve experimented with some other options. I eventually landed on Scrivener and I’m not going back.

Scrivener is designed for writing book-length projects, whether it’s a novel, script, nonfiction or something else. It allows you to rearrange chunks of text as you go. You can switch to a corkboard view with each chunk of text on an index card with a title and summary. Then just move the cards around if you want. It makes organizing the structure of your book a whole lot easier.

You can also tag and index things like crazy, so for a novel you could note which chunks of text which characters appear in and easily find all those places.

You can also keep everything related to your project in one spot, whether it’s notes, research or drafts. When I’ve done books in Microsoft Word before I’ve always had a growing pile of supporting documents—an outline, a timeline, a list of characters, a list of things I need to tweak, etc. With Scrivener you can keep it all in the same spot. You can tag things and quickly view only what you need to.

If you’ve ever had to write a project of any length you’re probably starting to see the possibilities. And I’m just scratching the surface of Scrivener’s features.

But perhaps the best part of Scrivener is when you’re done writing. It allows you to export your work to whatever format you need in a process known as compiling. This is where it rocks. You can export to vastly different formats with completely different layouts and looks, all using the same source material.

So with 137 Books in One Year I spit out a CreateSpace-ready PDF for my 5×8 print version of the book, as well as a Kindle-ready ebook file that I could upload directly to Amazon. That would require two separate files in Microsoft Word, which would mean making any further changes in two places. Lame. Nevermind that setting up those kind of files in Word will make you want to punch someone. It’s not completely perfect in Scrivener and I’m still learning, but it’s light years better.

I originally heard about Scrivener from this post on how to create a book from idea to Kindle in 29 days, but since then I’ve seen other writers talking about it, including Jeff Goins and Michael Hyatt.

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