Savage Beast Syndrome – How Scrivener can help you tame the beast and soothe your nerves

Posted on Jun 5, 2014 by   11 Comments | Posted in Blog · Uncategorized

by Livia Quinn

Be honest. What does your writing cave look like? If it’s organized to the hilt—you know, clean work surfaces, filing up-to-date, looks like an Oprah Home article 😉 and you can always find what you’re looking for in less than say, an hour—then maybe you don’t need what writing software can offer: organization, planning, cubbie holes for research, extraordinary search capabilities and the flexibility to make the work bend to your will. I say this because in my experience a person’s workspace style reflects their inner-pc style. And perhaps, if they are a plotter, pantser, or plantser.

Just like your office needs taming, so does the minutia that belongs to a book or series. It’s difficult to keep up with it in physical form. Here’s me before Scrivener:

1. Word for writing the book.

2. Folders with research files for the book and or series

3. Physical space, drawers and files—lots of them, to rummage through for that character idea, scene note, or snippet of overheard conversation.

4. A whiteboard for brainstorming and planning

5. Stickie notes (at least six colors) and foam board for applying them, to track povs, plot threads, characters, turning points, midpoint, black moment, etc. (and that green one the dog ate.)

6. Highlighters, color pens for revisions

7. Name and character generators, books for same

8. Multiple notebooks, folders, journals for the storybible details for each story or series.

9. Extra setup of the draft in Word to create a table of contents or document map so I could get back and forth within the document in the revision stage.

  1. And lots of paper for printouts


Sound familiar? You need Scrivener.

The best part is there’s no need to fear a huge learning curve to begin, or to go deeper. Scrivener comes with a fabulous interactive tutorial built right in. You can use just a few files in the binder, index card features, and research section until you’re more comfortable. Work in one file just like you do in Word, then break it up into smaller sections which you can drag and drop to new locations (ever lost anything in Word while cutting and pasting? Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.)

Here is a sample file I’ve set up using some detail from my book Storm Crazy, which comes out next week. I’ve called this project “Scriv New Project” and created about seven new files under the manuscript folder. I filled in the title of each file/synopsis/index card with brief descriptions – River’s bottle missing, Tempe meets hunky doctor, Tempe finds dead body, Tempe kisses hunky doctor (kidding, not yet).

Next, I created a couple of files in the Characters, Places, and Research sections to hold details about these items and about Tempe’s Paramortal world on Storm Lake.

One of my favorite features about Scrivener is the ability to colorize EVERYTHING. I edited the labels in the inspector on the right creating a hot pink one for the romantic thread, blue for crime threads, grey for black moment and purple for paranormal. I make these viewable in both the index card view (corkboard) and in the binder. Take a look.  (Click to ENLARGE)

Picture1 Scriv

Now look at it in Index card view with its label color chips. You can click on any index card and add a synopsis. Imagine how helpful this is in brainstorming your book at the beginning, then you return to the editor view to enter your novel text. (Click to ENLARGE)

Picture 2 Scriv


Or flip between outline view, editor, or index card mode. You can drag and drop easily in any of these modes. (Click to ENLARGE)

Picture 3 Scriv

Into files in my research folder, I’ve dragged stuff like a Word table with character names for the series, and an entire webpage with my Storm Lake map and books so I can access these series locations at a glance. Last year I started using Scrivener to create my storybible for each series. I keep a book in that file until it’s done then drag it to its own file and start the next one in the storybible where all my world building is. Handy. (Click to ENLARGE)

Picture 4 Scriv

Ever wish you had a search function in your office or closet? Search is one of the most powerful features in Scrivener. When I was looking for my crime threads, I searched the word evidence and saved all the results to a collection called evidence. (Bet you wish there was a search function for that messy office.)

I wish I could tell you about more of Scrivener’s BASIC features, much less the powerful ones that are available to us. There are no limitations. Scrivener interacts fully with Word and other programs and even allows you to compile books for publishing. OHH… and revisions, how about color tracking of each pass? Rollback-able snapshots of files before you make changes. Yeah.

If you haven’t tried Scrivener, you can download a fully functional thirty-day demo from the Literature and Latte site for either PC or Mac. What are you waiting for?

Livia Quinn(M Hoover)

More about the Author

Livia Quinn is a D.C. native living in Louisiana. She began pursuing her dream of publication after a layoff and a little known event called Katrina in 2005. With several interruptions in her career, all involving weather, it’s only natural that storms would be at the center of many of her stories. She is a business owner and former professional singer, salesperson, plant manager, computer trainer, and mail lady. She has written eight books in her Storm Lake series based in the communities surrounding an infamous, though fictional lake in Southern Louisiana. She’s never met a Tempestaerie or a sexy Aussie gem hunter, but she firmly believes… Anything Can Happen!

Visit her website at to find out more or Facebook

11 Responses to "Savage Beast Syndrome – How Scrivener can help you tame the beast and soothe your nerves"

  1. Comment by Bill Kirton
    June 5, 2014 7:19 am

    I seem to remember that it was you who told me of this in the first place, Livia. I tried it, realised it was good but stuck to Word. Recently, though, for my latest, I’ve been using it almost exclusively and you’re right, it’s brilliant. I knew there was a colour-coding option but I hadn’t found it. I will now, though. I think the Mac version is still more sophisticated than the PC one, but they’re working at bringing the latter into line. But you’re right, it’s a great help.

    • Comment by Livia Quinn
      June 5, 2014 1:24 pm

      Hi, Bill
      GlD to know you finally came on board. I knew you’d fin it handy with those sequels
      And all that research. One of the things I love the best about the software are the color options.
      And the windows version just had a big significant update.

  2. Comment by Nancy Lee Badger
    June 5, 2014 10:42 am

    Wonderful information! I always wondered if there might be something better than a bunch of simple word documents. Thanks for sharing.

    • Comment by Livia Quinn
      June 5, 2014 1:28 pm

      Oh Word is great for some things but when it comes to all the stuff we have to keep track of for a book or a series nothing beats scrivener. I encourage you to try the demo and go with just the basics at first it will grow on you like it did Bill.

  3. Comment by Livia Quinn
    June 5, 2014 1:31 pm

    I apologize for my typos using Siri on my phone going down the road to work.

  4. Comment by Cadence Denton
    June 5, 2014 5:53 pm

    Great post, Livia! I cannot wait to take your class again at the Romance Novel Convention in Las Vegas this July! I need to brush up on my Scrivenings and you’re the expert.

    • Comment by Livia Quinn
      June 5, 2014 9:16 pm

      I’m looking forward to RNC, Cadence. We’ll be brainstorming ways to up our Scrivener use and giving out participation prizes. See you there.

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