At odds with Scrivener

I’ve downloaded the 30-day free trial version of Scrivener twice, now, intending to get better acquainted with it to see if it would help me with the planning of the novel that’s been growing in my head for the past few years.

Well, that novel grew far more quickly over last November (for NaNoWriMo), simply because I wrote down what I’d already thought about it (the story and its characters) with Microsoft Word and with my notepads and pens.

I’ve tried playing around with Scrivener — with the simulated index cards, with the “collections” vs. the “portfolio” views, with the shortened version of the tutorial (with the essentials) — and I usually end up bailing after a few minutes, because all the features just . . . it’s just too much.

I tried to think of something else that I found overwhelming (as in goodbye-fingernails-overwhelming), and I remembered the Lamaze video I watched when I was pregnant with my first.

And I was thinking, “How on earth am I supposed to remember whether to “hee, hee, hee” or “hoo, hoo, hoo” when I’m going through a massive contraction.

I hadn’t been through a massive contraction, yet, but I’d heard things.

And as I was watching the women in the video go through the “proper breathing” exercises, I was thinking, “This is making me more nervous, not less.”

Plus, it freaked me out when the nurse came in and reached under the paper blanket to check on the woman — to see how far along she was — and the woman sort of made an “oh, well” expression but didn’t look annoyed or even slightly ruffled by the whole thing.

I hate it when they do that — the whole “let’s just poke a few fingers in there to see how far along you are” thing. I hate it. A lot.

So, I was tensing up all over when I saw this and thinking, “For pity’s sake, you monster! Keep your fingers out of that poor woman who’s trying to breathe perfectly for the camera! Isn’t she going through enough right now?”

So, here I was taking deep breaths already, just to get through this part of the Lamaze video, trying hard not to freak out.

Then I decided to stop watching. And I returned it to the library.

And when it came time to give birth, I found out that just calm, deep breaths (adjusting the pace according to the situation but without hyperventilating, mentally counting up to five for each inhale and then each exhale) helped me a lot more than trying to breathe a certain way, according to the Lamaze video.

Maybe that stuff works for some women, but it was too structured and too fussy for me.

Well, that’s kinda how I feel about Scrivener.

First of all, someone has actually made good money creating a program on how to make sense of Scrivener. (So, does that make him a Scrivener doula?)

Call it what you like (’cause I don’t remember the title):

The Rosetta Stone of Scrivener.

Zen and the Art of Using Scrivener.

The Mystical Decoder Key…of Scrivener.

It almost sounds cool enough to make you think, “Ooooh, I need that.”


But I’ve tried just doing the basics with Scrivener (that’s what I tried to focus on the second time I downloaded the 30-day free trial version), and it still makes me want to pull my hair out.

Plenty of writers out there love it. I’m just not one of them. I may never be. And I could live with that. Most likely.

But there is that nagging voice in the back of my head that says, “You’ll be back. It’s the industry standard. Thousands of successful writers swear by this program. You, too, will succumb!”

Now, I have spent a bit now and then on books that I thought would help me give my novel the structure it needs — which is just enough to get me started. It helps me identify the essential structure, so I can have fun with the rest.

K. M. Weiland’s books, Outlining Your Novel and its corresponding workbook, and James Scott Bell’s book, Write Your Novel from the Middle have both helped with that.

Scrivener, for me, makes organizing the novel feel more like homework — and not the kind that actually helps me understand what I need to understand. It makes it more confusing and overwhelming.

Kinda like the half-inch-thick manual that came with the graphing calculator I borrowed for college Calculus. It was like having another textbook to read, just to learn how to use a calculator with a thousand buttons that was supposed to make it easier for me to do the math. I never did figure that thing out.

So, maybe I’m just seeing Scrivener through a lens darkened by my experience with Lamaze and the graphing calculator. It’s possible.

Up ’til now, though, Microsoft Word and my own desktop folders (with my Word files, grouped by purpose) have provided as much organization for my novel as I’ve wanted.

That could change. It’s early days for me. I haven’t even finished a workable second draft of my first novel, yet.

Scrivener fans reading this may be nodding their heads, now, and thinking, “Oh, yeah. She’ll be back. MS Word will drive her right back into the waiting arms of the Scrivener free trial.”

*Update: I’m officially a fan of Evernote, though. I’ve been using it for the past few months and sorting my notes into notebooks, which I also organize into stacks. It’s freaking me out a little. I usually cringe when someone so much as whispers the word “binder,” but the other day someone said “tab dividers,” and I didn’t choke on my coffee. I don’t even know myself anymore.



4 thoughts on “At odds with Scrivener

  1. I’ve never tried to use Scrivener, but when I went through a screen-writing phase I used a program called Celtx. Similar structure to Scrivener (I assume) with separate sections for defining characters, settings, events, props, actors, music, etc. SO MUCH STUFF. I kept it because it makes the formatting so darn easy, and in screenwriting that’s essential. But really. Why so many doohickeys? Got a good ole Moleskine and I’m set. 🙂


    1. I’ve never tried screenwriting, but I’m glad you found something that made it easier. For fiction writing, so far, I haven’t found anything that works as well for me as Microsoft Word or a good old paper notebook and pen, the latter of which are much easier to bring along with me wherever I go than a laptop. I’ve run across writing apps that are supposed to make it easy for people to write on their smart phones, but I’ve never tried one, since the tiny keyboard makes it difficult for me to type anything quickly. Thanks for commenting, and I agree! There is a such a thing as feature overload — at least for those of us who have a different approach to organization. 😉 My dad always liked to remind me of the K.I.S.S. principle (“Keep it simple, Sarah”), I think because he noticed how super-organized approaches to anything overwhelmed me and made me opt for a messier but (for me, at least) simpler way of doing the same thing. And I love a notebook and good pens (my favorites are the Pilot G-2 retractable pens in “bold”/#10). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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