It is no secret that I am an avid user of Scrivener, a multifaceted word processor and project management tool. I have been using this program for all of my personal and professional writing projects since 2011.
Here are three reasons why you will want to use this amazing tool for your family history and other writing projects.
- It’s Plot Perfect. Whether you are a visual writer who likes to storyboard, or if you prefer text outlines, you can use Scrivener your way! When you start a new blank project, you will be see the “Binder” (located on the left-hand side), which is the source list showing all documents in the project.
By default you’ll see three folders:
The “Draft” board (called “Manuscript” in other Scrivener templates) is the main space where you type your text (you can compile everything in that folder for printing or export as one long document later on). You will have one Untitled Document showing. Simply add a title and then start typing. You can move sections around by dragging and dropping. Click the green plus sign (+) icon to add files or folders. Scrivener also lets you import files that you already have prepared in Microsoft Word or text based formats.
As you work, Scrivener allow to easily “toggle” between its key modes: Corkboard (where you can summarize on “virtual index cards” the key points you want to cover—the virtual cards can easily be arranged in any order you like); Outline (use it if you prefer to control the structure of your work); and Scrivenings (this mode temporarily combines individual documents into a single text, allowing you to view some or all documents in a folder as though they were all part of one long text).
There is another pane called the “Inspector” that offers additional features to help you manage your project so you can easily plot, plan, and outline away! Watch the Storyboarding and Editing with Scrivener Bonus Webinar to learn the secrets of Scrivener storyboarding.
- It’s Research Ready. Scrivener has a designated Research folder where you can store notes, PDF files, images, etc. (not included in your final compiled document). Research is one of the three main container folders (the other two are Draft or Manuscript and Trash) automatically included in all of the Scrivener templates. Use the super handy Split Screen feature to have your research items there on the screen as you write. This saves you from having to open up your image or PDF viewer or other program while you are in writing mode. You can even add annotations, comments, footnotes and endnotes to your final output. Watch the Getting Started with Scrivener: Footnotes, Endnotes and Formatting bonus webinar to learn more.
- It Does all the Heavy Lifting. The true power of Scrivener resides in its “Compile” (Compile is just a fancy term for exporting your project into any number of final formats—print, eBook, Kindle, PDF, etc.). With compile you specify what Scrivener does/does not include, and how it should look. You will get a crash course in the key steps in the Compiling and Publishing with Scrivener bonus webinar. Mastering Compile takes some practice, so you should also refer to the Scrivener tutorials and forums for guidance.
Here’s a bonus tip: Start small! Begin with a smaller project like an ancestor profile or blog post rather than attempting to write a 200-page family history book your first time in.
Scrivener is created by Literature and Latte and is available for purchase for use on Mac ($45) and Windows ($40). There is also a 30-day free trial available. Double click the Scrivener “S” icon on your desktop to open the program. Before you start your first project, take a few minutes to review the Scrivener manual for your and watch the helpful interactive tutorials.
I was pleased to be able to record a new five-part bonus webinar series on Scrivener for Legacy subscribers.
The Legacy Bonus Webinars on Scrivener cover the following topics:
- Getting Started with Scrivener
- Storyboarding and Editing with Scrivener
- Footnotes, Endnotes and Formatting in Scrivener
- Compiling and Publishing with Scrivener
- Scrivener Ninja Tips and Tricks
Want even more Scrivener secrets? Pick up a copy of my Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet (available for both Mac and Windows versions).
Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A. is a freelance writer, instructor and internationally recognized lecturer specializing in Eastern European genealogy, writing your family history, and finding female and immigrant ancestors. She is the author of 10 books, including The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide, and the award-winning Three Slovak Women. Lisa is a frequent speaker for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and blogs at The Accidental Genealogist. She can be reached at http://www.lisaalzo.com.