Throwing in the Towel on Scrivener

Look at the top of my dining room table. It’s so beautiful, I could kiss it. It looks like home to me, and I’ve been homesick.

You might remember back in October when I was teaching myself how to use the writing software, Scrivener.  I was so enthusiastic. Many of my writing friends use Scrivener to help them organize their projects and they adore it. I thought I would be one of them and I  found that it is a phenomenal program. As a matter of fact, I’ll continue to use it to help keep all my research and notes in one place. What I discovered, though, is that this ol’ dog doesn’t learn new tricks all that easily. Ultimately, I missed having my storyboard on my dining room table. I missed the tactile sensation of moving my pretty little cards around.

Even though I’m well into writing my 2013 book, Saving Ivy Hart, I still need to play with the structure and it appears the only way I can happily, sanely and effectively do this is with good old-fashioned post-it type notecards and my storyboard. I’ve always used a storyboard, but ever since getting to know Alexandra Sokoloff, I’ve used a board with the three-act structure that’s Alex’s baby. It’s made structuring a novel a thing of beauty. With Scrivener, I lost that. I was trying to fit my work into a format that simply didn’t suit my style.

I’ve enjoyed reading e-books for years now, and I always chuckle at folks who say they prefer the “feel” of a book in their hands. Now I understand. Moving index cards around on a computer screen just doesn’t give me the same sense of satisfaction.

I’ve been writing long enough to know that, one way or another, my next book will be written, but I want to enjoy the process. So while I think Scrivener is amazing and I fully understand the allure, I’m thrilled to be back to my twentieth century notecards and storyboard.

Have you found new technologies that get in the way of a task you’ve always loved? And if you’re a Scrivener user, I’d love to hear from you, too.




  1. Christina Wible on March 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    A few years back I built an Access database for a Therapeutic Riding Program in which I was working. They couldn’t afford Quicken and this little database made it easy for me to make entries just once in the sytem and print bills and delinquency reports. Then the head instructor thought she would like the little database to do the riding scheduling. Since I was already putting in instructor names and times I thought it would be a piece of cake. It wasn’t. I spent more time designing the stupid report so the instructors could tell who was riding what when than I care to admit. In the end we all looked at each other and said “paper.” I still feel nostalgic about that lovely little report but I know that putting pencil to paper in this case was the right thing to do.

  2. Margo on March 21, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Oh, Diane…somehow I knew you’d go back to your storyboard. There are some great technological advances that are wonderful for some people, but for some of us they just dont have the same feel. Many of my artist friends love ‘painting’ with the computer and I have to admit that the things they can create with graphics is amazing. However, it just doesn’t click for me…I prefer the ‘hands on’ feeling with paint on my hands and fingers, and expressing whats inside so it radiates on my board or canvas….it just doesnt feel right to me any other way. I think the artist in you is saying the same thing…you are able to control your characters and storyline with ‘hands on’ by your own methods of sticky notes and storyboards…this is what works and feels best for you. Its fun to explore new ideas and try things…but when it becomes clear that something great was working all along, its a good feeling to know you dont really need to make a change… sometimes the best things that work are whats been in front of us all along.

  3. KB on March 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Thanks for trying Scrivener anyway! (I’m the Mac developer and designer; I hope you don’t mind me posting.) And thanks for the kind words about it, too, even though it didn’t really suit the way you work, which is fair enough. (To be honest, even though Scrivener is my baby, the program I created to suit the way I work, even I often go back to the big whiteboard I have in my room before getting those ideas into Scriv – all that space, and a pen in my hand, allows me to get my thoughts down in a way no computer screen every could. I think the old analogue methods are always going to be used even as technology develops.)
    Anyway, good luck with finishing the next book!
    All the best,
    P.S. I love Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog on structure – I discovered it last year and learned loads, so it’s always interesting, and illuminating, to see published writers using those techniques.

    • Kevin Norberg on February 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks, Keith. After three years of research, one year of fiddling with the story treatment, and seven years of procrastination, I’m now midway through writing the first draft of my debut novel: TEVYE AND THE STREETS OF GOLD, the sequel to FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

      I’ve been struggling with other tools, trying to complete the first draft. But, now discovering (RE-discovering) Scrivener, I just download the upgrade to 2.3.1 and can’t wait to finish the job using your super-tool!!

      I’m also very visual and need the sticky notes / white board reinforcement. But I’m confident this is possible with Scrivener’s cork board approach.

      P.S. Can’t wait for Scrivener for iOS so I can keep working on my iPhone and iPad, wherever I happen to be. Meantime, I’ll use the SimpleNotes link option.

      Thanks for your commitment to the cause of both literature and latte. Please keep up the good work.


  4. Diane Chamberlain on March 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    You are sweet to post, Keith, and to understand. I think if I’d started with Scrivener earlier in my writing career, I’d be one of those many people who couldn’t write without it. You did a phenomenal job with it!

  5. Patricia on March 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    So glad to know that I am not the only one to struggle with this program! Inspired by others, I purchased Scrivener but have only managed to work with it on a small scale. it tends to be rather boxed in, to me.
    Will try link to that other approach . Thanks for sharing !

  6. KB on March 23, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Thanks again, Diane!

    Patricia – sorry to hear you’re having problems. If you want to continue with it and want some help, please do drop us a line. (It’s certainly not intended to be “boxed in”, but rather to be as flexible as possible.)

    All the best,

  7. Diane Chamberlain on March 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Everyone, Keith is incredibly supportive. That was one of the things I loved about working with the software–my questions were answered by a HUMAN BEING and quickly!

  8. krystal on March 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I have never heard of this program before. I’ll be getting something called OneNote. I’ve been told its really east to work with and it will be great for all my classes. The best way to write is pen and paper I know I’m not busy and I should do more personal writing but then i can never get the motive to do it.

  9. […] author who recently tried and then abandoned software for planning a novel. She has returned to organizing her work with sticky notes on a large storyboard. That tactile work is part of her […]

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