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Swoon Author Tiana Smith: Scrivener Secrets for Success

Let me start off by saying there’s no one right way to write a novel. Every writer has a different method that works for them, and that is perfectly normal. What works for me might not work for you, but if you’ve been thinking about giving Scrivener a try, then I’m here to help you out! I wanted to share a bit about my writing process and how I organize a novel—and it all happens in Scrivener.

My writing friends call me the Scrivener whisperer. I’ve been using the program for years and I’ve really grown to depend on it as a writer. BUT I know it has a pretty steep learning curve (I was there once) and that intimidates a lot of people. So, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most of it, and to demonstrate my tips, I’m going to use examples from my own projects and give you a little peek into how I do things.

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1.) Make It Your Own

Scrivener lets you customize a LOT. I’ve customized my colors, backgrounds, and fonts. This can really help get you in the mood for a particular writing style before you even put any words down. My writing is cute and fluffy, so you’ll notice my digital workspace reflects that.

This screenshot shows my corkboard. This is where I write the big plot points of my novel. I usually start out with nine. When I have the nine main points, I write a synopsis of my book and the general direction I want to take it. Then, as I flesh my story out, I get to the point where I have a notecard for each chapter.

2.) Targets!

Targets are honestly one of my favorite features of Scrivener. I set targets all the time, especially when I have a deadline.

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Not only can you input your desired word count and deadline, but you can select which days you write (for example, if you take weekends off), and it will automatically calculate how many words you need to write each day to hit your goal. As an added bonus, it will adjust as you go! This is essential to me as a writer.

3.) Only Use the Features You Need

Scrivener has a LOT of features. It’s overwhelming if you try to learn them all at once. If you’re new to the program, start off with the basics. Learn how to use the binder on the left and composition panel. Then as you get more comfortable, you can adjust more (like how to export your project—which is probably the most complicated thing about Scrivener).

There are some really cool things like a timeline view (helpful if you’re writing in multiple POVs).

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Or there’s a handy thing called the Split Panel View that lets you have multiple sections open at once (like when you need to reference character descriptions while writing, like I often do). Basically, Scrivener allows me to put all my information together so I don’t have to try to remember it all, because I have the worst memory ever. Seriously.

Editing in Scrivener is a lifesaver because I can automatically use different colors for each draft, so I know where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I use it for everything.

Scrivener is designed to be an all-in-one tool, so everything can be organized in one place—I love that. I’m a huge fan of organization and structure, so it works for me, and that’s how I write a book.

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But honestly, you don’t NEED to use any of those features to get started in Scrivener. For the most part, I use the corkboard for plotting, and then I just go for it. If you do take the time to customize your colors or even your export settings, you can save everything as a default setting so that you only have to do it once and all your future projects will have all the same formats in place.

Have you tried Scrivener before? Do you have any questions I can help you out with? I’d love to hear how you organize your own writing!

Author spotlight

Tiana Smith

Hey there! I write YA books with lots of kissing in them, because those are the best. Supposedly, I'm too …

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