Tag Archives: Scrivener

My take: Scrivener, Evernote and Celtx

I was so excited to have the guest post from author Heather McCoubrey on why she loves Scrivener and Evernote, because those are probably my two favorite programs, as well. I’ll add Celtx into the mix for screenplays, because I don’t think there’s a better program out there for the screenwriter. Here’s my take on all three.


When I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo in November 2011, I had never used Scrivener before. I got it on sale through NaNo, and spent a few panicked days trying to make sense of it enough to use it for this crazy “at least I’ll be able to say I wrote a novel” event. It had a lot of great features for the first-time novelist, especially since I didn’t have a method back then except panic-fueled marathon planning and typing sessions. What I liked was that I could have a separate folder for each chapter. What that looked like at the end of my first draft was this:

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As you can see, I was able to go back and insert subfolders of scenes into chapters where I needed to add information that would be crucial later on. While I no longer use random names for my chapters (I just number them), I do make frequent use of the ability to go back and add another chapter, like this one in IXEOS: Rebellion:

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Another thing I liked with Solomon’s Throne is all the things I could do when I was working on characters, plot, names, etc. I’m a very visual person, so the bulletin board/index card layout is a great way to stay organized and keep all my notes in one place.

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While I use Scrivener a little differently now, because I’ve written almost seven books and I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and am not longer running around in a panic to just WRITE THE DAMN NOVEL, I do use it for my first through third drafts and still love it. I love that I can easily find things, insert things, edit things, and navigate so effortlessly through my work. Once I’ve done major edits in Scrivener, including printing it out and doing an on-paper edit, I move it to Word to finish it. But I would never, ever write a novel in Word.

(You can format ebooks in Scrivener, but I’ve never done it, so I’m not commenting on that here. I hear it works well for uploading to Amazon KDP, but I don’t want to guarantee that since I have no first-hand experience!)

NOTE from experience: My husband wrote his first book in Word. It is nonfiction, and the chapters weren’t linear, meaning he would be moving them around when the book was done. He wrote them in thirty-six separate files in Word, plus another eighteen files of one-liners he was going to intersperse throughout the book. I was the one who was supposed to edit and collate this word. *cue the mad face and angry music* The first thing I did was move everything to Scrivener, where I could at least move the chapters around easily. The one-liners were a nightmare. I made him swear to NEVER, EVER EVER EVER write another book in anything other than Scrivener again. Ever. On pain of a slow, painful death. Save you, your spouse or your editor time and sanity. Use Scrivener!


I am fairly new to Evernote. I got it a few weeks before I went to Andros, so I’m still playing with it and figuring out, like I did with Scrivener, how to use it most effectively. I tend to be a note-taker. I have tons of yellow mini legal pads full of notes, lists, and scribbles. Trying to shift that to electronic is harder than learning Scrivener, but I’m determined to make it work. To that end, I’ve upgraded to Premiere (which lets me work off-line), and have ordered this for use with my iPhone and iPad (which I just realized won’t come until late this month, but since I’ll be without my writing hand anyway, it’s no biggie!):

Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition

Keep in mind that Evernote is free! And the ancillary apps, like Skitch, are also free. I use Evernote on my phone for all kinds of lists, which I can then print off from its instant sync with my computer. This was especially handy for my Uganda buying-stuff-for-everyone list!

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I also use it for story ideas, snippets of dialogue I think of, names for future characters, photos (through the companion app Skitch, which allows you to make notes on the photo), and for those to-do lists that I’d normally be scribbling frantically on my ratty yellow legal pad. You can also schedule reminders.

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See those little check-off boxes?? I love that! I think that’s either an iOS7 update or maybe a Premiere feature, but it is so helpful!

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There are a lot of things I haven’t used it for yet: trip planning (you can keep your electronic boarding passes in your folder, plus maps, ideas, photos of things to see, weather reports, you name it!); moving (we’ll be moving soon, and I will be heavily relying on Evernote for that); and a new app called Evernote Eat, which I just got yesterday. It keeps track of food you love in restaurants, recipes, and all things food. I love all things food, so that works for me!


Celtx is a truly remarkable screenwriting program. While they do have other modules, such as novel writing, I found Scrivener to be better for that. But for screenplays, I don’t think Celtx can be beat. It’s got desktop, mobile and online workspaces, so you can work in whatever situation you find yourself, period. Second, you can truly collaborate and co-write with someone else, or simply let someone read your work and comment, without giving them the ability to change the original work. Everything is saved and synced and always up to date.

Second, it formats everything for you automatically, which saves a TON of time when you’re writing a screenplay. There is a lot more formatting required, and typing it all is tedious. Setting up macros to do it is tedious. With Celtx, you hardly even notice that you have to do it.

Here’s a shot of my screenplay, LAID WASTE:

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On the left side, you can see that all the scenes are listed. Celtx does that automatically, so I can go to any of the 138 scenes in the film and see what’s going on very quickly. The grey line demarking the scenes, as with the “Ext. Migori, Kenya – Dusk” are also automatically added. The character names auto-fill once you’ve created them. All of the indentions are done automatically, as well. You can also add photos and notes for each scene, and there’s a scratchpad tab that lets you play around with ideas, either for yourself or your co-writer(s). The comments don’t interfere with the scene, and are great for getting feedback from others.

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Another awesome feature, if you’re using Celtx to produce your screenplay, is the storyboard. This screenshot is from a sample screenplay called Dirge. Do you see the tabs across the top? That allows you to set your production schedule. If you are a filmmaker, these are incredible tools that are not only at your disposal, but available to anyone on your team to whom you give permission!

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All three of these programs are well worth your while to get and learn to use. With so many programs and apps available, it’s hard to know exactly how things will work for you, of course, but as far as productivity goes, these are winners!


Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

Why I Love Scrivener and Evernote – Guest post by Heather McCoubrey

A big welcome to author Heather McCoubrey, who talks about two of my favorite programs, Scrivener and Evernote (which I’ve only recently discovered!).

I started writing when I was thirteen and back then we didn’t have fancy word processing or even computers.  I know, can you imagine?  The way I learned to write was by using a pencil or pen and writing it down in notebooks.  I sound old, don’t I?  I’m not really, I’m thirty-six… but when I think back to being thirteen and writing my first poem and short story, I feel old.  So many people I’ve talked to have told me they hate hand-writing, they love the ease of typing, of auto-saving, of spell-check, of quick searching, of being able to type faster than they could write (even with short-hand).   And some of the younger authors, well, they’ve always had computers.  Why would you write it out when you can type it?

It’s a question I get asked often, even from my husband, who is the epitome of new-age technology.  He lives and breathes computers, computer programs, and everything technology.  But try as I might, I cannot break away from hand-writing parts of my novels or short stories.  I love writing by hand and have several million notebooks to attest to this.  And the reason I love it – besides it being more personal, an extension of myself and a testament to the heart and soul that goes into my writing?

It’s convenient.  You’re sitting there right now, confused and dumbfounded.  This woman is crazy!  Convenient, is she daft?  No.  I’m not daft, I am perfectly serious.  Since Microsoft Word has been available, I’ve used it for all my writing needs.  And I’ve hated every single minute of it.  For years – more than two decades! – I’ve wished for a program that mimicked my notebook obsession.  A program that didn’t make me scroll for hours looking for a passage I needed to reference.  And I hated having several different files for research and notes.  I wanted it all in one place, one “notebook”.  The time I spent searching, closing programs, opening files and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling – it put a huge damper on my writing.

For me, writing is not a fluid thing.  I don’t write and write and write until I’ve exhausted my muse.  I write, research, write, reference, write, write, research, reference, write.  I’m constantly flipping pages back and forth, back and forth – but that’s just my writing style.  I am the writer who lets the story ebb and flow on its own.  I rarely outline – my outlining is me fumbling in the dark when I wake up from a dream to write down the idea and supporting sentences.  When I’m coherent, I start the story and I let the characters, plot, and emotion take me through their story to the end.  So by doing it this way, you can see my need for constant research and reference.

Now skip forward to the beginning of 2013, I’ve finished my first novel, To Love Twice, and I have sent it out to my critique circle and beta readers.  As their input comes back, imagine my frustration with trying to sort it all out and make it work.  Word is impossible for this, at least for me.  So I started doing research on novel writing software.  I started with my pals over at the NaNoWriMo forums.  I’ve participated in NaNo since 2011 and I knew that if anyone would have an opinion, it would be them.  Almost immediately I received responses.  Scrivener, Q10, FocusWriter, Liquid Story Binder and ZenWriter were the most popular.  I checked them all out faithfully, carefully reviewing all the pros and cons I could find.  Some were out because I use a Mac and the software wasn’t compatible with the Mac iOS.  Some didn’t seem to fit my needs and some just seemed too hard to figure out.  I didn’t want something that was going to add even more stress to my writing.

I finally settled on Scrivener and worked with their free trial for a couple of weeks before buying the software for approximately $40.00 (US).  I made use of their tutorial program, which took me approximately an hour to complete.  It was full of useful information, not just on how to use the software, but all the extra goodies inside.  What I immediately loved about Scrivener was that it so closely resembled my notebooks.  Scrivener uses a table of contents like tree and you can separate your novel any way you’d like.  For me, I make each chapter their own folder and I put each scene inside its appropriate folder.  In this way, if I need to change a scene placement all I have to do is to click on the file and drag it to its new spot.  SO easy!

Another feature I love: It has its own branch for research!  All of my research goes into my Scrivener project file and it’s right at my fingertips when I need it.  Bonus: it will open in a little box that floats on top of your current work.  You can move the box around and reference it as you type!

Yet another feature I love: A branch for character charts and description.  You can create your own character template or use the one provided.  I love having the character descriptions so easily accessible; being able to reference them at any moment is priceless.  For me, I have three to four novels going at once and sometimes I forget whether this particular heroine’s eyes are green or blue.

Scrivener will also compile your manuscript into different forms: eBook, Paperback, Screenplay, etc.  When you’re finished with it and ready to print it out to send to an agent, publisher or editor, Scrivener makes that so easy.  It has branches for all the front matter, a place to hold photos and cover photos.  And your whole project is in ONE file.  It’s amazing.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I never write in notebooks anymore.  I do.  But it is less and less often as I get acquainted and comfortable with Scrivener.

I’m completely in love with Scrivener, so why did I reference Evernote in the title?  Well, my Mac laptop died a horrible death.  I did have all my files backed up, so thankfully I didn’t lose anything.  When I went to replace my laptop, I decided to try a different approach.  I got a Mac Mini and a Chromebook to replace my laptop.  Do you see where I’m going?  I have the Scrivener app on my Mini and I use it when I’m down at my desk.  BUT often, I’m out and about and I bring my Chromebook with me wherever I go.  Any of you who have a Chromebook know that it is web-based and you can’t have “apps” on it.  So, no Scrivener for my Chromebook.  That’s when I found Evernote.

Evernote is Scrivener-like in that you can make “notebooks” for your projects and then have notes inside these notebooks.  It’s great for me when I’m away from my desk and Scrivener and have some writing to do.  When I’m back to my desk, I just access Evernote and copy and paste my updated work into Scrivener.  Granted it’s a bit of a hassle to do it this way, but then that’s my own fault for doing this whole Chromebook deal.  A nice feature of Evernote is that it does the auto-save and you can access your Evernote files from any computer connected to the internet.  What I dislike about Evernote is if you aren’t connected to the internet, you can’t retrieve your files… and that’s where my trusty notebook still comes in handy!

I know this probably sounds like a plug for Scrivener and Evernote, but truthfully these are the writing programs that work best for me.  Several people have told me how much they love Q10, Liquid Story Binder and FocusWriter.  It’s all about what YOU need as a writer.  Find what works best for you and stick with it.  And Microsoft Word?  Nothing beats Word in my opinion for the formatting, fonts, and just plain making it look nice.  Once I compile my manuscript, I definitely paste it into Word to finalize it.  Like I said, whatever works for you as the writer.

Once you have the environment you need, nothing can stop you.  Happy writing!

Heather McCoubrey author photo

You can find more from Heather at her links:
The Independent Author Network

Couple at Big Ben after sunset

Find Heather’s novel, To Love Twice, here:


Filed under Guest Post, Self publishing, Writing

Ah, the glamorous life of a writer…

Other than Ernest Hemingway, who took himself off to run with the bulls in Pamplona and observe wars, it seems that writers have a pretty good gig. Jeez, they can sit around all day in their pjs, they get to fiddle around with stories and make stuff up, there’s no boss cracking the whip. They even have their kitchen, Facebook, Twitter and chocolate stash near them all the time! How is this a bad thing?

OK, it’s not a bad thing. But that’s not all there is to it. First of all, making a living as a writer is… well, nigh on impossible. Not impossible, just the next house over. Second, while I am the first to admit that the writing itself is a blast, even when it’s hard or not going well, there’s more to it than that. Here’s the short list:

  • Editing. Editing gives me a migraine. It makes my eyes hurt. It turns my brain to mush. And that’s on the days it’s going well.
  • Self discipline. This is not my strong suit. I am not a super disciplined or organized person. One reason I am a “project” person is that I can’t seem to manage to do things day in and day out. So writing a book in 30 days is awesome; writing a book in a year would never happen. This is the same problem I have with laundry, housekeeping, exercise, taking vitamins, and pretty much everything else that requires a daily commitment.
  • Avoiding distractions. This is somewhat tied to self discipline, but not completely. That’s because, unless you live alone and in a vacuum like Sandra Bullock’s character in The Net, people think you aren’t doing anything because you’re “just” writing. (This is especially true if you are not bringing in millions to the family budget – I suspect JK Rowling and EL James get out of grocery shopping from time to time.) So your non-driving teen needs you to run him somewhere. Your husband urgently needs something ironed for an important meeting. You realize that you really would love to have some scones with your tea later that afternoon, so you jump up to whip some up, realize you need to go to the store, and four hours later you have scones and nothing written.
  • Self doubt. This happens to any artist of any kind. When you are putting yourself out there in such a personal way, you can’t help but wonder if the work is good enough, if people will accept or reject you, and if you made any huge, glaring errors that the world will realize when you didn’t.

I am currently in a non-writing phase of being a writer (which is sort of inconvenient since I’m participating in the August Camp NaNoWriMo and am supposed to write 50,000 words by August 30). This is because my husband, also a writer (of brilliant political satire), is in the final stages before publication of his own book. Now, you might think that would be his problem, but the fact of the matter is (and he’d be the first to admit this) he is a terrible self-editor. He knows what he meant to say, and he doesn’t see typos, missing words, missing punctuation, bad grammar or any of that. He sees what he meant to say.

A lot of people are like this, so that’s nothing bad. It just means a lot of work for me. In addition, the book he is about to publish is non-linear. It’s a collection of 33 chapters which do not follow one another, interspersed with one-liners, interspersed with quotes from famous people. So the organizing, collating, and formatting has been a nightmare. Add to that the fact that he used a separate Word document for each chapter, and 35 separate word documents for the one-liners, and you’ve got a logistical sticky wicket. (Note to anyone out there writing anything with multiple sections or chapters:  SCRIVENER.)  I’ve spent 23 of the last 51 hours on his book, and still have the quotes to insert when he’s done. (cue fingers drumming on the laptop)

After that, which is today, I have to finish the final final edit of my upcoming Christian historical romance, Undaunted Love. I have one week to get the edit done, get the copyright handled, write the back cover blurb (which I am so bad at that my daughter despairs), and try to find an example of a romance cover I actually like. The latter being the most difficult.

And then there’s NaNo. I have just about 30,000 words done on my YA dystopian fantasy, so I only need 20,000 more to “win.” That won’t finish the novel, which I originally estimated at 60,000 – but 60k isn’t going to finish it, either, so at this point, with all that’s gone on in August (in addition to the above, this month my daughter had surgery, I had minor surgery, my husband had laser eye surgery, and my daughter went back to college….), I feel like I’ll be thrilled to “win” even if I don’t finish. (Although I will keep writing after August 30 and finish, so the first draft is done.)

Doesn’t this all seem glamorous?? To be fair, I am writing this in my pajamas.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Self publishing, Writing