Scrivener and why Sarina Langer of Cookie Break writes with it!


Sarina Langer at Cookie Break is the author of the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. The first book of which – Rise of the Sparrows – was released in late May 2016. She’s currently working on the sequel, a new fantasy series as well as her first sci-fi novel.

Here’s Serena …

Scrivener is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in 2016. If you were already following me earlier this year, when I was knee-deep in the formatting for Rise of the Sparrows, you may remember my love/hate relationship (mostly hate) with OpenOffice and my steady decent into madness. I wanted to purchase Word but couldn’t afford it, so I turned to Scrivener which came with a free trial and was a bargain when I purchased it! (I should say at this point I’m not getting paid to say this – I just love this program and want to share my experience with you, because it’s made writing my novels so. much. easier!)

At the time Scrivener popped up across my feeds rather a lot, so eventually I caved and had a look at the incredible tutorials by Kristen Kieffer at She’s Novel. Her whole blogsite is an invaluable resource for writers, so I suggest you click that link regardless of whether you’re interested in Scrivener!

But back to the program. Scrivener looked too good to be true, but the trial was free so I figured Why not?

Now, I should say, I know I’m not using Scrivener to its full potential. There are so many awesome things you can do with this program, and I highly recommend checking out Kristen’s website if you want to know what its full potential can offer you. I’m only using the basics – but the basics I adore!

Take a look at my favourite features:

Full screen mode

This is great because it gets rid of all distractions. You’re left with your draft and nothing but your draft – even the small task bar at the bottom disappears unless you hover over it. If you get distracted easily by social media (and who doesn’t? You’re in good company!) then this is the tool for you! Don’t worry if grey on black doesn’t work for you – you can customise full screen mode (and many other aspects, but we’ll get to that in a moment) to suit you!

Word count goals

This is one of my favourite features. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the progress bar turn from red to orange to yellow to green!

You can set your overall word count goal for the whole draft, or you can set individual session word counts which you can adjust every day, or even while you write (*ahem* if you feel like cheating… Go ahead, I don’t judge. We’ve all done it.).

I admit I don’t use this that often, but they do include some intriguing options such as Ancient Sumarian or Hawaiian. If you’re just writing a quick short to get the inspiration going you might not want to spend a lot of time naming a character you won’t use again afterwards, so this is great for quick suggestions!

And where else would you get ancient amazonian names from? Scrivener’s got you covered!

Auto saves

Accidentally closed your WIP without saving first? Don’t worry, Scrivener’s got your back. Every time you close the program, it does an automatic backup first so even if you did close your manuscript by accident, you wouldn’t lose anything. I wouldn’t rely on it, though. It’s never not worked for me, but I’m a paranoid girl and I’m used to saving before I close anything.

eBook conversion

I haven’t tried this myself, but I bet quite a few of you just looked up! Scrivener can save your file as a .mobi, .ePub and loads of other formats. When I uploaded the .pdf of Rise of the Sparrows to KDP they did that automatically, but you don’t get a copy and many reviewers will ask for something other than the .pdf.

The cork board

I adore this, especially because it looks like an actual cork board. With this ‘tool’ you can plan out every chapter, and refer back to it again easily at the start of every writing session to remind you of what needs to happen next. You can also open the relevant note next to your chapter (including full screen mode, of course) so you have your notes right there without needing to click away from your chapter. I use it to plan all of my chapters in advance as much as I can to avoid getting stuck. If you’re doing NaNo you’ll know that not getting stuck is vital to NaNo success!

Customise everything!

Scrivener allows you to customise just about every part of it, so you can really make it look the way you want. Remember what I mentioned when I talked about full screen mode? If you don’t want to write black on white (the standard), you don’t have to. If a pink background with green writing is more your thing (and doesn’t burn your eyes) then you can adjust it. I’ve set mine to a black background with dark grey writing, which makes a nice change and allows me to see it a little differently, too. Remember the cork board? If the cork board look isn’t doing it for you, you can change it to a couple of other textures or one colour. You can even change the index card edges from pointy to rounded, and the colours!

You can make Scrivener look the way you want, and I’m in love with the options it gives you.

Words of warning: If you’re like me you’ll have several backups of your WIP. I had the original files on my memory stick, but eventually moved the main file to my desktop for one simple reason: Loading it and saving it from my memory stick was slow. Maddeningly, insanely slow. So, if Scrivener looks like it might be for you, learn from my mistake and use memory sticks only for backups. Keep your main file on your desktop, or else you’ll feel like pulling your hair out. Writing and editing a novel is hard enough as it is, you don’t need to make it worse for yourself.

If I’ve tempted you and you’re wondering about giving the free trial a shot (I’ve mentioned it’s free, haven’t I? It’s free!), you can download it here.



David & I would like to offer our sincere thanks to Sarina Langer for allowing us to re-post this really useful and informative piece on Scrivener. I’m guessing there may be a few more converts to Scrivener after reading this!

Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on

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