Writing A Novel with Scrivener

Exclusive interview with David Hewson for the Italian Self Publishing School

David Hewson is a fiction writer running a very nice blog where often writes on Scrivener: a beautiful software that may change the way writers works. He also wrote "Writing a novel with Scrivener" that I suggest to every serious writer.

Dear David I love your posts on Scrivener, I found you describe it in a very "empathic" way that shows why a writer should use such tool. This is why I am asking you how Scrivener may help writers in doing their job better.
Thank you a lot for your answers!

When you started using Scrivener and why?

I think I started using Scrivener shortly after it first appeared six years or so ago. I write for a living, at least one book a year, and I was very aware that conventional word processors weren’t then good at dealing with story structure and development. They were simply word processors. Scrivener was the first piece of software that saw books the way as I did – as related jigsaws of scenes, story threads, ideas, not a single lump of text.

What is the most important benefit Scrivener brought to you as a writer?

Scrivener’s great for teaching fiction writers to think creatively about narrative structure. You can map out a story as headings and sub-headings, move them around, see them as an outline or index cards. This means you can play with the progress of a story very easily and creatively until you get it right.

What is your writing process? Can you briefly describe it? And how Scrivener helped it, if it has?

It varies depending on the project. You should remember too that as a published writer I have to deliver and edit a manuscript in Word because that’s what publishers demand. So I won’t always work in Scrivener and part of the process will remain in Word (which may not be necessary if you’re self publishing).
The best example I can give is my current paperback The Killing. This is based on the very popular Danish TV series of the same name (and will be published in Italian by Mondadori soon I believe). The Killing, like many TV dramas, works on the basis of A, B and C storylines, three different narrative threads that weave in and out of each other. This is very difficult to handle in a conventional word processor. In Scrivener I can tag a scene according to the thread it belongs to then instantly see, through Collections, that thread alone. This is fantastic for checking continuity and sense within a thread. The TV series is a massive piece of work, twenty hours long. I don’t know how I could have written it without Scrivener.
That said I think it’s important you only use the tools you need. Scrivener is a very powerful and complex piece of software. You’ll be wasting time if you try to learn all of it – I haven’t and I’ve probably written fifteen books in it now.

What is your daily routine as a writer?

I start the day by revising anything I wrote the day before to make sure it’s working. Then I write the next piece of the story. I tend to outline in rough beforehand, but not precisely. I like to have freedom to allow the characters their say too.

What other tools do you suggest to a writer in order to improve their writing efficiency?

As few as possible. It’s easy to get carried away with apps. I must have bought everything there is checking it out because I’m curious like that. I really believe that the fewer pieces of software you use the better. For example I like to run a book diary and research repository alongside the novel manuscript when I’m working. There are lots of bit of software that can do that on the Mac. But probably the best one is Scrivener itself – just set it up differently to log characters, ideas, etc. You can do that within the manuscript file too but I find that distracting – I like to keep things separate.
The hardest part with Scrivener for me is when you take the project out of it and start the final revise in Word. This is a time-consuming process. Word on the Mac is lousy. Many pro writers now use Word for Windows for that final part of the process. Office 2013 on Windows is excellent, and it has OneNote too which is a superb app for storing outlines, research, character notes and things. Less complex projects will for me be better handled directly in Word. But if you’re self publishing and heading for an ebook I suspect Scrivener will remain the route to go.


David Hewson Blog: http://davidhewson.com

Scrivener Software website: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php