Pantser Review of Scrivener

Thank you to #NaNoWriMo and my friends on #WritingCommunity on Twitter for the discount! I purchased Scrivener because I wanted to stay more organized, and attempt to be a plantser. So here is my review! Note: This is for the Windows Version!

But first…

What is Scrivener?

It is a writing tool. What does that mean? It does:

  • word processor (Microsoft Word and Google Docs no more)
  • formatting automation (export for publishing)
  • file organization (i.e. each section and chapter as separate files, combined during export)
  • version control

I looked into Scrivener mainly for file organization. I needed to slow down by breaking down my ideas into smaller chunks to focus my efforts into depth instead of breadth.


  • Export to published format
    • I spent a long time in Microsoft Word in the final formatting steps. With Scrivener, you can export to epub and pdf and word so you can get it the right way.
  • Moving sections
    • If you don’t write in order then this could be helpful. If you are an over-writer that writes something that you want to use later and you don’t want to delete it, this is helpful. And finally, if you are a pantser that half way writing you say, nope, took a wrong direction, then this is helpful. I am not a writer of any of these types (yet? it might change).
  • Cost
    • If you need a word processor, it far cheaper than Microsoft Word. A lot of other writers use it so the community following is nice.
  • Chunking sections
    • I do like how the breakdown of parts, chapters, and scenes. MS Word Navigation does chapters well, but scenes is a nice add. Separating out scenes (grey below) isn’t something I do now. The visual separation is like writing writing the scene, it the camera / your eyes move, there is separation and setting the scene should be done each time and it is a nice reminder for me an under-writer that skips descriptions in first drafts.


  • Outlining
    • I like the corkboard view and the outline view, but there is no filtering (blue below)! I wanted to narrowly look at subplots, or characters, and make sure that each had an individual character arc. But I can only see the whole outline. I can search by labels, but the search results view isn’t helpful for prepping. It might be helpful during editing when all the pieces are written.
  • Templates
    • I used the character sheet template that came with Scrivener and I liked it, but… I wanted tweaks. I haven’t yet figured out how to export a character sheet or to create my own template. I have stopped trying to figure it out.
  • Snapshots
    • Okay, there is no visible inline editing. Instead there are these snapshots that you can compare versions. Take one snapshot at draft one, make changes, and then compare to see added, deleted text (blue below). Scrivener acts like MS Word’s Track Changes with the view always at “No Markups”. I’m hesitant because I’m used to seeing the edits in line (“All Markups”), but having multiple snapshots is a cool idea for editing.


In moving all of the notes into Scrivener, I learned that no, I’m not going to use Scrivener for Moon and Mystery (Working Title). It’s not the tool I need right now, but I might try again when I’m ready to edit (again, as an under-writer, it may help to say “add a scene here”, which happens to me after the first draft).

Trying Scrivener did help me narrow the need I have for a tool. At this point, I want an outlining tool rather than a writing tool.

With that, we will look at comparing the mind mapping tools next!

Note: Scrivener 3 for Windows is coming soon (and has been in beta for a realllllllly long time) and based on the Mac release, it may be the difference makers!

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