Wednesday, January 21, 2015


 by Fiona Kirk

The must-have software for writers.

For my first historical romance, I wrote the manuscript using Word and stored most of my research in a manila folder. Whenever I needed to find a quick fact – for example, a drawing of a dress my heroine might wear to a ball – I had to rummage through a fairly large stack of papers. More often than not I’d get sidetracked and lose my train of thought (not difficult to do!).

So when an author friend mentioned that the writing software Scrivener was on sale just as I was formulating the plot of my second historical, Stages of Desire, I figured I’d check it out.
Now, I am no techno-whiz, and the thought of learning a new program was daunting. But I’d read so many writers and journalists rave online about Scrivener, I figured there was something to it. Two years and two books later, the benefits far outweigh any reservations I might have had.

With Scrivener, each book is saved as a “project.” On the left hand side of the screen is a list of icons you’ve created for that project. Some are chapters or scenes, others might be folders called “Research,” “Characters” or “Locations,” where you can store Word docs, templates, photos, or whatever else you might need. To the right of that is a split screen.

I type my latest scene on the top screen. When I need to find a photo of a castle that I wanted to use as a place setting, or I can’t recall a minor character’s name, I simply click on the bottom screen, then on the pertinent folder or document. Shazam: the photo or my list of characters is right in front of me. No rummaging, no searching, instant answers.

Even websites can be saved in folders. My hero in Stages of Desire is working on a cure for malaria during the course of the book, and whenever I needed to check out the “history of malaria” website for a quick fact, I could access it without switching to a web browser and covering up the page I was working on.

When the manuscript is ready to be sent out, hit the “Compile” command and it pops up as a Word doc on your desktop, formatted exactly how you like it. I followed the tutorial when I first got it (which has a witty, fun tone to it), and then played around until I felt comfortable.

Of course nothing is perfect, and Scrivener does have its quirks. The spell check feature isn’t as good as Word at catching minor typos like double spaces, so I always check again after it’s been compiled into a Word doc. The upside? I can write fast and accurately and editing is a breeze, with easy access to every scene and chapter without having to scroll through a long Word document.

So take your writing to the next level and check out Scrivener. You can try it free for 30 days before committing. More info at  Happy writing!♥

Fiona Kirk writes historical fiction under the pen name Julia Tagan. A journalist by training, she enjoys weaving actual events and notorious individuals into her historical romances. Her Regency romance, STAGES OF DESIRE, released January 5. For more info, visit  You can also find her on Facebook at and Twitter @juliatagan.


  1. I've just started using Scrivener, too, and I'm loving it! I like that I can write scenes out of order and just re-order them by dragging and dropping. It takes a lot of the fear out of starting a novel because I don't necessarily have to write those scenes where I don't know what's going to happen yet. I'm still pretty new at Scrivener and I know there's a lot more you can do with the program, but baby steps. :)

  2. I'm so glad you checked it out. It's definitely overwhelming at first, but I agree that the advantages outweigh the initial confusion!

  3. I love Scrivener...thanks for the overview.

    1. I know, it's awesome, right? Thanks for commenting!