How to Create a Manuscript With Scrivener

I started working on my first manuscript this month and used this Mac OS X software dubbed Scrivener instead of the traditional Microsoft Office Word. While the latter remains the “king of the hill” when it comes to writing projects, the former serves as another option for writers to explore when writing drafts.

Scrivener is a software designed for authors, professional writers, novelists or anyone who’s into writing. As a word processing program, the features are quite advanced compared with Microsoft Office Word. You have to spend time learning the workflow until mastery. It’s available for Mac OS X ($45.00) and Windows 8.1 Ready ($40.00), and it also comes with a free trial.

To install, just visit the links above or download the free trial version.


Scrivener allows you to choose among the default project templates. I suggest you spend time learning the basics using the tutorials in the “Getting Started” tab. For now, I’m going to teach you how to set up your first manuscript for “General Non-Fiction.” The program provides options for fiction and non-fiction writing projects.

1. Click “Choose” once you highlight the “General Non-Fiction.”


2. The program automatically saves the project first; enter the file name and the folder where you wish to save it.

3. After saving the file, you’ll see this on your screen. 


4. Double-click the name under the Binder tab and enter the title of the book. 


5. Under the Manuscript tab, you may enter the details of your book. The items are self-explanatory.

6. Edit the entries in the Title Page and replace the texts. On the right side, you can update the texts for the Synopsis and Document Notes and change the status of the current page. You can change the view of the Title Page, whether in a word processing format, pin board or notepad. 


7. To add a page, just click the green button on the left side. Note that the “Delete” function doesn’t work in the keyboard; use the red button to delete a page from the list. 


8. To add a folder for the “Chapter Subtitle,” click the folder button found below the Binder pane. It’s the same process when adding a text. 


9. You may start writing the draft once you have organised the folders of your chapters. In each folder, you can “Add Text” and/or add sub-folders, depending on the sequence, storyline etc. 


10. Use the “Synopsis” and “Document Notes” to record free-flowing ideas while you write.

Note: You can adjust the window panes of “Synopsis” and “General” on the left side to give more space for “Document Notes” for your first general non-fiction manuscript.

Scrivener does not only serve as a word processing program but also compiles everything at the end of the project, from the title page to endnotes, for an organised version of the manuscript. The expanded version of the work board for note-taking and pin boards are functional, but the overall UI/UX is for advanced users.

Should writers switch to the software? It’s optional but not really necessary for everyone. Perhaps, for veteran authors, this is something worth trying and exploring. However, for those who are accustomed to Office Word, it requires more of a learning curve from you – it”s like working on a puzzle piece one day at a time, until you master Scrivener’s workflow.

If you’re after the user-friendly features, Office Word is more than enough. But if you like an expanded work board (with custom templates and pin board) where you can see your notes, ideas and footnotes, Scrivener gives you these advanced features.