Writing Advice: Scrivener


Disclaimer: not a sponsored post. I just really like Scrivener.

It’s been a long time since I’ve given any proper writing advice on this blog, but I had one thing I wanted to tell you after seeing recent developments in the community.

I’ve been using Scrivener for my writing since…well, since it was still in beta for the Windows version. Novels, essays, podcast scripts, and even these blog posts: all in Scrivener. If you don’t know about it, Scrivener is a writing program designed specifically for writers, and if you’re a serious writer, I highly recommend it. It’s not free, but it’s definitely worth the price.

The thing is, over the past…oh, about a year or so, I’ve seen a number of YouTube creators talking about a website called World Anvil. Long story short, World Anvil lets you create your own wiki for your fictional worlds. These YouTubers are more into worldbuilding than they are writing, but some of them are writers, too. Recently, I’ve also seen a similar website called Campfire mentioned.

(Edit: on further review, I’ve learned that Campfire is a one-time purchase, not a subscription service. However, while Campfire may be comparable to Scrivener, I think the rest of my conclusions still stand.)

And here’s my problem: I’ve looked into World Anvil multiple times, and…I just don’t get it.

I’m sure World Anvil is a fine website, and it might be of more use for certain kinds of projects, but I honestly don’t see the point. It seems like it would be more work to curate wiki articles instead of your own notes, with a dramatically poorer organization system. (It’s hard to pull up a comprehensive, organized list of articles on a wiki.) It just doesn’t seem like it would be useful to me when I can do almost everything it does in Scrivener.

Yet, I see so many writers and worldbuilders whose opinions I respect recommending World Anvil that I wondered if I was missing something. So, I started poking around, and it turns out, it’s a lot simpler than I thought. A quick Reddit search told me all I needed: a lot of people use Scrivener as an alternative to online services like World Anvil. I’m not missing anything. I just already have exactly what I need.

I think I’ve been using Scrivener for so long that I’ve forgotten how revolutionary it was when I first got it. Scrivener is offline. It’s a one-time $50 purchase instead of a subscription service, so it’s better value than those websites if you use it for more than a year. It lets you organize all your work (including external files and images) in a nice, intuitive folder system. You don’t have to write your whole novel in one long document, and you don’t have to write your notes separately. Everything goes on separate pages of a single project, where you can call up a specific chapter easily and even rearrange them if you want. Plus, it will compile those pages into a standard manuscript format for you. It’s like night and day compared with a normal word processor like Microsoft Word.

(As for being offline, I know people swear by the Cloud these days, but I much more trust computers that I own outright, despite needing to back them up manually. And with my career/lifestyle, I’m rarely far from my computer when I want to work on my writing. Also, you don’t have to worry about your internet connection with an offline program.)

So, basically, my advice to serious writers is to get Scrivener if you can. Maybe for a group project or something that’s all worldbuilding like an RPG campaign, a website like World Anvil would be better (indeed, that seems to be World Anvil’s target audience), but if you plan to use your worldbuilding for writing stories, stick with Scrivener.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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