ACT Writers Centre / Workshop

Exploring the magic of Scrivener

Words by Bec Fleming


About ten years ago I helped an older relative set up a DVD player in his house. He knew about the technology, he had seen it used, he had just never had one in his house before. So we set it up, and I put on a John Wayne classic. As the credits began to roll a look that was a combination of pure joy and wonder passed across his face. It was the moment he realised he could have ‘movie magic’ in his house every day. That he was no longer reliant on the 8.30 movie but could watch what he wanted whenever he wanted. He had known this before, as something that was out there in the world, as something that other people used, but in that moment he realised the power of the technology for his world.

Attending the Scrivener workshop run by Marcus Amann I saw a very similar look pass across the faces of my fellow workshop attendees. We all knew about Scrivener before the workshop. We had all downloaded it, some of us had seen it used, but as the workshop progressed Marcus was able to show us the power of the technology for our individual writing worlds.

In a relatively short workshop, Marcus gave a comprehensive demonstration of the value of Scrivener as a tool for writers. He highlighted how a more traditional planning system using manila folders and index cards easily translate into Scrivener, arguably more efficiently. He showed us how to start new projects, import and export material and most importantly back it up. The value of the program was immediately clear to all in the room. Plotter or pantser, the program offers a digital binder to organise a writing project, notes, photos, audio files, manuscript and all. Think about having a photograph of your character, setting and character background notes, maybe even an audio file of your protagonist’s favourite song all in the one spot, available in a click as you continue drafting the manuscript. No more wondering whether that character’s eyes were blue or green. It is easy to check in Scrivener.

Beyond the array of tips and tricks Marcus offered something more important in the workshop, he demystified the technology. He showed us that Scrivener is just like any other piece of software, it isn’t something to be intimidated by—despite the enormous user manual—it can be explored by trial and error. The array of features can seem intimidating at first. Before I attended the workshop I felt like I didn’t have enough of an ‘understanding’ of Scrivener, but as Marcus took us through the program I realised I had actually developed a pretty good working knowledge by trial and error. Thinking on it now I realise I don’t know or use every feature of Word but the program works for me. The same is true of Scrivener.

So, just like a DVD player at home, Scrivener really does have the capacity to change our writing worlds. All we need to do is take the time to explore the program and, like a rolling credit sequence, allow it to reveal its magic.

Bec Fleming


Bec Fleming is a Canberra based writer, historian and poet. She graduated with a PhD in history from the University of New England in 2010. She has spoken at the National Portrait Gallery, the Australian War Memorial and for the ABC program Now Hear This. Her poem ‘An untimely death’ was shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Thwaites poetry award. She has loved words for as long as she can remember and thinks it is a little bit magic when they line themselves up in just the right order.


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