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Review by David Ploskonka

Writing a novel is a daunting prospect, and writing mystery novels pose their own unique challenges: clues, motivations, timelines, red herrings, suspects, and keeping all of that straight. Thankfully, there is a piece of software to help. It is called Scrivener.

Depending on what you want to do, you can dive right in to Scrivener just as easily as you would a standard word processor. But its real power resides in its more advanced features. Scrivener includes tools for every step of the writing process: brainstorming, outlining, and researching, and tracking key story elements during the writing and revising process. When you’re finished, you can export your novel into Microsoft Word or formats compatible with Kindle and other e-publishing services. (Yes, it works for short stories as well, and even has versions for Windows and Macs.)

However, as great as Scrivener is, it is not without a learning curve. It takes a little practice before it becomes more of a benefit than a burden. But, trust me, once you mess with it a bit, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.

Scrivener provides tutorials on YouTube, but my favorite resource is David Hewson’s Writing a Novel With Scrivener (

Hewson’s guide is practical and concrete. It covers all of the basics for the software and then digs deeper into each feature and its use. Each key feature is covered in its own section, enabling you to refer back to it as you’re writing. Even better, the book is chock-full of screenshots to help you understand exactly what part of the software is being discussed. Hewson is a writer himself and has lived and died by Scrivener for years. Because of this, Writing is more than technical book. Writing is as much a helpful primer on writing itself as it is on the technical aspects of Scrivener.

If you’re struggling to start writing, or want to better organize a work-in-progress, give Scrivener and this book a shot. Scrivener retails for $45, but they offer a special for NaNoWriMo each year.

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