Why I’ve abandoned Scrivener

Why I’ve abandoned Scrivener

I know this title is a bit clickbaity. But that’s ok, you’ll understand where I’m going with this soon enough. I’m releasing my 200th episode of Author Stories (subscribe already!) this week, and I’ve been in a reflective mood lately. I don’t share many personal thoughts about writing, mostly because I haven’t felt like I could speak from a position of authority. I’ve said many times that the reason I started the podcast was so that I could become a better writer. “Surround yourself with the best people you know” the adage goes. And so it is true. Here’s a little something I’ve learned about myself and about the craft.

I have an affinity for tools, writer’s tool specifically. I collect them like the star of an episode of Hoarders. Even thought I have everything I need, there’s always that one other thing that will give me the edge, or will unlock that extra little bit of potential. But one more is never enough.

Here’s the reality. Writers write. It doesn’t matter if it’s cuneiform in clay tablets, longhand on legal pads, quills on payment, dictated in Dragon, or in the latest bells and whistles word processor, writers write. If you become more enamored with the vehicle than the journey, something is wrong.

I’ve used Scrivener for a couple of years, off and on. I initially found the binder on the left hand beneficial in that it would allow me to create a working outline of sorts and help me to organize my story while tricking myself into thinking that I was not actually outlining. That is great. It has helped me as a writer to understand the structure of the thing I am writing and it brings out the best in the story. As a writer I believe you should find a way to document the road map of the story so that you don’t just wander blindly into the writing. I’m still not a very detailed outliner, I leave lots of room for the story and mostly for the characters to evolve as it goes. But there’s nothing wrong or uncreative about being prepared.

Scrivener helped me to do this, but at the cost of time and frustration. I use a desktop PC, a laptop, and an iPad to write. I would sync writing projects using Dropbox and it worked pretty good between PC and iPad. Until it didn’t. I started getting weird artifacts or pieces of the project missing after syncing. No big deal, make sure you’re saving a giving it enough time to propagate before opening on another device. But it’s never worked exactly right.

I’ve also worked with several editors that complain about “knowing which authors use Scrivener” because there are always formatting issues with the rendered text. The compile feature has a lot of potential, but I’ve never had an instance where I could compile a document without having to go into Word and clean it up. Extra work.

So here’s the deal. If you’re going to be a serious writer, you have to remove distractions and unnecessary work. I don’t care how pretty the interface is, if it causes frustration and extra work, throw it out the window.

You know what is nearly universal in publishing? Microsoft Word. Yeah, it’s not the most elegant. It’s not the most cutting edge interface. But the things I appreciate are that it is standard and ubiquitous. Nearly everyone has a copy of MS Office, and the mobile apps are really nice. Add a cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox and documents sync seamlessly. I can edit a document on my laptop in my dining room, open it out in my office on my big production desktop, then continue on my iPad and the document is there, and the interface is always the same. Heck I can even log into my MS account from anyone’s PC and work with the web version of Word.
I find that familiarity breeds productivity. 

Editing doesn’t require me to port my work to another program, and when I send it to an editor, there’s not cleaning up after me before they can get to work and Track Changes is a god-send.

I reset my iPad to factory settings and only installed Word, OneDrive and Spotify.  No social media apps, no games, no nonsense. I have several PCs, a phone, and an Xbox for all that. The external keyboard adapter (aka “camera adapter from Apple) allows me to connect my big, heavy, very clicks mechanical keyboard, or I can connect my ultra-light, very portable Bluetooth keyboard and  have it with me and ready whenever and where ever I like.  This setup has proven invaluable and I find myself tinkering with settings and tools much less and instead, just writing. 

So yeah, I’m using Word exclusively, and I think I’m better for it. I still like to experiment with new tools, and I think there are places for them for specific scenarios, and I would never tell you what you should do, that’s up to you. But it’s never a bad idea to get back to basics. Sometimes a claw hammer and screwdriver are all you need.


I’m Hank and I’m a writer. I write stories about life, but with a supernatural twist. I love the art of writing so much that I started a podcast called Author Stories.

I’d love to hear from you.

Check out my books at http://amzn.to/1PQTxku


  1. I totally get where you’re coming from Hank. I’m very similar to you, I buy every tool that comes out that I think can make it faster and easier to produce more work. And, like you, I have Scrivener on my iPad, and also had a problem with the file after syncing from my laptop. When I sent from one device to the next it wound up copying over the older version of the file. And there was no way to retrieve it that I could find. That is the one and only time it happened, because I never gave it another chance to do that to me again. So I reverted back to using Ulysses. On the Mac and iPad, Ulysses automatically updates through iCloud. No drama, it just works. I don’t think Word is the solution for me, ultimately a website where I can login from my PCs and Macs and iPads etc. will be the best solution for me I think. The novel factory has something coming out middle of July that just might work. And I’ll get the dopamine hit for buying another tool. 🙂

    1. Author

      I hear ya’ Joe. I’m glad you found a solution that works for you with Ulysses. I also have the iPad version, but the problem for me is there is no PC version. So back to incompatibility. So frustrating.
      When you get the new Novel Factory program, I’d love to hear about it.

  2. At first I thought you’re nuts, Hank, Scrivener is great, but then I reflected on how I’ve had the program several years and have hardly used it. I’ve produced one book with it, an e-book, but only used Scrivener to organize and edit material I’d written elsewhere. Then I tried compiling an e-book with Scrivener, but the result never looked exactly right. It was also confusing to do. So I ended up producing the final mobi compile (plus more editing) with Jutoh, which gave me much finer control over the finished product. I wouldn’t write a long manuscript from scratch in Jutoh, although it is possible, but I can see myself importing to Jutoh from Word or other word processors.

    I haven’t had the sync problems you describe with Scrivener, but I do all my serious writing on a single Windows lap-top. I back up to the Cloud, but keep the working copy on the hard drive.

    1. Author

      I had a similar experience. I finally realized I had this tool that was just too frustrating to use.

  3. I have found just the opposite with Microsoft. Or as I have come to know them, “How can we change the formatting and usability of OneNote and Word every 18 months to screw up your ability to work.” OneNote has crashed, failed in formatting, lost documents, deleted section corrupted data so often it is just a bad joke. I use to use AMIPro in the 1990s, back before Microsoft crushed the company and took most of their features, but not the good ones into Word. I am trying to verify the syncing with Scrivener, but I know a lot of published authors that swear by it and I have taken it up over the constant “forced” Microsoft format changes that have only become worse with continued Windows 10 forced updates and office 365. Office as a service not a product is the future. Unfortunately, Microsoft spent so many years fighting against a terminal or centralized software solution they have no idea how to implement it. Their product is just horrible. OneNote has become so incompatible with previous versions, that all my older data takes days or weeks to “manually” move over and a lot of it is corrupted. No, Microsoft is the pits. I might look at other products, but not a company that forces unstable software onto your machine and alters your programs with no notice and does not have any support to speak of and their restore points that invariably refuse to restore. The company is not reliable. I do consider myself a bit of an expert here, as I have been managing and supporting their products for more than twenty years and this coming from an enterprise systems engineer.

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