Scrivener for NaNoWriMo — The Perfect Writer’s Tool

Surely it’s too late to be thinking of switching to Scrivener for NaNoWriMo (inter-National Novel Writing Month) now? The race has began and many novels are off and running.Scrivener for NaNoWriMo - the perfect writer's tool NaNoWriMo is well underway and writers are frantically attempting to reach their daily word count hoping for 50,000 words in the month of November. This is also the time writing guides and apps for NaNoWriMo are desperately sort out in search of the secret key to win.

Obviously, the only way to reach your goal of 50,000 words is to write and write and write, but, here are a list of ways to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo to help you write on the go, organise your research and keep track of your goals

Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

Literature and Latte, the home site for Scrivener, hosts video tutorials to get you started using Scrivener for NaNoWriMo. There are many programs set up for authors, but Scrivener is favoured my many as complete resource for planning, drafting, rewriting and publishing your novel. You could say it helps in every stage for writers to dream… write… publish.

Outlining in Scrivener

You’ll find many tutorials on YouTube, such as this one on outlining your novel:

The index cards provide an easy way to plot your outline; you simply write a few notes on each card for the scene it represents. In Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, she suggests creating a conflict sentence for every scene. This uses a simple formula using your character’s goals, rising conflict and linking the events to the next scene. The formula looks like this:

Character WANTS (or tries) to:_______________, BUT (or ‘until’) main character (or other character) gets into trouble by: ________________, and makes it worse. which NOW means:________________.

Holly Lisle refers to this as ‘The Sentence‘. Here’s an example from the opening of my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel: Kitty Walker WANTS to win a ribbon in the dog show, BUT her naughty miniature schnauzer, Spade, ruins everything by stealing the judge’s scarf, and NOW Kitty must take him to obedience school. If you write one sentence like this for every scene on your index cards, during NaNoWriMo, you’ll have a competed outline.

Set Word Count Goals

Another feature that makes Scrivener for NaNoWriMo a great idea is the ability to set project targets. You can set your target to be 50,000 words and you can even set session word goals. You’d need 1667 words per day to meet the NaNoWriMo goal, but I like to set 2,000 as my daily word count – just incase I have some less productive days. Gwen Hernandez has put up a great blog post with all the instructions you need:  Project Targets in Scrivener 2.x.

Use Scrivener to create character shots and proflesCreate Character Files

If you didn’t do a lot of preparation work leading up to NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to get confused between characters or lose track of setting details while writing on the fly.  You can use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo to record all those details about every character as you create them. They have special character sketches to use and you can even import images. There are also profile plans for various settings, so you don’t forget where your characters are at any given moment.

Writing Out and About

Sadly, Scrivener is still not available for iPad (despite years of promises), however, you can easily write in the free app Evernote, sinc the notes with your home computer and  paste them straight into your Scrivener WIP when you get back. This is much less time-consuming than writing in a notepad and retyping all those words later!

Apps for iPad

There are some apps you can get to make it easy to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo, such as:


This is a handy brainstorming app that exports right into Scrivener! It’s created by Literature and Latte, so you know it’s compatible with Scrivener. A beautiful app. although a little pricey at $14.99 – but you can try it throughout NaNoWriMo for free. Head to Literature and Latte and download your free 30day trial: Scrapple

Index Card

This is for those of us who left plotting until it was too late. While out and about, you can use the index card system to plot out your scenes on your iPad. The set up is very similar to Scrivener’s index cards and the app promises to sync with Scrivener.


That little green elephant has to be one of the most useful apps available – and it’s free! You can write scenes while you’re out, send, share and save them, and you can even save articles or sites that might have some relevance to your novel. Like Scrivener, Evernote saves automatically while you write, so you don’t lose a day’s work because you shut down or ran out of battery.

Great Value

Although worth every cent of the asking price, the best news for using Scrivener for NaNoWriMo is you can download the free version to trial and then, when you reach your 50,000 and win NaNoWriMo, you’ll get a discount voucher to purchase Scrivener for 50% off the retail price.

Guides to Help

With the help of these guides, you’ll be able to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo straight away:


Beginner's guide to ScrivenerScrivener for NaNoWriMo



  1. Hi Charmaine. Ah…if only I could find the time! Very comprehensive. Maybe one day…I just need an app to write my story as time is hard to come by…but I believe there is such an animal around. It’s quite good having your daily word count up on my blog–makes me get another couple of matchsticks and write a few hundred more words…

    Denise Covey recently posted…COLOUR – Choosing a colour to suit your brand. What colour are you?My Profile

  2. WOW! The place looks GREAT! It’s been too long…sorry. Just been either out and about or super busy.

    I love Scrivener and bought it last year for NaNo. They had a free trial for the month, then, as a winner, I bought it for 50% off ($20). Such a bah-gun.

    I absolutely love this place, Charmaine. You’ve been a busy girl, too. Sorry my visitation has been so lax. This article has been bookmarked—still not overly familiar w/Scriv yet. Oh, and shared on Twitter and FB, too. EXCELLENT.
    M.L. Swift recently posted…The Weekend GetawayMy Profile

    • Aww, thanks Mike!

      Don’t worry about being too busy for blog visits, I struggle getting around to the huge number of fantastic blogs available. No pressure here – this is a chill zone 😉

      I originally paid full price for Scrivener and never begrudged the price. It’s by far the best app I’ve ever used. And so easy to convert your manuscript to .mobi file to upload to Kindle!

      Enjoying your new site (although I guess it’s not new anymore, it still feels shiny) too.

      Charmaine Clancy recently posted…18 Sure Fire Ways to Write a Novel in 30 Days.My Profile

  3. Great article, Charmaine! And thank you so much for including my book, Scrivener Absolute Beginner’s Guide, as a reference. I’m also working my way through Holly Lisle’s classes, and I’ve added many of her tips and techniques to my personal Scrivener template, such as using the Sentence as the synopsis for each document (scene) in my project. It automatically shows up whenever I add a scene, and I can then fill in the blanks. When I look at the project in Outline mode, I can see the entire story unfold. This also keeps me from adding too much detail to the synopsis on the index cards and instead encourages me to put that detail in the manuscript, where it belongs.
    Jennifer Kettell recently posted…Scrivener Absolute Beginner’s Guide — Released!My Profile

  4. I love Scrivener for writing. It truly helps me stay on track. The Absolute Beginner’s Guide was a great book to help me understand the tool much better, especially the elusive compile process!!!

  5. I love scrivener for my revisions…but I tend to just write the draft in my word doc. I’m sure I’m not using scrivener to it full capacity – must learn more about it – thanks for the tips.

    • I think you’re using Scrivener exactly as you should Michelle. I always recommend beginners start off just using the basics and aim to learn one new feature as you can. There’s so much you can do with Scrivener that it all becomes too hard if you try and learn it all at once. Maybe learn to use it the same way you use Word for now, but with the added bonus of keeping some inspirational pictures in the same file. Then progress from there. There’s a lot of good guides, check the reviews and find one that suites your style (I like the information to be very basic and provide a lot of images).

      Charmaine Clancy recently posted…Scrivener for NaNoWriMo — The Perfect Writer’s ToolMy Profile

  6. I clicked on Mike Swift’s post to get over here, and I’m so glad I did!!! Great, helpful post I love all the links and tips and tools. I’m a follower for sure!

  7. Charmaine: Thanks so much for the link and book mention! Scrivener definitely keeps me organized during NaNo–though I’m a bit behind on word count right now–and I’m always glad to meet others who like it as well. Love the idea for The Sentence. I’ll have to share that one with my students. I do something similar, using Dwight Swain’s Goal, Conflict, and Disaster for each scene’s synopsis to keep me on track. Good luck with NaNo!
    Gwen Hernandez recently posted…NaNoWriteMore with ScrivenerMy Profile

  8. Thanks for stopping by Gwen, and thanks for such great articles on Scrivener – the project targets has saved me a lot of time updating my NaNo count — before reading that post, I was using a calculator to add up all my document totals!
    Hope you get some time to boost that word count.

    Charmaine Clancy recently posted…Niche Marketing for Authors – why you want less readersMy Profile

  9. I’ve just discovered index card for my phone, proving to be very useful.

    mooderino recently posted…Consideration Of Theme In StoryMy Profile

  10. Nice information. I was searching for the same. It helped me alot and saved my time. Thanks

    alot. sas online training .


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