Where to Put Those Words: Scrivener vs. Word

Where is the best place to write your masterpiece? There is the old standby Microsoft Word, and there are great programs like Scrivener. What should you use? It depends on what your needs are.

Scrivener is a software program created by writers for writers. It is very inexpensive and jam-packed with more features that any one person could ever use.

It is good for fiction authors and I think even better for non-fiction works. It helps organize not just your manuscript but every piece of research as well. It will store text, web links, photos, just about anything you need to write your masterpiece. Need a name for a character? There’s a name generator. Need some place to flesh out your characters? There is a character sketch form ready to fill in with things like age, education, occupation and more. You can also put a picture of your character on each one. Amazing!

Scrivener helps you stay organized with synopses and general notes to remind yourself of things. “Don’t forget to include info later about why this book was so important to her.” Never leave a thread dangling again. Set up each chapter as its own section in the “binder.” This is great for non-fiction works, because you can write your chapters in any order. At any time you can click and drag them to change the order.

Are you an indie author? Can’t figure out formatting? Scrivener does it all for you. It doesn’t matter if you are releasing in print, Kindle, Nook, PDF for any other format. It’s all there and just a click away from being a published author.

Sounds great, so what’s the downside? While Scrivener is very intuitive and easy to use, it does so much you sometimes have trouble making it do exactly what you want it to do when you want it to. There are tons of features, but who can remember them all?!

So, do I use Scrivener? Yes, I do. This is how I use it. I collect my research in Scrivener. Websites on the area where my story is centered, or time period information go under the research tab for easy access. I love the character sketches. You can change what is included in them and I always add a picture so I have a quick reference to each of my characters. I collect pictures and snippets there too.

But do I actually write in Scrivener? No. As a member of a critique group, we send our manuscripts to one another. Then we edit each other using Word’s “Track Changes” functionality. That isn’t a feature of Scrivener. It you write in Word like I do, it’s a quick send to the critique group. If you write in Scrivener, you have to export first to Word then send. But that is doable.

As an author with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Scrivener tends to be a little busy for me. There are lots of buttons and windows around the edge of the screen. This too can be turned off, so only the documents show. But I still choose to write in Word, because I know it like the back of my hand. I can change the layout and page set up in a snap. You can do that in Scrivener too, but it can sometimes take me a minute longer to manage.

As an indie author, my favorite feature is the compiling. I can get my Kindle mobi files and my PDFs ready to upload with ease. I can ensure the layout is perfect before I upload to the publisher or to Amazon. This is what I love most about Scrivener.

Should you have Scrivener and Word? I think so. They are great tools every author can use. How you use them, when you use them, well that depends on your needs, preferences, and desire to learn something new. Stretch yourself, dive in, and become the author of your dreams!

About Michelle Janene (Murray) 6 Articles
Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.


  1. Too much technology is taxing to my elderly brain. I use WORD and it’s all I can do to keep up with it. My hubby has to rescure me whenever things go phooey! But Scrivner sounds wonderful for techy folks who understand all that… like anyone under the age of 14….

    • Hi Beth,
      Lori and I did an Inspire Workshop a couple years ago. This information might still be in the Inspire files. If you can’t find the files there, there are on my website strongtowerpress.com.

  2. Scrivener sounds great! Just what I’m looking for in a word processing program. I do use Microsoft Word, although the extra helps will come in handy. Thank, Michelle!

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