Making the Leap to Scrivener 3.0

If you’re a writer who uses Scrivener, then you probably know the software is due for an upgrade. The developer released version 3 for MacOS late last year, with the Windows edition scheduled to follow in the next few months. As a former software guy, I’ll concede that the update is long overdue. But as a writer and self-avowed creature of habit, the thought of learning new features and a refreshed user interface had me looking for excuses to put it off. Sound familiar? Of course it does. You’re happy with the old version of Scrivener and probably wondering, as I did, if you can keep using it forever and ever and ever.

I’m here to tell you: Resist the temptation to procrastinate. Now is the time to make the leap to Scrivener 3. There’s a bit of a re-learning curve, but the improvements that come with the new version are worth the effort.

One of the best parts of the update is that Scrivener’s all-important Compile feature is now easier to use and more flexible. In the past, it was often difficult to make sense of the many options that were supposed to help you assemble the scenes and chapters of your manuscript into a customized file for output. It wasn’t always clear how Scrivener was interpreting your manuscript’s structure or how it would format things like chapter titles and scene breaks. The workaround was to use Scrivener’s default Compile settings and then use another program like Microsoft Word to go through your compiled manuscript to adjust the output to your liking.

With Scrivener 3, you now have greater control over your manuscript’s structure, including the ability to explicitly identify chapters and scenes. Plus, you can now create, edit, and test your output formats in a visual interface. No more hunting through a convoluted list of confusing options and running a full compile to find out whether a particular combination produces the output you want.

Other highlights of the update include better search tools, a cleaner user interface with a more modern look and feel, and a new feature that makes it easier to use the Corkboard tool to storyboard and visualize narrative structure. With the new Corkboard feature, it is now possible to see the scenes or chapters of your manuscript arranged in parallel threads that correspond to character POV, theme, subplot, timeline, or whatever element makes the most sense to you.

It’s impossible to list every improvement here. If you’re still on the fence about jumping into the upgrade on your own, I’ll be covering all the new features of Scrivener 3 for MacOS in detail during my Lit Fest weekend intensive, June 9 and 10. The class is for current Scrivener MacOS users who want to fast-forward through version 3’s learning curve. There won’t be a better time to make the leap.

Mark Springer is a freelance writer and editor. He is a co-founder and contributing editor at the speculative literary blog Fiction Unbound and a graduate of the Lighthouse Book Project.