Scrivener and the short story

Recently I was asked by fellow writers at the writing site to contribute a short story for inclusion in an e-published collection. In the past, I occasionally posted short stories for review on that site and also enjoyed the opportunity to read submissions by other writers. It’s where I worked out the stories that became “L.A. Limo Tales” (available on and the comments I received at Triggerstreet were very helpful.

The dozen or so chosen contributors had all been recognized for their own Triggerstreet submissions, so I wanted to offer something worthy of the compliment I’d been given. Threading my way through some early stories, I found one that readily lent itself to a prequel to “Limo Tales”— a (hopefully) humorous tale about a night in the life of high-school aged “Max,” the cynical twenty-something protagonist of “Limo Tales.”

I opened it in Word and got to work. Move this here, shift that there. About 4,500 words. Piece of cake. Right?

Well, it wasn’t long before I lost what I like to call the “thread” of a tale. Did I use that line earlier? Where did I describe that character? That’s when I realized that Scrivener could be just as useful organizing 4,500 words as it was with 80,000 words or a feature-length screenplay.

After copying the work-in-progress into Scrivener, it was a quick and simple task to “Split at Selection” and break the story’s sections down into individual notes. “Auto-generate” feature quickly placed informative text from the note in Scrivener’s “Synopsis” feature. The “Corkboard” view instantly conveyed my story’s layout, making it easy to see elements that needed a bit more meat on their bones. Since I’m a cautious type, I used the “Snapshot” feature to maintain a revision-trail. “Document Notes” were invaluable when I wanted to save an idea that I may or may wind up exploring. It wasn’t long before I had those 4,500 words assembled into nine notes that let me track every beat and twist.

If you are a Stephen King who eschews outlining a story (but Mr. King is obviously a genius, right?), then Scrivener’s powerful organizing tools may not be as helpful for you as they are for me. But Scrivener was just as useful during the output process. The option of producing a PDF, .mobi file, or an .RTF meant I could make the editors’ jobs that much easier; I.E., how do you want it? Here it is! And, when I receive their review comments, it will be simple for me to quickly zero in on the object of their remarks.

Finally, whether you trust the “cloud” or not, by using Scrivener’s “Back Up” feature, I could quickly save a “zip” file of the project on my Google Drive folder. This meant I could revisit the story on my laptop or desktop computer whenever the mood arose.

So, don’t assume that Scrivener is only for big jobs, because it simplified my short story writing process in a major way. In fact, I’m using it to compose this post as a note in the same project that contains the story.

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