Did you know that Scrivener features several built-in tools that can simplify your writing process and make your limited writing time even more proficient?
With other word processors, you're forced to open up the internet if you need to check the definition of a word or search for a piece of vital information. And once you have the browser open, there's no telling what other sites you might find yourself on.
For me, the temptation to check social media or blog stats at every hour of the day is palpable. When I write, I physically have to choose to close my internet browser and focus on my writing.
Not having safe access to the internet while writing was a major drag before I discovered Scrivener's built-in writing tools. I had no idea that I could still get the information I needed without risking a sudden spiral into the Twitterverse.
Have you experienced the same struggles? No worries! Today, I'm going to introduce you to all of the writing tools that Scrivener has to offer.
First things first, you can access Scrivener's writing tools in two places. You can either select Edit in the program's header and scroll down to Writing Tools or you can right click within your document and select Writing Tools (which lives toward the bottom of the menu).
Within the Writing Tools menu, you can look up a word in the dictionary or the thesaurus, search using Google or Wikipedia, and collect character names using the built-in name generator. Unsure of how to use each tool? Allow me to break them down for you!
Lookup in Dictionary and Thesaurus
If you need the definition, synonym, or antonym for a word, you can easily look them up using Scrivener's Look Up in Dictionary and Thesaurus tool.
Scrivener sources their words and definitions from Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com, so you can rest assured that you are receiving accurate information.
To use this tool, simply highlight the word you'd like to look up, right click, scroll down to Writing Tools, and select Look Up in Dictionary and Thesaurus. This will open up an in-house window with your information.
This window contains tabs that allow you to view the word in the dictionary or thesaurus or on Wikipedia. You can also view all of these sources on a single page by selecting the All tab.
Search in Spotlight
If you're on a Mac, your version of Scrivener has an extra writing tool called Search in Spotlight. Spotlight allows you to quickly search files on your computer. This is helpful if you're trying to find saved documents that you'd like to add into your Scrivener project or to use as you write.
Once again, you can access this tool by highlighting the word you'd like to look up, right clicking, scrolling to Writing Tools, and selecting Search in Spotlight. This will bring up a Spotlight window with your results.
Search in Google
Not every one of Scrivener's writing tools is in-house. If you aren't too afraid to broach the internet while writing, you can easily look up information using the Search in Google tool.
To use this tool, highlight the word or phrase you'd like to search in Google, right click, scroll to Writing Tools, and select Search in Google. This will bring up your Google search results in a new tab on your computer's default internet browser.
Search in Wikipedia
While I never recommend using Wikipedia for finalized research, you can certainly use the site to uncover general information that you can later research in full. (If you aren't aware, nearly anyone on the Internet can edit a Wikipedia article, meaning that the articles are often riddled with errors.)
To easily search using Wikipedia in Scrivener, simply follow the same pattern we've been using thus far. Highlight the desired word or phrase in your Document, right click, scroll to Writing Tools, and select Search in Wikipedia. This will bring up your Wikipedia search results in a new tab on your computer's default internet browser.
Word and Character Counts
You can also access your document's word and character counts in the Writing Tools section of your right-click menu. If you'd like to see how many words a specific section of your document contains, simply highlight that section and access Writing Tools. It will then display the word and character counts for the highlighted work instead of the document as a whole.
The only writing tool you can't access by right clicking within your document is Scrivener's built-in name generator. To access this amazing tool, click on Edit in the program's toolbar, scroll down to Writing Tools, and select Name Generator.
This will open up an additional in-house Scrivener window where the name generation magics happens.
You should see some names appear automatically. You can alter how many names the tool generates (between one and 500 names) by using the slider at the bottom of the window.
To change the types of names that are generated, select the setting icon in the bottom, right-hand corner of the Name Generator window. This will bring up a sub-window full of name generation options.
Your first option in the sub-window is to select whether the generated names are for females, males, or either gender. This is followed by three check options, which each serve a different function:
Attempt Alliteration. By selecting Attempt Alliteration, you are telling the name generator that you would like it to generate first and last names that begin with the same letter.
Double-Barrelled Surnames. This option tells Scrivener that you would like the generated last names to include two hyphenated names, such as Smith-Jones or Harris-Wells.
Forenames Use Initials Only. Selecting this option tells Scrivener that you would not like it to generate full first names. Instead, you only want it to include an initial, such as J. Smith or M. Wells.
After these check box options, you can use the dropdown menu to select how many first names or first initials you'd like to generate.
Underneath this option, you have two dropdown menu and write boxes - one for first names and one for last names. Both have the same options, so I'll talk about them as a whole.
Set Name. The first option in the drop down menu is Set Forename and Set Surname. If you know for sure that you would like your character to have a certain first or last name, you can select this option and type that name into the write box.
The name generator will then generate results that include the set name.
Starts With. The Forename/Surname Starts With option allows you to tell Scrivener what letter(s) you'd like the first or last names to begin with.
For example, if you need your character to have the initials "R.S.", you can type those letters into the write boxes and Scrivener will generate the appropriate names.
Ends With. Just as with the Starts With option, you can tell Scrivener what letter(s) you would like the first or last names to end with.
Contains. The Forename/Surname Contains option allows you to generate first and last names that contains a certain letter or letters. For example, if you wanted your character to have the nickname Rick, you could type "Ric" into the write box to get names such as Richard, Patrick, Ricardo, and even Maurice.
Below these options is another slider. Here you can select how many generated names you would like to obscure on a scale of Low to All. This will allow you to include or weed out common names like Robert, Anne, Smith, Grant, etc.
Finally, you can choose the different types of names that are generated based on region, country, and culture. Make sure that you scroll down to check out all of the different naming options. Use the check boxes next to each naming list to either include or exclude it from your next generation.
When you've toggled all of the settings to your liking, click the Generate Names button in the main window to receive a list of potential monikers for your characters.
Whew! We finally finished going through all of Scrivener's built-in writing tools. Do you have any questions about the tools we discussed? How do you like to use these tools in your own writing process?
Special shout out to Graham for suggesting that I include more screenshots in this post. Let me know if they help! I'll be going back through the Scrivener posts in the next few weeks to add additional screenshots, so bear with me and check back often. Thanks!
P.S. Still need to purchase Scrivener? If you enjoyed this post, as well as the other tutorials in the Story Writing with Scrivener blog series, would you consider making your purchase through one of my links? I make a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you.
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!