4 Steps to Getting Started with Scrivener Software for Writing Family History

Scrivener software may be just what you need to write up your family history writing. Genealogist Lisa Alzo shares 4 steps for getting started.

What is the Scrivener Software Program?

Scrivener is a software program that offers templates for screenplays, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts. After composing a text, you can export it for final formatting to a standard word processor or desktop publishing software.

Scrivener is much more than a word processor. Thanks to the wide range of interfaces and features it offers, it is valued as a project management tool for writers. 

It’s little wonder that Scrivener has grown in popularity with family historians who want to tell their ancestors’ stories. Genealogical information can become unwieldy at times. Scrivener makes it much easier to organize your material and write. 

At RootsTech 2016, Lisa Alzo introduced Scrivener to fascinated audiences in the Genealogy Gems demo theater in the Exhibit Hall. I invited her to follow up by sharing Scrivener for genealogy with you, too. Here’s what she has to say. 

“It is no secret that I am an avid user of Scrivener, a multifaceted word processor and project management tool. I have been using this program for all of my personal and professional writing projects since 2011.

Here are four steps to get up and running with Scrivener so you can use it to organize and write your family history:

1. Download Scrivener

Scrivener is produced by Literature and Latte and is available for purchase for use on Mac ($45) and Windows ($40). (Pricing as of the writing of this article.) There is also a 30-day free trial available.

Double click the Scrivener “S” icon on your desktop to open the program.

Before you start your first project, take a few minutes to review the Scrivener manual for your and watch the helpful interactive tutorials. 

2. Start your first project

Go to File and New Project.

The New Window allows you to choose from different project templates.

I highly recommend starting with the “Blank,” which is the most basic and creates a simple project layout you can build upon and customize later.

The “Save As” box appears for you to give your project a name (e.g. Alzo Family History) and tell Scrivener where you would like to save your project (e.g. a desktop folder, or you if you are a Dropbox user you can easily save your projects there so that you can easily access them from another computer or laptop). You will not be able to continue until you save your project.

TIP: Start small!
Begin with a smaller project like an ancestor profile or blog post rather than attempting to write a 200-page family history book your first time in.

3. Plot, plan, and outline away!

Whether you are a visual writer who likes to storyboard, or if you prefer text outlines, you can use Scrivener your way. When you start a new blank project, you will be see the “Binder” (located on the left-hand side), which is the source list showing all documents in the project.

By default you’ll see three folders: 

The “Draft” board (called “Manuscript” in other Scrivener templates) is the main space where you type your text (you can compile everything in that folder for printing or export as one long document later on).

The Research folder is where you can store notes, PDF files, images, etc. (not included in your final compiled document).  The Trash folder holds any deleted documents until you empty.  You will have one Untitled Document showing.

Simply add a title and then start typing. You can move sections around by dragging and dropping.

Click the green plus sign (+) icon to add files or folders.

Scrivener also lets you import files that you already have prepared in Microsoft Word or text based formats.

As you work, Scrivener allow to easily  “toggle” between its key modes:

  • Corkboard (where you can summarize on “virtual index cards” the key points you want to cover—the virtual cards can easily be arranged in any order you like);
  • Outline (use it if you prefer to control the structure of your work; and
  • Scrivenings (this mode temporarily combines individual documents into a single text, allowing you to view some or all documents in a folder as though they were all part of one long text).
  • There is another pane called the “Inspector” that offers additional features to help you manage your project.

4. Finalize your project

The true power of Scrivener resides in its “Compile” feature. (Compile is just a fancy term for exporting your project into any number of final formats—print, eBook, Kindle, PDF, etc.). With Compile you specify what Scrivener does/does not include, and how it should look. Mastering Compile takes some practice, so you should refer to the Scrivener tutorials and forums for guidance.

 

Want even more Scrivener secrets? Pick up a copy of my Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet (available for both Mac and Windows versions). Visit my website to watch the free video “Storyboard Your Family History with Scrivener” and to sign up for my Accidental Genealogist Newsletter.”

Thanks for the post, Lisa Alzo! I’d love to hear from you if Scrivener works for you.

More Gems on Writing Family History

WHY and HOW to Start a Family History Blog

7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

Easy Project to Write Your Family History: Publish a Q&A

How to Create Family History Videos

If you’ve spent some time researching your family history, your discoveries probably include old documents like census records and death certificates – not exactly exciting stuff to your kids and grandkids. And yet they are the ones you hope to pass your family’s history on to.

The truth is that the non-genealogists in your family aren’t captivated by the same things you may be. But we’re going to change all that with a tech tool that will help you create fabulous captivating videos about your family history. For perhaps the first time, your kids and grandkids will want to watch and share your family history wrapped up in these quick and professional looking videos. (Disclosure: This article does contain affiliate links which means we will receive compensation if you make a purchase, and that helps support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. Thank you!)

Software:

Folks often ask me about which video editing software I use. My desktop video editing software is Camtasia, which is made by Techsmith (the maker’s of SnagIt.) It’s excellent, does every thing I need, and I’ve been using it for years! Click here to get your own copy.

If you plan on making several videos now and in the future, Camtasia is well worth the investment. It will pay for itself in about two years compared to other subscription based services. It also has an extensive array of features allowing you the greatest creative flexibility.

The Easy Video Tools

If you’re not ready to plunge into a software program, then I recommend creating your family history videos with a web and app based tool. Currently, Smilebox offers a good collection of ready-made slideshow templates that add lot so of design with little effort. You can sign up for a free account here and start making free videos. Subscribing to the Premium plan gives you loads of additional options and tools that will really make your videos shine. Click to start creating videos with Smilebox for free

Animoto is fast, offers a free trial, and shockingly easy to use! No special skills required. animoto 10 year anniversary
Animoto is a tool I’ve used for several years. The company has gone through some changes, which includes doing away with many of the slideshow templates I demonstrate in the instructional videos below. However, they have moved to a new offering which is free forever with unlimited downloads and a small watermark. I expect we will see new templates being added. It’s still an excellent and very easy video creation tool! A paid subscription eliminates the water mark and provide a much wider range of tools and HD downloads.

Adobe Spark Video is a free app (with small watermark on the video) and also offers a subscription version. Downloads are sized for online sharing (720px)  Watch my step-by-step tutorial on creating videos with Adobe Spark Video in episode 16 of Elevenses with Lisa.

Tips on Creating Videos Like These

Watch the Video Tutorials

For best viewing, watch in FULL-SCREEN mode. Click the Full-Screen button in the bottom right corner of each video. Press Escape to return to page.

 

 

Get Inspired with These Family History Videos

Enter Last-Minute Giveaway Now: Full-Access Pass to #RootsTech 2014 Next Week

RT-Blogger-badge-150sqOne of the great things about presenting at genealogy conferences like RootsTech is the FREE swag they give you. Well, I’m going to pass this gotta-have-it swag along: a free all-access pass to RootsTech 2014.

RootsTech is shaping up to become the biggest annual family history event in the U.S. There’s nothing quite like it. RootsTech combines the cutting-edge excitement of a technology industry conference with learn-it-from-the-experts classes and hands-on workshops of leading genealogy educators. Whether you’re new-ish to genealogy or an expert researcher, there’s something for you at RootsTech. Check out the full agenda here, which includes a keynote by The Pioneer Woman and over 200 sessions.

RootsTech is next week in Salt Lake City. If you can be there, enter to win this way:

1. Go to the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Like it (if you haven’t already).

2. Post a comment with the hashtag “giveaway” (#giveaway) and WHY you want to attend RootsTech. You’ll be automatically entered to win.

3. Enter by midnight on Sunday, February 2 and I’ll announce a winner on Monday, February 3, 2014.

No purchase is necessary, but please only enter if you can use the pass or know someone who can.

Join Me on a Genealogy Cruise of the British Isles

It’s always a joy for me to get to get out and about and meet readers and listeners in person. In July 2014 there’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get together in person, talk genealogy and experience the joy of travel: the Unlock the Past Cruises for their 2014 British Isles Cruise!

Genealogy Cruise

I’ll be joining eight other incredible genealogists to bring cruisers an exciting assortment of family history classes aboard the beautiful Marco Polo ship (right).  Check out  the Presenters page

 

You’ll have around 40 topics to choose from, held mostly in the evening so there will be loads of time to explore the breathtaking landscape.

Itinerary: 

  • day 1 – depart Tilbury, London – 6pm (boarding from 12.30pm)
  • day 2 – at sea
  • day 3 – Invergordon, Scotland – 7.30am-10pm
  • day 4 – Kirkwall, Orkney Islands – 7am-6pm
  • day 5 – Stornoway, Outer Hebrides – 7.30am-10pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 6 – Tobermory, Isle of Mull – 7.30am-4pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 7 – Dublin, Ireland – 8am-5.45pm
  • day 8 – St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly – 9am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 9 – St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7.30am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 10 – Honfleur, France –  9am-5pm
  • day 11 – arrive Tilbury, London – 9am

My understanding is that this cruise is filling up very quickly so if you’re interested be sure and click here for more details.

Hitting the Road for Christmas in 1926

90 years ago, on page 1 of the Ford News 12/15/1923, Henry Ford shared the following Christmas Greeting: “Christmas stands for the human factor which makes life tolerable midst the hurry of commerce and production.  All of us need the annealing effect of Christ’s example to relieve the hardening we get in the daily struggle for material success.”

In the following short film from the vaults of the National Archives the Ford Motor Company wishes “A Merry Christmas to All” in 1926:

National Archives Collection FC: Ford Motor Company Collection, ca. 1903 – ca. 1954
Production Date: ca. 1926

Earlier that year Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for their employees in its automotive factories. The policy started in May with the factory workers and extended to office workers in August.

The decision to reduce the workweek from six to five days had been made in the year before. According to an article published in The New York Times that March, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son and the company’s president, explained that “Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation….The Ford Company always has sought to promote [an] ideal home life for its employees. We believe that in order to live properly every man should have more time to spend with his family.”

 

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