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

Why Google Bought YouTube–And Why That’s Good for Genealogy!

Using YouTube for genealogy can be so effective partly because of who owns YouTube: Google!

In 2006, Google acquired YouTube, a video-sharing website, not long after it was launched. Ten years later, YouTube claims the attention of a billion people around the world: a third of all internet users. At last count,  more than 300 hours of video footage are uploaded every minute to the site.

Why should genealogists care? For the same reason Susan Wojcicki wanted to buy YouTube. She was supervising Google Video acquisitions  at the time of the purchase and is now the CEO of YouTube. According to this article, she watched the video shown below of teenage boys lip-syncing to a famous boy band. She doesn’t admit whether she enjoyed their groove, but she did say, “That was the video that made me realize that ‘Wow, people all over the world can create content, and they don’t need to be in a studio.'” Check it out–then keep reading.

Yes, YouTube makes it possible for anyone to share videos of all kinds, including genealogy-friendly content like:

  • Original footage of events all the way back to the invention of the movie camera.
  • Family history documentaries created by users that may include your family.
  • Instructional videos that will help you become a better researcher, create a family heirloom, or learn the latest genealogy software.
  • Video tours of archives, libraries, and other repositories that will help you prepare for and get the most out of your visit.
  • Interviews with genealogy experts and vendors.
  • Entertaining videos that add enjoyment to one of the world’s most popular hobbies.
  • Your family in other family’s home movies.

EVEN BETTER, Google’s acquisition of YouTube means you can use the same powerful search methodologies you use for Google searches to find YouTube content you want.

Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton didn’t really believe me when she read the YouTube chapter in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. Then she tried it. She discovered a 1937  film news reel showing her husband’s great-grandfather driving his fire engine! (Click here to read about her discovery and about how she’ll never doubt me again, ha ha!)

Why not take five minutes now to see what YOU can find on YouTube for genealogy?

1. Look again at the list above or click here to read more details about family history content on YouTube. Choose a family line, location, brick wall, display or craft idea to search for.

2. Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverGo to YouTube’s home page. Enter a few Google search terms on the topic you hope to find.

3. Browse results. If you don’t find anything useful, widen your search or come at it from a different angle.

4. Try additional topics. Certainly DON’T give up after one search! Sunny’s discovery was made on her second topic–less than five minutes after trying a first topic and realizing she didn’t know enough about that family to recognize their lives in the cool footage she was finding. Instead, she searched YouTube for a man she knew a lot about-enough to recognize him in a video that didn’t name him.

To learn more in-depth how to use YouTube for genealogy, I invite you to read my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. The YouTube chapter helped Sunny find amazing family footage in less than five minutes–see what it can do for you!

More YouTube for genealogy gems

My Most Amazing Find EVER: Family History on YouTube (No Kidding!)

YouTube Video: How to Use a Microfilm or Microfiche Reader

10 Top Tips for Busting Through Your Genealogy Brick Wall: Live Interview

RootsTech 2014 App Ready for Free Download

RT-Blogger-badge-150sqThe official RootsTech 2014 app is available for downloading from the App Store or Google Play! There’s also a web version for those who don’t use an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Like last year’s app, the RootsTech 2014 lets you create your own class schedule, learn about speakers, connect with other attendees and more. For example, here’s my speaker page, below: it tells all about me and Genealogy Gems and lists all my speaking sessions. If you click on the titles of individual sessions you see below, you’ll see more details: the length of the session, a description of it, what track and level the content is and what room the class is in. You can click right from that screen to add my classes (or any others) to your should you buy medication online schedule in the app.



But wait, there’s more you can do with this app! Access maps of the venue, which is enormous. Chime into social media conversations and check for daily news posts. Look up more about specific exhibitors so you can plan which booths to visit. (My booth is filed under “Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems”–I hope you’ll come say hi!)

RootsTech 2014 will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA from February 6-8, 2014 at the Salt Palace. It’s a huge event that focuses on harnessing today’s technologies to discover and share our family history. Whether you’re brand new to genealogy or a professional researcher, there will be something for you there! Early bird pricing is available until January 6, 2014.

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.

New Editions of Old Papers Now at the British Newspaper Archive

London Standard British Newspaper Archive

More than 8.5 million newspaper pages from 1710-1954 are now available to search at The British Newspaper Archive. Recent titles cover England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and include the London Evening Standard, Glasgow’s Daily Record and the Northern Whig.

The first years from the following new titles have been added to The British Newspaper Archive:

  • Biggleswade Chronicle, covering 1912
  • Daily Record, covering 1914-1915
  • Lake’s Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, covering 1864
  • London Evening Standard, covering 1860-1862 and 1866-1867
  • Newcastle Evening Chronicle, covering 1915
  • Northern Whig, covering 1869-1870
  • Surrey Comet, covering 1854-1857 and 1859-1870
  • Watford Observer, covering 1864-1865, 1867, 1869-1870

Check out the latest additions of old news now at The British Newspaper Archive here!

find ancestors in old newspapers chronicling america free us historical newspapers

Want to learn more about using old newspapers in your genealogy research? Check out my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll learn what kinds of family items you’ll find mentioned in old newspapers; how to find the right newspapers for your family; and how to locate old editions–both online and offline.

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