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

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.”

 

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

 

We learn about great new genealogy records online every week! On Fridays we round up a few for you. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–and get inspired by the types of records that may be out there for your family, waiting for you to discover. This week: Michigan death certificates; Zimbabwe death notices, wills and trusts and an oral history archive of New Zealand nursing.

We dig these gems

MICHIGAN DEATHS. Images of Michigan death certificates from 1921-1939 are now available for free at Seeking Michigan. “The index for records from 1940-1952 will be made available in the next few weeks, with additional certificate images to be released each year as privacy restrictions are lifted (1940 images will be released in January 2016),” says a press release.

“Together with the records from 1897-1920 that have been available at the site for years, this collection makes Seeking Michigan the one-stop destination for more than 2.6 million free, publicly-available 20th century death records for Michigan ancestors.”

ZIMBABWE DEATH NOTICES. Over 130,000 indexed and browsable records from the Zimbabwe, Death notices, 1904–1976 are now available on FamilySearch. According to the description, “The records included in this collection consist of death notices and registers obtained from the National Archives at Harare and Salisbury, Zimbabwe. The collection includes indexes of closed and open files. The records are written in English. It appears those records that are labeled ADM are probably administrations which are separate from the death registers and they contain wills and living Trust records. Birth and death registrations did not include African tribal members until 1963.”

NEW ZEALAND ORAL HISTORIES. A new web archive of oral histories of New Zealand nurses is now available. “The aim of this website is to capture this rich history and create a resource that nurses, students, academics and family members can access in order to gain a better understanding of nursing history in New Zealand,” says the site’s home page. The site contains a “large collection of oral histories including abstracts, recordings, photos and other information. These histories have been collected from nurses who trained during the 1950s and 1960s and capture both the everyday elements of nursing practice along with some of the more unusual. Here you are able to listen to stories, read brief abstracts, and view photos of the nurses.” Got a story to tell? They are accepting new interviews. There’s also a section on hospitals and one on nursing uniforms.

 

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! If your keyword searches for record types aren’t bringing up good results, try switching the order of the search terms. In English-language searches, word order counts.

This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.

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