I'm looking for good software for overseeing and rearranging the structure of a book. I have used Scrivener before, but found its exporting functionality frustrating and the software itself somewhat clunky. What are the alternatives?

I have a load of articles I need to rearrange around a new structure, expand or edit, then ideally export directly to an ebook format - or if necessary to another piece of software where it's easy to construct an ebook.

There may be new revisions of the book, so being able to edit in the original software then export is an advantage over formatting in separate software.

  • I like yWriter5. It is free and very easy to use.
    – user4684
    Jan 31, 2013 at 9:43

4 Answers 4


I'm actually at the point now where I want to take hundreds of scrappy scenes and bits and pieces and try to give my novel some structure. So the question you've asked is actually uppermost in my mind.

So I like Scrivener. I use it for all my drafting. But it doesn't quite cut it for the big-picture structure stuff, I'm finding.

When I tried to use Scrivener's 'corkboard' view, which lets you see all your little pieces of novel as pseudo-index cards on a pseudo corkboard, I found it impossible to manage because there were simply too many. Maybe if I had several enormous monitors rather than a single 15" laptop, it would work better. But it just didn't work for me.

What I'm finding works much better is not software at all, but the very thing Scrivener is trying to emulate: a large corkboard and a big stack of small index cards. I'm talking physical objects here - call me a Luddite. Rearranging and grouping the scenes is easier and more satisfying because I can see everything at once. If I run out of room I can just buy another corkboard - they're only about twenty bucks at Target.

Of course, there will be some additional work to apply what I come up with, structurally, onto my digital manuscript. But I think it's worthwhile. Convenience is overrated.

  • 1
    Yep, sometimes actual notecards on an actual corkboard is the way to go. You can even connect them with string to see how your plot flows and how scenes affect one another. Feb 22, 2013 at 17:58
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    I use coloured dots for the main characters. Feels like I am back at primary school - or Blue Peter :)
    – micapam
    Feb 23, 2013 at 7:17

You found Scrivener clunky....



You might want to try Adobe InDesign, which will allow you to export directly to epub and PDF, at least. Very easy to lay out, edit, and expand.

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    Is this common knowledge about Scrivener then? I can't believe there isn't any alternative that actually focusses on the structure of text. Indesign is a complete pain to use unless all the content and structure are finalised. Don't you think? Jan 26, 2013 at 11:36
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    @AndrewWelch I'm besotted with Scrivener, so I may be biased.:) What "structure" problems are you having that neither Scrivener nor InDesign can tackle? Jan 26, 2013 at 13:30
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    @LaurenIpsum - May be biassed? ;) Jan 26, 2013 at 15:15
  • Agree with Andrew that InDesign is a pain to use, and that Scrivener's exporting features can be clunky and unintuitive. Try to write a novel with subparts in Scrivener. It's easy to set that up and write, but when it comes to exporting it's a royal PITA getting the section title pages to format and display correctly. Scrivener is far from perfect, but I still prefer it to anything else.
    – Robusto
    Jan 27, 2013 at 14:26

My books I've simply used MS Word with style sheets. Write to PDF. Sure, sometimes you have to do some klunky fine-tuning. The only real issue I found with MS Word was keeping a consistent bottom margin, i.e. it's common for a page to come out a line or two shorter than others. I know some people consider it very important to have a perfectly consistent bottom margin. (Other than at the end of a chapter and a few such cases.) Personally I just accepted the problem in most cases.

For my Kindle book, I dumped it to a text file and used Eclipse programmer's editor to clean it up. Next time I'll probably use Notepad++.

But then, I'm a hammer and screwdriver kind of guy versus specialized power tools.


For the first draft, I find Google Drive to be the best: I can access and edit my text from my Mac, iPad, and even iPhone.

When the draft is done, I export it to Open Office, where you can use writer2epub to export. Then Sigil for some final touches. Have fun.

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