Image: Matthew Loffhagen
If you’ve looked into writing software, you’ve probably heard about Scrivener (in fact, you can read our Scrivener review here). Combining an effective word processor with a suite of tools that facilitate outlining and research management, it’s fast become one of the most successful pieces of writing software on the market. That complexity, however, comes at a price; amidst a sea of potentially useful features, many writers feel lost, unsure how to get started and unable to make the most of their new software. Enter Learn Scrivener Fast.
(If you haven’t got Scrivener yet, you can get a discount by clicking here.)
Learn Scrivener Fast is an unaffiliated service available for both PC and Mac, providing a range of resources to guide users through Scrivener and make even its most obscure features comprehensible to the layman. Though there are different ways to learn, and multiple resources are made available as part of membership, the core of the course is a series of videos – typically 1–4 minutes in length – that guide the viewer step-by-step through Scrivener’s features.
It’s a comprehensive and potentially effective service, but with even the cheapest membership costing north of $100, it makes sense to dig deeper into the product before deciding whether it’s right for you. That’s why, in this review, I’ll be looking over Learn Scrivener Fast and providing the information you’ll need to make your own buying decision.
In its basic form, Learn Scrivener Fast is a series of videos featuring a narrator explaining how to use a specific function while demonstrating that use on the screen. The visual element is essential, allowing you to click along with the video, and while the narration isn’t particularly engaging, it’s clear both in concept and delivery.
Each video follows on from the next, with single-video ‘Units’ combining into ‘Modules’, which in turn form larger categories (also, confusingly, called ‘Modules’) that are the syllabus of Learn Scrivener Fast’s tuition. At the time of writing, these are:
- Step-By-Step Basics (32 videos)
- Ninja Tips & Tricks (25 videos)
- Scrivener For Blogging (13 videos)
- Work Smarter (18 videos)
- Easy Ebooks (12 videos)
Learn Scrivener Fast advertises itself as the way to ‘get Scrivener to do exactly what you want and accelerate your writing career in less than 1 week.’ This description is somewhat misleading, as Learn Scrivener Fast actually unfurls at the pace of the user – yes, it could probably be devoured in a single week, but it could also be teased out over years. It all depends on how you want to use it.
This is actually one of Learn Scrivener Fast’s most obvious strengths. Its exhaustive video library can be replayed again and again for blunt-force learning or put on hiatus while a user carefully gets to grips with a particular module. All videos are available from the get-go, so you can skip ahead to solve a specific problem or jump around, deciding what you need to know. The site even records which videos you’ve ticked off your list, meaning you can return any amount of time later without having to repeat lessons or figure out where you left off.
This accessibility perfectly caters to a wide audience that includes both those who are tech-savvy but new to Scrivener and those who are encountering it as their first piece of dedicated writing software. The danger of any how-to course for a complex topic is that you end up just as lost in regard to the course itself, but Learn Scrivener Fast doesn’t have this problem. It’s willing to hold your hand and go step-by-step, but it’s also happy for you to wander off on your own, confident that (if you need to) you’ll be able to find your way back.Learn Scrivener Fast gives users a perfect blend of freedom and guidance.Click To Tweet
Every video is followed by a series of screen shots and written explanations, recapping what’s just been learned for those who only need a brief reminder or to check a particular detail. The course even differentiates between PC and Mac, offering slightly different videos and recaps where the software differs between the two.
In terms of accessibility, Learn Scrivener Fast is a site that you log into using a name and password. This means you can access it from a range of locations and devices, logging in to your account rather than downloading an app or program. Ease of use doesn’t come much simpler than that.
One negative that hangs over Learn Scrivener Fast is the style of presentation it adopts. Somewhat oddly for a service of its kind, Learn Scrivener Fast’s brand is assembled around its founder – in fact the site’s header declares it ‘Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast’, complete with a caricature of the titular teacher. Its marketing has a similar focus, with the site’s homepage beginning with the text ‘So I was trying to get a job as a pizza delivery guy’, and continuing ‘I kept getting rejection after rejection–yes, from pizza delivery places!–because I didn’t have what it took to “deliver pizzas”. Seriously?!’
This style of presentation is more familiar from diets and lifestyle products than writing software, and this may make a difference to some people’s user experience. Michael is the narrator for most of the videos, after all, and users will be inundated with emails written in this style. Michael describes himself as a ‘Scrivener Coach’ at various points, and there are times when the hard-sell of a brand built on his personality gets in the way of the clearest and most direct guidance. Personal preferences will vary, but it’s a factor worth considering.
Overall, Learn Scrivener Fast does a great job at providing ease of use without tying down those users who don’t need as much guidance. At the same time, this is Learn Scrivener Fast, not ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Software’. The most vocal critics of Scrivener tend to fall into two camps: those who have encountered an unusual (even unique) issue and those for whom user error has made it appear that there’s an unusual (even unique) issue. These critics generally find that their position is too bespoke to benefit from pre-existing advice and too unusual to be solved in retrospect, even by an expert. Learn Scrivener Fast is still likely to fall at these hurdles, and while it can drastically improve your Scrivener experience, it doesn’t add features or transform the service. Scrivener put the benefits of their product front-and-center, so if it doesn’t sound like it’s for you, that’ll still be true once you’re finished with Learn Scrivener Fast.
At the time of writing, Learn Scrivener Fast offers three versions of its service. These are titled ‘Student’, ‘Rockstar’, and ‘Ninja’, covering ascending levels of access.
- Student: This level is charged at $127 and comes with a variety of tools and resources, as well as access to the 32 videos of Module 1: Step-By-Step Basics. (Click here for a 20% discount on Student.)
- Rockstar: This level is charged at $197 and opens up the remaining modules, as well as adding resources for working with a partner on Scrivener. (Click here for a 20% discount on Rockstar.)
- Ninja: This level is charged at $297 and adds various features that open up a continuing support-base for users. This includes advanced monthly training modules, group Q&A sessions, access to a private Facebook group, and some handy features such as ‘expert videos’ and the ability to download videos for offline viewing. (Click here for a 20% discount on Ninja.)
Each level includes continuing access to resources, and to resources added after payment, where applicable to the purchased level. If this still sounds like a lot of money, there is a safety net, in the form of the following guarantee from the site’s homepage:
I’m offering you a rare 1 year guarantee on this course… So that means that if after 1 year from the date you get Learn Scrivener Fast, if you’re not 100% satisfied, you send me an email and tell me you want your money back, and I’ll give it right back without asking a single question.
This is something of a game-changer, and may tempt many potential users to see if the service is for them. Whether or not that’s the case, and whether you should stick to ‘Student’ or shell out for ‘Ninja’, depends on how you’re approaching Scrivener itself.
The personal context
Scrivener is a powerhouse in the writing software world, and it’s likely to be around for a long, long time. That makes learning all its features and helpful tricks a better investment than a less tried and tested piece of software, and in turn makes Learn Scrivener Fast a far more effective tool for a one-off payment, especially as you’ll have access to new advice as Scrivener continues to evolve.
With that said, Scrivener isn’t a deliberately complex program. It’s a dedicated service designed to suit the user, and while its interface and existing guide aren’t perfect, they’re not exactly arcane scripture. If you’re someone who’s comfortable experimenting with Scrivener, scouring YouTube for decent one-off advice videos, and applying existing knowledge of writing software, it’s unlikely that Learn Scrivener Fast is going to justify your investment, especially at its lower levels. Unless you’re looking for a long-term community where you can address individual needs (and maybe even build contacts), investing time rather than money is likely to lead to the same effect.Don’t be blinded by apparent quantity – value depends on what you’ll actually use.Click To Tweet
On the other hand, users with little experience of writing software stand to gain a lot from Learn Scrivener Fast, especially those who are looking for a piece of writing software that will address their needs for a long stretch of their career. If you’d hesitate to describe yourself as tech savvy, Learn Scrivener Fast has your back, and can guide you to complete mastery of an amazing tool in very little time.
One piece of advice I’d offer to anyone considering purchasing Learn Scrivener Fast is to play around on a free trial of Scrivener first. If the core mechanics work for you – if you can write comfortably with Scrivener first and check whether it could be your writing ‘home’ – then you can start thinking about investing in making it your own.
The final analysis
Learn Scrivener Fast is a great service that does exactly what it claims to do. No-one should be worried that they won’t learn Scrivener through its use, and they can rest assured that they can do so at their own pace (whether that’s ‘fast’ or not).
As is the nature of such things, the community and extras are less of a sure thing. Communities are as good as their members and as long-lived as they turn out to be – they could last decades, stuffed with amazing advice, or turn into a ghost town within months. Likewise, it makes little sense to look at the number of extra eBooks and bonus videos on offer, since only some of them are going to address topics you want to know more about. Likewise, there’s no reason to expect future additions won’t be fantastic, but you should only base your purchase on what already exists, because that’s all you’re truly guaranteed to a) get and b) find useful.
For this reason, it’s difficult to recommend ‘Ninja’ – the extra $100 buys a lot of bells and whistles, but unless you see something that addresses your specific needs, it’s hard to argue that you’re getting $100-worth of utility (remember, the first level only costs $127, and covers all the basics).
‘Student’, on the other hand, is much easier to recommend. The resources offered on this first tier could easily be the difference between someone struggling and giving up on Scrivener and using its varied features to take their writing to the next level. In terms of how much this level opens up Scrivener as a product, it’s great value for money, especially considering the lifespan of both Scrivener and Learn Scrivener Fast – this may be the software you’re still writing on in ten years, for example.Learn Scrivener Fast may set you up for over a decade of success.Click To Tweet
The middle tier, ‘Rockstar’, depends on what you’re looking for. A lot of extra resources and knowledge are added, but again it’s how much of it you’re really going to use. Are you going to use Scrivener for blogging? Do you have plans to produce an eBook? If so, great, but if not, that’s two core modules that have no utility for you. Likewise, the ‘Work Smarter’ module contains nine videos that deal with Evernote, and videos entitled ‘Syncing With Simplenote’, ‘How To Use Scrivener with iPad Apps’, and ‘Syncing Scrivener with iA Writer’. If these are things you want to know about, or think you’ll want in the future, they’re added value. If not, it doesn’t really mean anything that those features have been added.
When it comes down to it, ‘Student’ is an easy recommendation, ‘Rockstar’ depends on what you’re looking for (though if you want to create an eBook in Scrivener, you’ll probably want this level), and ‘Ninja’ is mostly for those who want to make Scrivener the lynchpin of their writing.
Still not sure about Learn Scrivener Fast?
If you’re still not sure whether Learn Scrivener Fast is for you, here’s my four-step plan for what to do next.
- Try a free trial of Scrivener. See if it works for you, and investigate which features you can grasp without help.
- Once you’ve explored a little, watch the example videos on Learn Scrivener Fast’s site. See if they work for you and if, using Scrivener, they leave you comfortable with the feature described.
- Look through the videos and other resources that the site lists and cross out those in which you have no interest. Take the percentage of useful to not-useful as an indication of what you can expect from the content that isn’t listed.
- Look up how to use the Scrivener ‘corkboard’ using Google and YouTube, then repeat this with ‘splitting chapters’ and ‘using the word frequency tool’. These are relatively straightforward functions, so the quality of the content you find, and how hard you have to look for it, are about as easy as it will get without Learn Scrivener Fast’s help. Can you see yourself doing this for every feature you want to use, and what value do you place on not having to do so?
This should lead you to your own particular conclusion about whether Learn Scrivener Fast is right for you, but if not, try working solely with Scrivener for a week. Everything is impenetrable at first, but if you’re still struggling after a few days, or Learn Scrivener Fast can show you how to do something you didn’t discover or consider on your own, then it’s probably the service for you.
Have you tried Learn Scrivener Fast and want to sing its praises or warn off potential users? That’s exactly what the comment section is for, so please share now. Or, for more on great writing software, try 6 Great Pieces Of Writing Software You Need To Try, ProWritingAid Road-Tested: What You Need To Know, and Scrivener Review: Is It The Best Book Writing Software?