The paperless writing-cycle using Scrivener and Kindle

Combining my quest for a paperless office at home with my writing goals this year has required some changes to old habits. It used to be that I would write the first draft of a story, print that story out, mark up the printout, and then begin working on the second draft. But I’m trying to avoid that middle printing step and now that I’ve been through the cycle once this year, I thought I’d share how I did it in 7 steps:

  1. Write an aborted novel using Scrivener 2.0
  2. Decide the story you are telling doesn’t really work (and in fact, you’re not yet cut out to be a novelist)
  3. Cannibalize the first part of the novel and use it for a novelette
  4. Use Scrivener to export the novel to the Kindle
  5. Read what you wrote on the Kindle and make lots and lots (165) annotations
  6. Copy annotations into Scrivener
  7. Use multiple monitors to write the new story using your annotions.

I’ve covered the first 5 steps in other posts, and if you are so inclined, you can click on the links to learn more about what I did. It’s the last two steps that I wanted to discuss today.

As I finished the read through on the Kindle, it occurred to me: how am I going to transfer 165 notes into Scrivener so that they will be useful for me–and do so without printing anything out? It didn’t take long for a simple, if not slightly cumbersome solution presented itself. Kindle uses “Whispernet” to sync your library with other devices and apps that you have. So I opened up the Kindle App for Mac on my MacBook and indeed, right there in my library was my NaNoWriMo novel. I opened up the novel in the Kindle App and there were my annotations right there on the screen:


From here, I could copy the note and paste into my Scrivener document as a comment in the appropriate place. Like, I said, a little cumbersome but I avoided paper and I avoided having to retype (which I what I would have had to do if I read it off the Kindle directly). I could have copied the entire “Clippings” file from the Kindle and pasted the relevant portion into my Scrivener document notes, but that wouldn’t have helped much because Kindle clippings list Kindle location and that wouldn’t have helped me locate where the note was supposed to go. The result was something like this:

Scrivener Comments.png

Now, I realize that I can split the screen and use multiple windows to look at the old document and the new, but when I am writing new stuff, I like having the window full with what I am writing. So I make use of two monitors when I am doing the actual writing:


The top monitor contains the original Scrivener document that I wrote for NaNoWriMo, along with the annotations I made on my Kindle and transferred into Scrivener. The bottom screen contains the new novelette version of the story (show in the picture in cork board mode). I can read what I originally wrote in the top window, along with my notes and annotations, and write the new version of the story in the bottom window. So far, this has been working very well.

It makes me think that an interesting future feature for Scrivener might be the ability to import annotations from the Kindle Clippings file directly into an existing Scrivener document, parsing them and creating the notes as comments in the document. Of course, this would require the ability of translating a Kindle location number into a position in the Scrivener document and would only work if there had been no changes since the export to the Kindle (otherwise the location numbers might not line up). Still I think it would be interesting.

Regardless, I think this is another good example of using Scrivener and Kindle together. Not only are they useful applications for writers, they are green applications and can be good for the environment.


  1. I found this (and you) when I was stumped over how to print a Kindle-looking proof draft of a book I’m converting and re-publishing on the Kindle, without printing hundreds of pages for red-penning. Then I red this and had an “oh, duh” moment. Tried it out and it works great – thanks!

    Also, FrameMaker recently added a feature that will pull all of the comments made on a PDF and drop them into the original FrameMaker file, so this kind of workflow is not completely unheard of. Maybe if the L&L folks wanted to pursue this, there could be an option to put some special tags or markup in the .MOBI file so that when the stuff came back, it could determine locations a bit better. No idea how that would work, but maybe it’s worth a write-up on their support forum.

  2. Interesting, but you lost me on the “make lots and lots…annotations [on the Kindle].” You must have magic thumbs. I find making even a word or two annotation on the Kindle a terrible frustrating exercise. 165? I crown you king of persistence… 😉

    1. Gary, it might be that I grew used to it from using the iPhone. You get a lot of practice there. Actually, since I got my iPad, I’ve stopped using the Kindle for annotations. I have the Kindle App of course, but personal Kindle documents are not yet supported on iPhone/iPad devices. So instead I convert the document to a PDF and use an iPad app called GoodReader to the annotations. It still allows me to be paperless, and I must admit, it is much easier typing on the iPad (even if I am not using my external BlueTooth keyboard) than on the Kindle.

  3. The Kindle App supports personal documents. Save your document as a .mobi file, connect your iPad to your computer, go into iTunes and click on your iPad under “Devices”. Go to the Apps tab, and scroll down the page. There’s a File Sharing section, click on the kindle app, and you’ll see a list of files where you can add your mobi document and sync it up.

  4. Hi,

    Great site! So I am writing my novel in Scrivener and exporting to Kindle Fire, where I am making annotations. Problem is, I can’t transfer these to my Kindle Mac app. Am I doing something wrong? It’s not an option on my manage Kindle page. I don’t want to copy by hand. Thanks for any advice!


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