Scrivener Tips

We’ve arrived at the middle Wicked Wednesday out of five this month!

We haven’t talked about Scrivener for a while, but we [ALMOST] all use it for our writing. Wickeds, share your favorite new (or old) tip for writing fiction in Scrivener. Keywords? Compiling? Let’s let each other, and the world, know what in this fabulous application makes creating a book easier for us. On your marks, get set, dish!

Edith: I make heavy use of the synopsis card. In it (in the Inspector) I jot down the day and time the scene takes place – Thursday 4 PM, for example – and then a quick couple of sentences about what happens: “Cam drives home, reacts to news about her mom being in there with Susan.” After I read a scene to my critique group I prepend R to the synopsis so I can tell at a glance if I’ve already shared that scene. When I’m revising and I need to remember where in my list of thirty or forty scenes something happened, I can slowly mouse over the list of scenes in the Binder and the start of the synopsis shows up in a small text window.

Liz: I love the synopsis cards too, Edith. What I haven’t figured out is how to not have those little blurbs print when I compile so I don’t have to go through the word doc and delete all the extra stuff. Maybe you can show me! What I like is the ability to color code and tag things differently in the “general” section under the synopsis area. So I color code my day of the week so I can see if I have too much action each day or too little. And you can edit so the colors show in different places, like right in the binder area, or just the Screenshot 2016-03-13 09.02.51synopsis cards, etc. Then my next category is place, so I can see where things are happening around town. I’m sure there are tons and tons of things I haven’t figured out yet in Scrivener, but I love it so much – it makes life easier!

Oh – and one more thing. I use a Mac, and unfortunately there is no Scrivener app for iPad. BUT – I recently learned about Simplenote, which syncs with Scrivener so you can bring your scenes with you on iPad, then sync them back up in Scrivener. It saves all versions too, so you don’t have to worry about overwriting something accidentally. I love this when I have to travel for work and don’t want to bring two computers with me.

[Edith: The blurbs never show up when I compile, Liz. We’ll have to compare notes next time we get a chance!]

Jessie: I love the split screen feature which I use frequently during the revisions process. I am using it even more often now that I am writing books with more than one viewpoint character. Sometimes I want to try rewriting a scene from the other character’s POV and having the original scene in front of me whilst I do so gives me a strong sense of whether it is working in real time.

Julie: First of all, how much do I love that I’m learning more tips? My favorite thing to do these days is to figure out new ways to compile. Example? Lately I’ve compiled my scene cards into a document that I keep with me. When I have a block of time to write, I can look at that document, work on a scene, and then paste it into Scrivener when I get home. I am also color coding days of the week, so I can remember where I am. Also, if I end up moving a scene, I visually know I need to go back and change any time references.

Barb: Liz, have you tried check the Compile button=>Formatting=>uncheck synopsis (for every scene)?

I put all my character names as keywords, so the show up in the outline view when I am revising.

I prefer the screen outline view to the print one because it's more compact, so I screen capture and print.
I prefer the screen outline view to the print one because it’s more compact, so I screen capture and print.

Edith: Outline view? That’s a new one for me! I also put my characters names as keywords. Must investigate outline view …

Sherry: Au contraire, dear Edith — I don’t use Scrivener. I tried to learn and even signed up for an online class. I started out with the lessons but soon grew impatient. I’d rather write than take time to learn the program. At Left Coast Crime a couple of authors were talking about a different program with a much easier learning curve — now if I could just remember the name of that program!

Edith: I’m sorry, Sherry! I thought we all used it. It’s never too late…

Readers: Questions about Scrivener? Things you love, or hate, about the application? Or, like Sherry, have you tried it and found it not to your liking?

23 Thoughts

  1. Thank you for some great tips. My favorite tip is the easy to compile NaNoWriMo (obfuscated) word count. If I remember correctly, I had to download an add-on, but it makes getting the word count quick and easy.

    1. Good! When I look at the whole manuscript, it always shows the word count at the bottom, and also at the bottom of every scene. Very useful, Barbara.

      1. Edith. . .It’s Wednesday and
        I had to go online to find this post! I realized that I haven’t received anything from the wickeds lately. Don’t you love me anymore?

  2. I have never used Scrivener. I’ve never even seen Scrivener. I’ve always kept a running chapter outline of a WIP–what day it is, what happens in the chapter, chapter word count, and cumulative word count, just so I can get a sense of the pacing of the story and how much room I have to wrap things up. It’s worked for me so far, so I don’t plan to change horses in midstream.

  3. I recently purchased the Scrivener program and learned to use it at Bootcamp…I mean Jessie’s house. Jessie is a wonderful teacher and within in an hour I was going strong. I am still using the “basics”, but am gradually incorporating new things. At first I worried I had wasted money (not that it’s expensive!), but now I see it as an extremely helpful tool and a great investment.

  4. Here’s my Scrivener story: I bought it when I had already started writing the novel I am finishing up now, watched the video, simply could not figure it out, bought a used copy of “Scrivener for Dummies” which also didn’t make sense to me, and stopped trying to use it. The only vestige left is a folder with the old working name of my book that things keep ending up in. I know it’s me, not Scrivener, and I regret not trying harder now that I’m in the revision stage and could really use it, but I, too, got impatient trying to figure it out when what I wanted to do was write.

    1. When I first resolved to use Scrivener, Maureen, I was in the middle of a book, and I knew it would be a really bad idea to switch apps midstream. You might want to try again when you’re starting a fresh manuscript.

  5. Liz, my blurbs also do not show when I compile, so you must have something checked.

    When I write the story that shifts POV, I color-code the scenes by character. That way I can look and see if I’ve spent too much time in one POV and need to bring in the other. I should try color coding for day of the week in the other series (with only one POV). I’m forever referring to a calendar I keep in Excel to keep my timeline straight and it’s a pain when I start moving things around. Keywords would probably work in the dual POV story, now that I think of it. And I could track it in outline view. Although Edith’s trick works too!

    I love, love, LOVE the workflow ability. I can mark scenes as First Draft, Second Draft, etc. so I can track what’s been revised and how many times. All the way to Final Draft. And of course I love the synopsis cards and the ability to drag-n-drop scenes when I need to move them around. So much easier than cut and paste.

    And the Compile feature (once I figured out all the options I wanted) gives me a just-about-perfect output for submission.

    For all you who threw up your hands with “I just want to write,” just open Scrivener and start writing! I watched the tutorial for basics, but I eventually just said, “Okay, new scene. And…go!” and started writing. Most of what I’ve learned has come to me as I’ve used and become more comfortable with the program. If you try to grasp everything at once, you can become overwhelmed, but if you “just write” and learn as you go, it’s a lot more manageable.

    1. Part of my issue was I had already started writing and maybe imported it wrong, and I had separate scenes that I also wanted to import and couldn’t get it right. And I couldn’t even figure out the basics from that point.
      I’d love to use it for all the things you guys do, particularity color-coding and compiling, and I’m feeling that right now in particular, but I was spending more time trying to figure out what I was doing and no time writing and it’s a huge distraction if you’re not using it properly.

    2. I agree, Mary. Just start writing. Duplicate that scene for the next one, delete the content, and write the next one. The bells and whistles can come later.

  6. Edith, thanks for the great post. My system is more like Sheila’s. I got the free Scrivener sample, bought Scriveners for Dummies and after perusing both a while, decided it would take me more time to learn Scrivener than to write the book. I know I’m missing something not using Scrivener, but so far haven’t taken the plunge. What I need is a teacher like Jesse but haven’t found one yet.
    Nancy G. West

  7. I use a system similar to Sheila’s. LIke Sherry and Nancy, I tried Scrivener for fiction and decided the learning curve would slow me down too much. Scrivener’s outline feature helps me organize a nonfiction book with many sections and chapters. I’ll probably write the book in Word, though, because the book requires a lot of formatting, which I never mastered in Scrivener and know inside-out in Word. If what you already know works, the motivation to switch to something new doesn’t exist.

  8. I don’t think I’ve heard of this program before, but I love it. Since timelines are one of my biggest pet peeves (either too much stuff in one day or the characters talking about something that happened yesterday when it really happened two days ago), anything that helps authors track that I’m in favor of.

    Seriously, sounds like it is a great way for most of you to help track things, which I’m sure in a novel is extremely challenging. It’s so wonderful that there are so many programs like that out there these days.

  9. I have Scrivener, and I’ve tried and stopped using it so many times. I know if I would just give it a good shot it would likely save me all kinds of time, but I already have a system that’s worked so far, and I’m always on a deadline, and I just stop…again…But I love everything y’all have said about it, and hopefully I can get a week or two ahead on things and devote myself to see if I can be patient enough to use it. LOL!

  10. I color-code my scenes by subplot or theme. Of course, as later drafts develop, I try to make my scenes multi-task, but the coding warns me if an issue I want to weave through the text has fallen out of sight for too long.
    Barb, I am definitely going to use the keyword feature in the outline from now on. It sounds as if it would be more flexible than the color coding as the drafts proceed and scenes become more complex.

  11. Late comment, here. I’m catching up on the Guppies email list and saw the link to this blog post and I’m glad I clicked over.

    I use Scrivener for a book I’m working on, for blog posts, for a homeowners association newsletter that I do, and for stories that I write for one young grandson about “his” adventures on the Wii Resort island of Maka Wuhu. I’m thinking of using a Scrivener project for a recipe file, too. Files are too easy for me to lose track of when they are separate folders and documents on the hard drive. [insert cross-eyed emoji]

    What I haven’t yet been able to put to good use, though, is the outline function, and I’d really like to use it. Barb’s screen shot is intriguing so I’ll be going through Scrivener for Dummies again to find what I missed in the first few go-rounds.

    Thanks for the tips!

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