5 Essential Scrivener Tips
Years ago, when I first started writing, I was incredibly disorganized. I used Microsoft Word and even had individual documents for every chapter, plus an outline document, brainstorming document, etc. But that quickly became very cumbersome and occasionally resulted in misplacing bits and pieces of my manuscripts or forgetting which version was the latest and greatest. Then in 2010, I signed up to beta test the Windows version of Scrivener for that year’s NaNoWriMo — and I’ve never looked back. All the tools I need to plot, draft, and revise are right there at my fingertips.
There are many things I love about Scrivener, but today I’ll share with you 5 of my favorite tricks:
Project and Document Notes.
Yes, this may sound simplistic, but this is my go-to revision tool that keeps me organized. My initial edit letter on my first published book (Monstrous) was 20 single-spaced pages and I’d probably still be trying to wrangle those edits without this feature.
When Project Notes are toggled, whatever is written there remains in view regardless of which part of the manuscript you’re working on, and when Document Notes are toggled only the notes related to that scene (also known as a “scrivening”) show in the inspector panel. I divide my editorial notes into Big Picture items that run throughout the manuscript that go in the Project Notes and chapter by chapter notes that go into the individual Document Notes for each related chapter. Now I don’t need to switch between two documents – everything I need is right there and always in my line of sight as I revise.
Importing a critiqued manuscript and comments.
After you’ve drafted your story, chances are you will send your manuscript to critique partners and beta readers. And then you’ll get back a marked-up document with lots of comments. If your book has been purchased by a publisher, you may also get back a similar Word document from your editor. Now you want to get that information into Scrivener so you can revise, but importing doesn’t transfer those comments over into the Inspector Comments of Scrivener in the same way they appear in Word or Pages. Instead, they import as annotations. There is, however, an easy way to convert them.
Step 1 – Import the critiqued document (PC & MAC):
First, prepare the document by putting a # in front of each chapter heading (or scene) that you want to be divided into a new scrivening. This will preserve chapter/scene/beat breaks. Then…
- Drag and drop the file wherever you’d like it to be in the Binder.
- Select where in the Binder you wish to import the document. For example, a new folder labeled Revisions.
- Go to the top menu File -> Import.
- Select Import & Split.
- Select the document, then click OK. It may take a few moments to import. All formatting (italics, bold, font, etc) should be preserved.
Step 2 – Convert the Annotations to Comments (PC & MAC):
- Click on the first imported scrivening in the Binder, then click inside the document editor.
- Go to the top menu: Format -> Convert -> Inline Annotations to Inspector Comments. (if this option is grayed out, double check that your cursor is in the editor of the document, then try again).
- The comments will now appear in the Inspector Panel to your right. Repeat for each scrivening in the imported document.
Word Frequency Tool.
This is a simple and easy way to see if you’re overusing words within a chapter that I often use to find crutch words that otherwise would have escaped my notice.
How to use the Word Frequency Tool (PC & MAC):
- Top menu: Project -> Text Statistics
- In the dialog box that pops up, click on the arrow next to Word Frequency to see the full list and counts.
- If you’re in a single scrivening it will calculate just for that scene. To view the entire manuscript’s stats, select all the scrivenings you’d like to include first.
Yes, Scrivener has a Name Generator and it is awesome! Whenever I am stuck on a name for a new character, this is where I turn. The generator is different between Mac and PC, but both are very cool features and you don’t even have to open a browser and risk getting distracted.
Using the Name Generator (PC):
- Go to Tools under the top menu, then select Writing Tools. Click on Name Generator at the bottom.
- This will bring up an interface with a variety of options to choose from such as gender, origins, first letters, etc. You can also simply click Generate Names without any specifications.
Using the Name Generator (MAC):
- Go to the top menu Edit, then select Writing Tools. Click on Name Generator.
- The interface looks simple at first, but you can bring up more options by clicking the gear at the bottom right hand corner.
- More specific details and a walkthrough can be found on the MAC version of the name generator here in the Scrivener tutorial video.
Exporting a Synopsis.
I loathe writing synopses. They’re torturous! But Scrivener can help. If you’ve labeled your scene or chapter cards with a note or two about what happens, you can use the Compile feature to export all of them at once and presto! – you’ve got the barebones of a synopsis. It will still need fleshing out and revision, but that’s half the battle right there and it feels a lot less daunting when you’re not staring at a blank page.
How to Export a Synopsis (PC & MAC):
- Select the Compile icon from the top menu
- Under Format As, select Synopsis Outline
- Ensure all the scenes and chapters you want to include in the synopsis are checked in the Include column and unchecked in the Page Break Before column.
- Under Formatting options, uncheck all boxes in the Title column so Scene 1, Scene 2, etc do not show up in the export.
- Click Compile, and save as the document type of your choice.
And there you have it – 5 of my favorite Scrivener tricks! Hope you’ll find them useful – Happy Writing!