I love Scrivener for new projects; nothing helps me outline, keep track of things, and have my entire manuscript in one, easy to reference place like Literature & Latte’s brainchild. Unfortunately, it’s a little intimidating if you don’t know how to use it, so I decided to show a few of my Scrivener projects to give people a visual idea.
I start here because it’s one of the most important visual cues in Scrivener. It lets me navigate anywhere, without struggling to find where I need to be.
This is an example of a story outline. Each section is collapsible if need be. I have my story divided into parts, chapters, and scenes; each folder is a part or chapter, and each individual page is a scene. I’ve labeled each scene with a basic overview of what happens, so I can know at a glance where I need to be.
The colours of each scene or chapter indicate (in this particular document) the Point of View of each scene. You can edit this to be anything you want, of course, but for me, it helps see which characters I haven’t dealt with in a while.
The sidebar also has other features. I’ve added a “Notes to Self” section (self-explanatory) and the “Graveyard” (for scenes I don’t think I’m going to use anymore but don’t want to delete just yet). Scrivener also comes equipped with character and setting templates, and a section for research (more details on that later).
Here’s an example of the “Research” sidebar fully expanded. I’ve organized them into different categories (isn’t science fiction fun?). This gives me a good overview without having to click on anything.
This is, possibly, one of the strongest stages for Scrivener. Group mode, which resembles a corkboard, lets you put one scene or event per index card, and shuffle them around manually as suits your plot. If the order of events changes, all you have to do is drag the card to its new spot. Here are some examples:
In this example (yes, it’s an extensive lawyer procedural for Gordon Korman fanfiction; don’t judge me!), I use corkboard mode to figure out which scenes go where. I’ve dragged them around several times. At a glance, I can see what goes where, and which scenes I need to work out in more detail.
Here’s the same information in Outline Mode. Outline Mode offers a bit more detail for each (you can see what the colours represent — in my case, Point of View, which is entirely customizable), but less at-a-glance.
Here’s a different story in Group Mode; this time, instead of ‘planning’, ‘researching’, etc., I’ve set dates. I’m tracking a character’s backstory, so I want to know what happens when. Again, I can immediately see what I know lots about, and which events are vague.
Do you like to research obsessively? Do you keep tabs or bookmarks in your browser that you wish you didn’t have to keep flipping over to? Scrivener allows you to import websites or other documents (PDFs, docs, etc.) directly into your workspace!
The Writing Itself
And of course, the meat. What I love about Scrivener (and what I didn’t realize when I first started using it) is that it’s not just for planning; you can keep your whole document there.
Just like in the planning stage, I can also look at each scene in a chapter on the corkboard, with its synopsis. If for some reason I decide I want scene X to occur after scene Y, I just move the index cards — and the scenes will be rearranged in the overall text document. No messy copy-and-pasting.
It’s of note that while each scene or chapter is its own section, you can also use “Full View” to see the entire thing, unbroken, just like in Microsoft Word or your software of choice.
Because Scrivener is customizable, I’ve added a “notes” section, which gives me a good, at-a-glance look at what I need to look out for as I’m writing.
Basically, Scrivener is what you make of it. There are other features, like keywords, that I haven’t used yet, but plan to — you can tag scenes with characters, plot elements, themes, whatever you like, so you can quick-reference them later. You can have scenes tagged with POV, dates, thematic elements, or anything — it’s all customizable. You can add comments or highlights during revisions, or mark scenes as “first revision”, “second draft”, “final”, etc.
And in the end, you can export the file — with or without your notes — into whatever format you desire.
I love Scrivener. Once you decide what you want to do with it, the software works for you, not the other way around. I use it differently for each project I have, and it’s fantastic. If you’re convinced, go here and get it: http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php If you’re not convinced, go anyway and look at their testimonials. Watch the tutorial video. Give it a shot!
Most importantly, happy writing!
See Part II for some of the inner workings when you’re actually writing!