On Scrivener: Drafting

Scrivener—as any of my writer friends will tell you—is a tool that’s proven *incredibly* helpful to my writing process. After using it for several years, I’ve developed a system that works really well for me. I’ve shared this system enough times now (rather passionately)(thank you, patient friends!) that it seemed fitting to do a blog series on it.


Whether you’re a pantser, a plotter, or a hybrid of those (*hybrid fistbump*), you can use Scrivener to your advantage. Here are some of my favorite ways to use the software while drafting:

For when you just want to write the thing. For first drafts, I love composition mode*. It’s basically like drafting in a single Word document, but with the rest of the screen blacked out. This helps me feel less distracted by everything else in the background. Also, in the bar across the bottom, you can pull up your inspector window*, which lets you easily see your notes for the scene/project. There’s also a word-count display on that bar at the bottom. (And that display bar disappears unless you roll over it.) I use a single file when I just want to get lost in a story, then split it into separate files (by chapter, usually) when I transition into revision mode.

But if you’re an outliner… you could figure out how many scenes you’ll need, based on your total word count goal, then go ahead and make separate, empty files for each of them in your notebook. With this method, you’d write planning notes to yourself on the index cards, then fill in the actual scenes whenever you’re ready to write them.

Or, if you have specific ideas for structure… Here, you do the same thing as in the last point—split into separate, empty files based on your word count goals—but it isn’t necessary to know your entire outline up front. This works well for hybrid writers who are drafting toward specific turning points (“CONTEXT-SHIFTING MIDPOINT!” / “INCITING INCIDENT” / etc.) in the manuscript, but like to discover the details as they go along. This is also a useful method if you’re working in multiple POV and have a specific narrator structure in mind—use character names as file titles, then fill in the scene when you’re ready.

Word count/progress bar. Scrivener’s project targets* feature is one of my favorite things about the software. As a hybrid writer who drafts toward specific turning points, it’s very important for me to know where I am in the draft, word-count-wise. On top of that, I simply looooove having tools that show me great information on how I’m doing compared to my daily/overall goals. (I love it so much, in fact, that my husband created a goal-tracking website—we launched the beta site for it earlier this year, if you are likewise motivated by progress bars/charts!)(http://www.mywriteclub.com/beta)

The wonderful thing about Scrivener: no matter which drafting method you prefer, its features provide a versatile workspace that’s bound to work for your process.

For the other posts in this series, check out the ‘series map’ links, above. For more information about downloading the Scrivener software itself, go here. This is not a sponsored series of posts—I simply love the product and hope to help others get as much out of it as I have.

*More information on this term in the CHEAT SHEET post


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