On Scrivener: Getting Organized


Scrivener really shines, in my opinion, when it comes to all things revision. But before you dive into revision, it’s helpful to get everything organized. It does take a bit of time to set up your workspace, but in my experience, the time has been worth it. (Just make sure you don’t get stuck in workspace-organization mode—this is a means to an end, and you definitely don’t have to make use of every feature!)

Here are some ways you can use Scrivener to get organized:

Split into separate files. It’s at the revision point when I finally split my manuscript into separate files. (Yours might already be split, if you chose that method while drafting.) When my chapters are consistently made up of a single scene, I do chapter-by-chapter splits. For projects where the chapters are made up of multiple scenes, I split it scene-by-scene, then group those into chapter folders. (Sometimes the chapter folders come later, because it isn’t always clear which scenes should be grouped together at such an early stage.)

➳ Revision color system. I have my labels* set up so that I can mark files as red (to-do), pink (only tiny tweaks left), orange (re-read before calling it good-to-go)(particularly helpful when I’ve bruised my brain for hours and can’t see straight anymore—it might be done, but I can’t tell until I have fresh eyes), and green (good to go).

Status. If you’re working with more than one set of categorization—say you want to keep track of revision progress *and* be able to see your POV narrators at a glance—you could use color-coded labels for one of these categories, then use the “status” drop-down in the Inspector for the other category. (Go to View > Corkboard Options > Show Stamps to make your status appear as a stamp on your index card.**)

➳ Numbering system. On some projects, I’ve used a numbering system—this is super helpful for times when you need to shuffle scenes around, but aren’t ready to commit to the new order. When I do this, I title each file “CHAPTER NUMBER:SCENE NUMBER”. (For example, four chapters comprised of nine scenes might look like this—1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 2:4, 2:5, 3:6, 4:7, 4:8, 4:9) That way, if you’re unhappy with the changes, you can easily replace the scenes in their original order.

➳ Icons*. This is another way of labeling items at a glance—I assign stars/lightbulbs/check marks to many of my files. They can mean whatever you want them to mean, just be consistent in using them if you want them to be effective.

Once my manuscript is divided, color-coded, and labeled to my satisfaction—the writer’s version of a chef’s mise en place—my workspace is set up for surgery revision.

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

**I am only familiar with the Mac version of Scrivener—I’ve heard there are some differences between the Mac and PC versions. If you’re working with the PC version, you might have to do a bit of digging to figure out the PC equivalent of these Mac shortcuts.


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