Advanced Chapter Management

Just a question to learn how others handle this: The easiest way seems to be to use folders for chapters and text items for the scenes within the chapter.

Okay. But my next novel was beautifully growing from a larger structure - I had started with a loose exposé, from which I developed several large chunks (acts, maybe). This was nice, having the exposé in the upper editor and the outline view below, so I could condense the essentials into the synopsis of every “act”. After that, I developed a finer truncation of every “act” - “sequences” - in the outline, and below that came the scenes. So I have texts in folders in folders in the draft folder.

But I don’t want this “meta-structure” to show up in the final novel. I just want to have chapters.

First attempt was a third level of folders for the chapters. I found the disadvantage is that (a) I have to include/not include folders by hand and (b) in some cases, I want to have chapters that consists of scenes that belong to different sequences.

Second attempt was to simply title the scenes that shall start a chapter with “Chapter <$n>” on top of the text and click on page break before. Better, but I missed to have the big picture in the binder: You have at least to open the outline with the “Page Break” column to see how your novel is structured. Plus it’s not that easy to shuffle scenes around from one chapter to another.

Third attempt (and last in the moment) is to create a third level, but to use text containers/file groups instead of folders for the chapters. In the export function, folders and file groups can be handled different - I just ignore all folders and demand file groups to export only their titles (“Chapter <$n>” works fine from the title; not so beautiful in the binder, but all chapters are always numbered correctly). Plus, the file group is a different icon, so I can see my chapter structure in the binder.

I’d like to know whether somebody works similar but has a better idea how to manage this.

(Please do not understand my posting as a demand for a new functionality. I am quite happy with Scrivener as it is; in fact it’s almost perfect!)

In your position, I would create files titled “Chapter XYZ,” possibly with a synopsis, but with only the chapter title as text. That is, create a file that contains the chapter header and nothing else. You can then move it around the Binder as desired, putting it wherever you like in the outline hierarchy, and export it just like any other file.

I would probably give the chapters names instead of numbers at the beginning, and fill in chapter numbers once the order is set.

Hope this helps,


I agree with Katherine. A folder for each chapter would drive me nuts, especially since my chapters average only 2,500 words. So, a book with 30 plus chapters would have 30 plus folders and docs inside them. Much too confusing.

Not numbering chapters in the beginning is a good idea. A chapter title could even be a micro-summary (like how you title index cards). And, as Katherine says, shuffle later in the binder, which is really easy to do.

If you like, though, you could visualise your book having three parts. You may even actually have three parts), and create folders for those and chapters inside each of them. I wouldn’t create any more folders than that, though.

Katherine’s advice is almost precisely what I’ve been doing.

I had one novel, finished in my mind but chaotic on the page, which I nudged into Scrivener that way. Less than a week of finagling later, the whole thing made sense. So I used it – that format – to reconstruct a second novel; again it worked.

And I found that each of them did break conveniently into three parts. (This was a genuine revelation. I can only assume it’s something I absorbed from reading other novels – I never took a “writing” class, or gave conscious thought to partite structure; just wrote a segment of the story which seemed whole, or complete, then went on to another, etc., until it was done. I did think to call each of the segments a chapter, but as I’ve already noted, did not realize how clearly I had written three separate “parts” until I began working with Scrivener.)


Any chance of posting a screen grab of the binder showing how you set these up?


Ah, Phil, good man. You’ve discovered for yourself the massive power of the unconscious. I’ve always believed, notwithstanding writing workshops and how-to books, that we an innate ability to tell stories. And it’s in our nature to try to impose a structure on them. The storyteller’s art is really more about honing that more consciously, refining and sending it out into the world.

For me, a chapter is not the basic unit of a novel, the scene is it. Usually, my chapters consist of several scenes, 3-5 in most cases. So, I make every scene a file (BTW I use the label colors for POVs, to see at a glance how the POVs are distributed among scenes and chapters).