Any Novelists with Scrivener Tips, Pretty Please?

Hello there,

If you have helpful tips for a novelist new to Scrivener, please share. I’ll gobble them up one by one. I must confess, I made a weak and feeble shout of victory when my manuscript was finished. I was exhausted as I sat on the summit of my paper mountain of different-sized notebooks, paper scraps, and false-start manuscripts called, “This is For Sure the Final Draft.” The next thought I had was that I never, as in NEVER, wanted to create another paper mountain to climb. I hoped there was a better way.

Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador’s Gate, recently compared by the School Library Journal to the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and the Wizard of Oz (starred review, June 2010 issue), left me wanting to run for cover and never write another thing because I don’t want to have to live up to any expectations outside of the story itself. That lasted about a month and a half.

This morning I woke up with my mind in another world with words ready to jump out of my mouth if necessary: “Don’t talk to me or I’ll forget that thought,” “Do I really have to get dressed and leave the house?” and “I can’t. Not. Write.” In short, IT arrived. I remembered The Mountain, but I also remembered coming across Scrivener a couple of years ago. I’ve just spent an hour or so on the tutorial (the trial version), and I think I’ve found that better way. But I have questions:

  • How do you organize character bios?
  • How do you use your folders and to what end?
  • Any other helpful tips?

Kingy, hiya!
Welcome aboard the pirate ship Scrivener :smiley:
At rough estimate, there are 345,764,927000 combinations of answers to your three questions. Most of them you`ll probably find if you do searches of: viewforum.php?f=18
And the Sriv Help files
Take care

I’ll join Vic in saying, welcome to the forums and Scrivener!

How do you organize character bios?

There are many ways to organise background information about your novel, and everyone probably does things slightly differently. Here are a few interesting features, and an example that combines one of them.

Each element you put into the Binder can have a colour label and a status setting. These two pieces of meta-data are very useful for tracking broad strokes, but you needn’t use them in the same fashion that the default templates and blank Scrivener project set you up with. For one, you can call them whatever you want. Press [b]Cmd-Opt-,[/b] and note how you can change the default settings for not only what is available to set, but what the category is called as well. A lot of people use colours for identifying POV. They’ll set up a colour for each character and then label their scenes accordingly. The nice thing about colours is how widespread they can be. Check the View menu for some ideas. You can tint index cards with the label, or even icons throughout the entire application.

Another feature some like to use for character tracking is keywords. Keywords can be attached to a document via the Inspector ([b]Cmd-Opt-I[/b]), and a central panel, called the Keywords HUD (see Window menu), will automatically keep track of all the keywords you enter into documents, and make it easy to search for them with a single click. Using the feature this way, you can assign a character keyword to their dossier as well as their scenes, and then use the HUD to quickly gather all of these together. Searches can be saved into the Binder (click the magnifying glass) for quick access at a later time.

As for where to put the background information itself, that’s up to you. Anywhere except the Trash or Draft folders is fine. You can build a folder into Research (that can be renamed if you want) for characters, or even put this folder at the top level of the Binder. You could even store the character information right in the Draft itself (contrary to what I just said), by making sure the “Include in Draft” option in the Inspector is disabled. Some writers like to have all of their notes right in their work. If you like to work that way as well, you might also find the annotation feature very useful.

How do you use your folders and to what end?

Since you’ve done the tutorial, you’ve probably discovered the folders are a bit strange in Scrivener. They are really just text documents that have been marked a special way, and as such can be used to cause the interface to act differently when they are clicked on, and when you compile a manuscript, you can handle them differently than text files, or file groups (text files with other text files beneath them). Consider using folders when you’d prefer to see a Corkboard or Outliner when clicking on the item, rather than text. You can set up how all of this works in the Navigation pane of preferences.

Since you can convert folders to files (and vice versa) don’t worry about it too much. Let their usage evolve as you become more accustomed to the application. They will become more important once compile is used on a regular basis. Since they can be set to export different types of content than other types of binder items, this can be useful for setting them apart as chapter breaks, making them completely invisible to the compiler (and thus useful only for your own internal usage, and a great way to store chapter notes in their text fields), and more.

Any other helpful tips?

The forum here is a great resource for starting out, though it can be a bit intimidating in its scale. In particular, though:

  1. Tips & Tricks & FAQ
  2. The Zen of Scrivener
  3. The “official” screenshot thread
  4. The FAQ

are all great places to start. The Screenshots thread in particular will give you some ideas on how other people use Scrivener, and just from looking at layouts you can get an idea of how things fit together. The FAQ is your all-purpose question and answer area, and since it is a wiki you can help expand it once you get more familiar with the application.

Other than that, I suppose my best tip would be: start writing! The basics of Scrivener are quite simple, and only a bit more complicated than your average “notebook” style application. Use it like an outliner; work in smaller pieces than you ordinarily would; and just start putting stuff down. Since the basics aren’t too intimidating, many people find themselves productive before they’ve even tapped a tenth of its potential, and most will hardly ever need more than a fraction of everything Scrivener can do. So rather than trying to learn the whole program, expand your knowledge of it as you need to. It’s designed to scale with your level of expertise and needs.

The only right way to use Scrivener is what works best for you. It’s a very flexible program used for everything from law work, to television scripts, novels, biographies, doctoral dissertations, lectures and presentations, journalism, to daily diaries and even some use it as a large-scale to-do list!

Typical Amber answer. Leave out the most important bit! Most of Scriv`s scurvy crew use it for honing theirprocrastination skills.

Vic, not everyone downloads the forum into their Scrivener projects. :slight_smile:


A show of hands: How many of us expect ALL word processors to capitalize ‘I’ for us, as well as the first word of each sentence? And are bitterly, bitterly dissapointed when they do not? :laughing:

I expect it, and promptly disable it.

You can imagine my dismay when I upgraded to Snow Leopard and the whole stinking computer started messing with what I was typing.

Jeezzz!! If you can get that pissed off, well have t watch what we`re doing, when we off-topic. We could end up walking the plank! :open_mouth: :frowning:

I`d cast a vote here Kev, except for the fact that, 9.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of what these electrical machines are actually capable of, is all a mystery to me. :confused: :blush: The mouse hound, usually sorts out that kind of stuff.

Please note the decimal location. This may be one of the most accurate statistics I have seen.

See what I mean! I cant even type 99.9999...% without screwing up. Time for my medicine :smiling_imp: Good night yall

As Humpty Dumpty said, “The question is, which is to be master – that’s all.”

If it’s not to be machines, perhaps we need to consider what we expect from them, what we use them for, and how far we abdicate our responsibilities in connection with them.

Please note the corporate affiliation of Mr. Lanier.