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:
- Tips & Tricks & FAQ
- The Zen of Scrivener
- The “official” screenshot thread
- 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!