Basic Novel Project Structure

Hello - I’m just looking for some quick feedback on the structure I’m using for a novel in Scrivener, because I’m starting to wonder if it couldn’t be improved.

Volume (i.e… Book Title) FOLDER
–Part Number or Title - FOLDER
---- Chapter Number or Title- FOLDER
-------Scene or Sub-scene (usually with a title) FOLDER
--------Untitled Document
I’m wondering:

  • Should I eliminate scene titles? They’re only there to jog my memory and certainly won’t be in the final complilation.
  • As you see I have documents only on one level and they usually do not next. Generally it’s an entire scene, or part of a scene (sub-scene) that will be combined once edited. Is that good practice?
    – Is there something else I’m missing here? Trying to keep it simple …

Scrivener doesn’t care. Use whatever structure makes sense for you.

Depending on the complexity of your novel, the Volume and Part levels may be completely irrelevant. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin would probably want them, someone who writes standalone mysteries might not.

In my own work, I generally follow the rule for outlines that I was taught: you should have at least two items per outline level. If you only have one, then it really belongs one level up. My structure is also quite fluid: it’s not unusual for me to split and merge Binder items several times as a piece evolves.

Like I said, though, Scrivener doesn’t care.

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To each, their own. For me:

I separate my books into projects. Drive space is cheep. I can see where a particular series may be put together in one project, but I don’t work that way.

I don’t use the Part Number, but that is how I organize my novels. I don’t start with sub-scenes, but they are there if I need them.
---- Chapter Number with Title - FOLDER
-------Scene (or Sub-scene) (usually with a title) - Document
--------Untitled Document

Whatever you choose is good as long as you stick to that structure. Changing it up mid-way is possible, but more of a pain to redo what you already have.

If you want to keep it simple, start with no folders, and write documents that are separated by narrative breaks that feel right to you. After a while, when you have enough documents, you might feel that they should be grouped using folders. Later still, you might feel that the folders would benefit from being grouped into folders themselves.

The beauty of Scrivener is that it’s flexible. You can easily rejigger the organization along the way.


While I agree that it’s all up to you, there are some guidlines that I’ve gleened which I think could be helpful in your decisions.

  • Consider avoiding specific chapter numbers (consider having Scrivener do that for you)
  • Consider a subfolder level that is for section names or chapter names and within that, have story pieces
  • I like documents all on the same level.
  • The level “above” documents COULD be used for a section name only (with no text… or text that is always first like some quotes at the beginning of a section)
  • I prefer to have the name of some parent folder/text item be the section/chapter title and let Scrivener read it from there. I personally don’t like typing it directly in the text. It feels too manual and error prone to me.

I’ll follow this to learn from those who know more.

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Thanks for the input. As it happens I’m doing some test compiles and having problems with Part and Chapter headings. I like headings because they help me orient my work but I’m seeing that they seem to play havoc with the end result. If you can, would you send me an example of the structure you are describing? thanks.

Here’s the structure of my WIP (where P = procrastination).

thanks for that. I’ve flattened my structure based on comments in this forum. I had Parts, and have eliminated them. Now just chapters and scenes.

Another option (out of millions) is having parts in place of books in my structure above.