Best Practices for Poetry


I’d like to kick off a conversation on how poets use Scrivener. I’ve been using Scrivener on and off since 2007. From a pure process perspective, the Snapshot feature is the must-have that keeps bringing me back. This has been there since the beginning, and other writing apps with such a feature either disappeared or dropped the feature. As I revise poems, it’s so important to (easily) see multiple, previous versions.

That said, the updated interface has me using Scriv completely again. But in all my time using it, I’m never satisfied that I’ve figured out the best way to write poetry in the application. In particular, the organization of the binder.

So I’m asking for your stories, experiences, and insights to using Scrivener for poetry. To start, here’s what I do:

I keep all my poems in one project. Actually, any writing I do related to poetry is in this one project. Ideas, journaling, reearch, etc.
My main binder section, labeled ‘Working’ in the screenshot, is a relabeling of ‘Draft’. Not sure if this is the best approach or not.
I tend to organize poems for submission packets, chapbooks, or full manuscripts in Collections. I think this works well.
I’m just now tackling the new 3.0 Compile functionality to build an ebook of a 70 page manuscript. I’m a bit flummoxed, since there’s some ‘interesting’ formatting (for example, I have an ‘index’ in the back that links themes to certain poems…)

That’s a start. Like I said, I do love Scrivener, but am always on the lookout for better organizational and other ideas. Most of the advice here and elsewhere revolves around novels and other long-form writing. Anything you’re willing to share about your process would be great!

Thanks for your insights,

Nice topic to discuss. Although writing poems has never been my main occupation or creative endeavor, I have written quite a few, and also published some in a magazine. Over the years writing technology changed and my poems were all over the place. The original files of my published poems were long gone, so I scanned the issues of the magazine and OCR’d the poems.

I also published many poems, predominantly haikus, on a blog and social media. Again dispersed and all over the place. So I started collecting them.

After weeks of searching and organising I finally have collected everything in Scrivener (S3/Mac).

Scrivener offers all the flexibility to organise your work how ever you want it, and you can always change it. But I decided to give every poem its own document. So that it is easy to rearrange them and create collections when you need a specific output.

I created folders under the “Poetry Manuscript” main document for English Poems, Dutch Poems. Subdivided into ‘General Poems’ (all standard forms of poetry) and Haikus.

So I have for example:

English Poems > English Haikus > haiku-1, etc …
English Poems > Published Poems > Quintessential Munich (i.e. the name of a cycle of 5 poems) > Quintessential Munich I …

Dutch Poems > Dutch Haikus > haiku-1 , haiku-2 etc …

The next step I still have to do is to give the poems individual titles. They got these automatically generated titles, because I chopped up a long document with all the poems in it (50 English and 50 Dutch in total, these numbers are coincidental, all the poems are unique and not translations).

Lastly I colour-coded the haikus with colours signifying the four seasons, which of course is important for haikus.

So I must take a deep breath and rename all the poems in the binder. Some future time I will decide whether it is a good idea to bundle individual collections and publish them (again).

As I also give small workshops in haiku writing, Scrivener is ideal to help me find a few examples, combine it with background information and general information about the haiku-form, and prepare material for a workshop. I also collect the work of my workshop-members in a special folder and send them the result of their collective effort as an ebook.

I realise that it is all a pretty standard way of working in Scrivener, nothing outlandish. I might extend the way I manage the poems by using custom metadata, keywords etc, but for now I have decided not to spend too much time on document management. I’m happy that every poem I ever wrote is now identified and can be found.

I hope this contributes somthing to your quest.

This might be overkill for your situation, but if you have a lot of poems and you sometimes need to categorize them differently, then you may want to experiment with Scrivener Keywords.

You’ve already grouped your poems into folders by Type. But let’s say, for example, that sometimes you want to collect them by Theme, what you could do is create Theme keywords as needed (Love, Nature, Food, etc.) and assign one or more of them to the appropriate poem.

Then, if you do a project search by keyword, and save the resulting search as a Collection, that Search Collection will refresh automatically. As an example, if your Search Collection is Keyword = ‘Love’, if you click on your Love collection, you’ll get a list of all the relevant poems.

Just something to play with. Hopefully it gives you some ideas. :slight_smile:


Hi Jim,

I think that’s actually a good idea. Especially the combination with Collections has the potential to quickly produce meaningful gatheriings of poems.

I think the OP has started an interesting thread.

Thx. Jim,



These days, I use Scrivener exclusively for my poems.

Originally, I did as was desbribe din the first post. I also used keywords to make lists of kinds of poems. Eventually, I used so many features that the project would load slowly or lock up. I simplified.

Now I number them and put them in folders with separate folders for submissions and research.

I style all my text. It makes my life easier.

What binder template are you using to begin your poetry project? I am new to poetry and writing in general and have the newest version of Scrivener and there is not poetry template in the Miscellaneous. Is there one available elsewhere? Blessings, Elizabeth