Can I have compile settings so my project has paragraph spacing when I'm typing but removes this on compiling?

First time forum visitor and poster here - hello!

I’m new to Scrivener. I’m writing a novel so I want my project to ‘look like a novel’ when I compile it (with no line spacing between paragraphs and indented first lines).

But, I want it to look like a report or feature story while I’m writing (I’m mainly a feature writer, so I’m most comfortable writing when there’s line spacing between paragraphs and left-justification with no indented first lines).

I also need it to be compiled with double-line spacing overall for an upcoming submission.

Is all this possible?!

I’ve got to the stage of duplicating a style so I can start editing it but I’m now lost in the details from there.

Any tips will be greatly appreciated!

You duplicated a format, I think. That’s very different from a style. In that format, create a section layout to taste. Attach it to a section type in the main Compile dialog and apply that section type to the relevant documents. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Compile overview

That is not only possible, but one of the underlying design principles of Scrivener: that the creative environment we want to surround ourselves with need not, and arguably should not resemble what that text is going to look like when our editors go over it, and so on. To that end, the formatting of text as you write is almost entirely divorced from how we can export it, and by that virtue, we can with a single click select between different looks when exporting. We can export something that looks a good deal like a paperback novel, if that’s how we prefer to do our own proofing, and then get a double-spaced 12pt Courier/Times output for submission when we’re done.

So the first thing to do is make Scrivener your own, and that starts with the Editing: Formatting settings tab1. There is a set of sample paragraphs at the top of that tab, and formatting tools available to change how they look. Get that set up the way you want. For paragraph spacing, use the ruler to slide the indent marker all the way to the left (c), and then use the line spacing tool (it probably says “1.2” or something along those lines in the tool) to select “Other…”. Set the After Paragraph value to around 12pts, for a full line of empty space after each paragraph (d). While you’re here, pick a font and size that you are comfortable with, and anything else you want.

At this point you have set the default for new texts that you create. Anything you’ve already typed in won’t have its formatting blown away automatically. This knowledge base article goes over the above, and also how to reset what you’ve already written to the new defaults.

And that’s really all you need to do at this point. But if you want some peace of mind that all of this works, and that you’ll get a result you need in the end, open File ▸ Compile... and set the file type option at the very top to whatever works best for your word processor. RTF and DOCX are usually the best choices here. After doing that, select one of the “Manuscript” formats in the left sidebar.

If you started with one of the project templates, you probably don’t need to do much other than that, as most of those are set up to work with these formats out of the box. You’ll know whether or not they are by whether there is a yellow warning box at the top. If you get a warning, click the Assign Section Layouts button, and just pick a few preview tiles that best represent how you’ve organised your writings so far. Don’t stress too much over it, all of this can be changed and refined later. At the least you can get some numbered chapter headings and text going for a quick test—it doesn’t have to be perfect. Compile that, and open it up in your preferred word processor.

If you want to experiment a little further, try one of the “Paperback” settings and see how different that looks, all without touching a single aspect of your original formatting.

I’ve got to the stage of duplicating a style so I can start editing it but I’m now lost in the details from there.

I’m not quite sure what that means, but if you’re thinking of doing all of the above with styles I’d encourage not doing so. That is absolutely how you would pull this all off in a word processor, but Scrivener works better if you reserve style usage for special text rather than body text. You’ll want those for block quotes, image captions and stuff like that. For a basic test of getting lots of stock paragraphs looking one way or another though, you can ignore styles for now. They will only get in the way, and require a larger learning curve to make use of for body text.

Keep things simple, and aligned with the software’s design intentions, and you’ll have less grief overall.


1) Such settings are found in Preferences on the Mac, and File ▸ Options... on the PC.

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