Chapter Numbering for Dummies?

A dorky question here, but I suspect there’s an easy way to do this…

I know that many people write one chapter at a time as a Scrivener document. I’m writing a thriller which has zillions of tiny chapters, unsuitable for final compiling. Or, at least, inefficient. I’m several hundred pages into it now, and have been separating my chapters - some as small as four paragraphs - with strings of asterisks.

I’ve seen some reference to editing code for chapter numbering, something like <$N> or something. Is that something I can do? I should be coming to revision of the first draft soon, which would be a good time to plug those in. I’m hoping it’ll be something fairly autonomous so that when I suddenly decide that chapter 17 should actually be chapter 3 and move it, all the other chapters will line up and renumber themselves…



Use Edit > Insert > Auto-Number and then pick the type you would like; that will insert the necessary code for you. It will be turned into a number when you use Compile Draft to export or print your work.

What do you mean that your thriller is unsuitable for final compiling, though? Do you mean unsuitable for Compile Draft? Compile Draft should be able to handle any sort of chapter set up… Perhaps you could give more detail?

All the best,

Since many of us break down our chapters into very detailed hierarchies in the Binder, I would have thought that Scrivener would be fine with lots of tiny chapter-documents, which is basically the same thing. Did you actually try it, and at what point does it become cumbersome or unworkable? (Does “Edit Scrivenings” slow down?) Just curious.

Well, I’m embarrassed to admit (although this might actually already be obvious) that I’m a very basic user of the program - I know it’s HUGELY more powerful than the things that I ask it to do. Really, I’ve been using it as a combined word processor, cork board and database for all my research files. And it’s been brilliant, and I evangelize for it constantly! But I don’t even use key words, and think I probably should.

Because of this mindset, I have written my book as one long document. I knew that there’d probably be over a hundred “chapters”, and I imagined the binder getting all overlong and unwieldy if I made a different document for each chapter. And I like to be able to scroll down through the book, rather than having to deal with a codex-like segmentation that I’d expect with independent chapters.

Keith, with Insert Autonumber, would I have to go back t the beginning and do that at each ****** line? And I’ve not really been compiling the thing, just exporting the file as a Word document whenever I had to send it to my agent. If I go through the document, punching in Insert Autonumber at the appropriate point, can I “compile” a single file and have it end up with the chapters autonumbered?

I’m sure this post will have you tearing your hair out - it’s like an old lady deciding to buy herself a Ferrari, and then driving it at 20 mph, ignoring all the honking horns behind her…


You can compile one single document, yes - and you will need to insert the auto-number tags in the text wherever you want them.

Really, you are not using Scrivener to its potential, though. The whole point of Scrivener is that the binder allows you to navigate between chapters easily rather than having to scroll through an enormous document. And if you want to look at the whole book as one long text, you can still do that even if you have divided it into chapters - you just use Edit Scrivenings, which shows different documents as though they are one.

So, although you can do it the way you are, I would strongly recommend breaking the thing down into chapters.

All the best,

In addition to Edit Scrivenings, which KB mentioned, you can also group your mini chapters in folders - say, according to the book’s structure, whatever that may be. (That structure doesn’t have to be explicitly shown in the final product, but I’ve sometimes found it useful to toss my chapters in parts like “Introduction”, “Climax”, and other structural terms.) That’ll allow you to collapse a folder and hide the 50 or so mini-chapters that you aren’t working on at the moment, and also bring the references folder to a shorter scroll away.

Well, I’m coming into the final stretch on this one, so I think that it’s too late to break it down into chapters, or chapters/folders. I’ll do that on the next one, though!

I have to redo the tutorial, really.



So do I, and I’ve been using Scrivener for years. I always find something new in there, and I don’t mean added features - just existing features that I didn’t think of a use for so forgot the previous time through.

That’s why I keep recommending to people that they go through the tutorial several times, spaced out by a few months of using the program.

Something I’ve noticed - is it a problem?

When I insert a new chapter code, it’s input as <$n>

But if I hit enter after that, the code converts to <$N> - will that change something? For example, from numbers to words?

The tokens are not case sensitive. The counter that names things out by word is <$w>. So you should be okay. The reason this is probably happening is because you have the option set to capitalise the first letter of a sentence.

Actually a couple are case-sensitive: the one for Roman numerals (<$r> gives i, ii; <$R> gives I, II) and those for spelled-out numbers lower and uppercase (<$w> gives one, two; <$W> gives ONE, TWO). All of the others are not case-sensitive though.
All the best,

So if I changed my mind and decided I’d like to have words rather than numbers, I can just do a Find and Replace All using <$W> for my current <$n>'s, right?

Correct. Use the project replace tool to fix the entire book in one shot.

On a related topic: can I just check there is no way to autonumber all my text documents at once? I have to actually click onto the text in each one and then go to Insert>Autonumber? I have 101 ‘chapters’ (more like segments/questions actually, it’s non-fiction) and was hoping I might be able to number them without having to do each one separately.
I know there won’t be binder autonumbering (have read other threads on this topic), but can I just double-check that I will have to do all 101 separately before I do it and discover I didn’t need to?



At the moment, yes, this is the case, I’m afraid. In version 2.0 there will be a prefix and suffix feature in the Compile Draft area that will allow you to tell Scrivener to put a prefix or suffix before document titles at various levels. So in 2.0 you won’t have this chore or having to auto-number every file - you can just leave it until you Compile.

But for version 1.x, I’m afraid that doing it manually is the only way to go.

All the best,