Collaboration Workflow for Spousal Writing


I’ve used Scrivener for ten years, but always solo. Now, my wife and I will be co-authoring a book on Scrivener. (Our third book, but first with Scrivener.) I’m asking for specific suggestions on setting up a sharing system where we can both work on parts of the project simultaneously with zero danger of losing any work.

Current situation:

We’re working in separate offices in the same house. We each have our own desktop (and laptops) with parallel Scrivener setups: backups to local hard drive on each desktop and sync with our respective Dropbox accounts. All this works well.

My wife, Carol, is a self-described “computer idiot.” The setup on her end needs to be bullet proof with no chance of corrupting a Scrivener file. I’m the family tech support and I set her up with simple routines to follow.

Desired Workflow

We need to be working from the same Scrivener project because we’re using many of the advanced features: labels, bookmarks, snapshots, etc. We’re organizing a lot of research material from different sources for this book.

We can coordinate what chapters we’re working on. e.g. “you work on Chapter 2 while I edit Chapter 1.” This is how we did the first two books (on Word! Yech!) I expect we’ll want to employ status labels to help manage this.

Request for Advice

What’s the best way to handle this? I’ve read all the advice here about ways to use sync, backups, snapshots, export, merge, sync folders. And all the warnings. I’m asking now, dear Scrivener Mavens, what you would suggest the best workflow for our situation from all the possible options and combinations.

Thank you,


This is a current (big) gap. I gave up trying to collaborate with Scrivener and used a cloud tool + Word., then imported the whole lot for tidying , compiling etc. But versioning was still an utter pain. Pantsers and plotters don’t mix well…

For Scrivener itself : You can’t open the same project at the same time, even if you’re working on different chapters and the project file itself ( not backups) is on a cloud service (e.g. ‘real-time’ synching from your local Dropbox client synch folder). Scrivener will get confused on indexes etc and eventually the file will corrupt.

So any collaboration needs to be in different projects. This means you need a collaboration tool for your Scrivener tool. :slight_smile:

Maybe try Google docs and e.g. Plottr for kicking it off and the raw first draft. Then suck it into Scrivener and take turns to add the other bits - Notes, metadata? You’ll probably still be shouting a lot between rooms though… :slight_smile:

Or one collaborator be the ‘master’ using Scrivener and the other the ‘slave’ - using Word. (I’ll leave that role discussion to you and your wife). You then create a synched folder for selected binder content for the external collaborator to use Word on. This this will then get sucked into Scrivener (semi-) automatically. Still not ideal but better than completely isolated working.

Would be interested on what others have come up with / suggest.

You can also do this with Scrivener, using the Import and Merge feature.

Person A manages the master copy of the project, and sends a copy to Person B (and also Persons C and D if desired). Person B is therefore working on a completely separate, not synchronized copy, and can edit freely.

When Person B is done, Person A uses the File → Import → Scrivener Project command and uses the Import and Merge option when offered. See Section 5.3.2 in the (Mac) Scrivener manual for a more detailed discussion.


(BTW, I forgot to say in my original that we’re an all-Mac family. No Windows.)

JohnnyAlpha, thank you for your suggestions. I do know all about not opening the same project on two computers. That’s a given for the design I’m building. Also, I’ve seen warnings that Google docs is hazardous to Scrivener projects because it sometimes converts file formats. I’m not a fan of Google docs or drive or any of that. Too proprietary.

Katherine,The merge function might be what I need. I saw that as an option, and will trust it more since you’re recommending it. I want to keep this an all-Scrivener solution (no Word in the chain!). I’m thinking what I need is an A and B (primary/secondary) version, separate Scrivener projects, but synced manually to hold the same material maybe every couple days.

I’ll study up on the Merge/Import function. I would be interested to hear from anybody who has made such a dual A/B collaboration work.

Yes we will be yelling back and forth between rooms a lot. That’s SOP anyway. Writing a book with your spouse is a challenge, but we’ve managed to find a way to make it work. Who’s the slave and who’s the master changes from day to day.