Compile to docx - how to control chapter, section, scene?


Spent hours trying to tweak the compilation of some 150k words manuscript, into MS Word docx - the last thing I can’t get right is the chapter & section break.

Scrivener, God bless his soul, insists on creating new chapters out of every file and/or folder, throwing paragraph separators in all over the place (or omitting them entirely) - I just can’t get it right, nor find a resource that’ll tackle my issues.

So, here’s how my manuscript is setup:

r/scrivener - Compile to docx - how to control chapter, section, scene?

Scrivener UI

Lingo clarification: I refer to each folder as “chapter” (1, 2, 3…), and the files within each folder are “sections” (each file contains text, separated into paragraphs by blank lines)

After a Compile, I’m trying to get the docx file to look like this:

Book I - would be nice if it’s “Part One” on a separate title page, but that isnt important - the whole manuscript has 2 “book”, I can fix it manually in the docx

1 - that’s a chapter containing a single section. I would like the docx to show the default Scrivener chapter heading (“Chapter ONE” or some such) . The test (from file “Preface”) will show under the chapter heading.

Also important: the file (as all files) contains paragraphs, separated by a single blank line. The docx should only show a blank line between paragraphs (in some cases there’s a “# # #” added between paragraphs)

2 - that’s a chapter containing 3 sections (three files). It should look like:

  • chapter title (“Chapter TWO”), on a new page, starting at half page or so
  • file “hi-tech argument…” - starts right under the chapter’s title
  • file “2nd dream…” - a new section, still in chapter 2. It’ll start under the previous page, separated from it by three lines: a blank line & section separator (“# # #”) & a blank line
  • file “bang head…” - a new section, the same rules as the previous section apply

That’s it, seems pretty simple to me, but so help me God I could not get it right.

Additional info
Scrivener version 3.2.3
There are no special styles - the whole project is in the default format.
In the compile settings, it’s only Chapter Headings and Sections. All the way down. Like that:

r/scrivener - Compile to docx - how to control chapter, section, scene?

If someone can help me get even close to what is described above I’ll be ever grateful - it doesn’t have to be exactly as described.


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Select the demo text/title and format it to your taste :

Save and exit.

Exit the compiler by alt+clicking the compile button that will change to “SAVE” when holding the ALT key.

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My section type is here named Heading, use “Chapter Heading” in your case, as I can see from your screenshot your project is setup as.

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Back to the main interface (editor etc) → set your documents (folders and files alike) to be assigned a section type based on the binder’s structure :


. . . . . . .


Here again, in your case the section type (left side) will rather be named “Chapter Heading” as per your current project setup.

My compile format had section layouts named “Chapter” and “Sub-Chapter”, again create and name yours what you’d like, or tweak from what you already have in there, this is 100% user definable.

This should get you where you want to be.
(Or at least point you in the right direction as to where to look.) :wink:


Thanks @Vincent_Vincent for the detailed explanation! Extremely helpful!!
After some more tweaking around I now have it set up.
Maybe you’d know - can those compilation format settings be exported? So they can be loaded to a fresh Scrivener installation on another machine? Perhaps even WIN Scrivener?
Thanks again!

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In the Compile format menu, bottom left corner click on the icon with the three dots surrounded by a circle to see “Export Format…” Probably discussed in the Scrivener Manual somewhere, but I can’t find it.

Thanks @rms , I’ll look it up :slight_smile:

Under Windows, you can fetch all of your compile formats at once. They are in the application support folder :



Else, you can save the compile format with the project :


As opposed to :

“My formats” are saved locally. “Project Formats” are saved along the project.

nice! thanks so much :pray:

As an addendum, maybe separating all paragraphs with a blank line is not such a good habit. If nothing else, these have to be summarily removed at compile time (which admittedly Scriv can do) or you will get unexpected results.

What you may think of as just visual space you’ve made between paragraphs is, from the computer’s perspective another paragraph (though an empty one) to which all considerations due to paragraphs applies. And in the context of intelligent software like Scrivener, you might inadvertently also be signaling, for example, that first line indents should be suppressed for each para following a blank para (which would then be every paragraph!), or you might be accidentally signaling a scene break (***) — which would then make every paragraph its own scene!

It would be better to set up your default paragraph format for working in Scrivener so that it presents like you want to see it without manual intervention — by setting the default format to include a line’s worth of Space After, so that that visual separation between paragraphs is built into the formatting of the paragraphs already.

Then every paragraph is a real paragraph, and Compile will not be confused as to which paragraphs are real and which are page-layout masquerading as paragraphs! And then you can tell Compile to set those paragraphs to look like anything you want for your output.

Then you just have to kick the double-return habit!

I have my default para format in Scriv set to Courier New 12pt, no-first-line indent and 12pts of Space After. And my usual Compile format renders those paragraphs in Garamond Pro 12pt with first-line indent, and no Space After. And yes, I have my Scriv editor pane’s zoom cranked up to 175%, so I don’t have to squint at screen-12pt all day.


this actually happened to me at some point! only now I realize why it happened :slight_smile:

Your suggestion is very intriguing, thanks!

I failed to understand, if I do set it up as you describe, and after I kick off that double return habit (a hefty challenge!) - how then, without double returns, do I create the between-paragraph separators?






Single carriage return :
The space between is now part of the paragraph. Versus being a paragraph in itself (which is the wrong way, as said @gr).

In case you are wondering, I could have above selected only the first paragraph, and I would have gotten the same visual result. But then if typing in a third paragraph, there would be no space between paragraph two and three.
. . . . . . .
If you want all (or the majority of) new documents’ paragraphs to be formatted as such – so that you don’t have to tweak them every single time afterwards -, make that “after paragraph” spacing part of your default formatting :






You can also set a “space before” for situations where (mostly using styles in this case) you’d want a paragraph to have a space between itself and the one before, the one before not being formatted to have its own space after.
→ Space before and space after don’t add up into a bigger space. In cases where they “meet”, the space between the two paragraphs will be of the highest of both values.
In other words, a paragraph with a space after of 10pt followed by a paragraph with a space before of 5pt will be separated by 10pt. Not 15.

Space before is also useful if you want a sub-heading to have a large gap between itself and whatever text came before. In this case, you’d save the space before as part of that sub-heading’s style.
(I kind of just repeated exactly what I had said above, but in the context of sub-headings. … It should give you enough to visualize the concept.)

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Great advice. As someone who has done the layout and design of over a hundred books in Adobe InDesign, I confirm that it’s common for manuscripts to have extra paragraphs as you described. It requires me to go through and remove those extra paragraphs. In my publishing house, I have actually put into the requirements for submitted manuscripts the formatting you describe, though it’s more commonly performed in Word.


These workflows may be of use. The first is a comprehensive end-to-end fiction compile with chapter numbers, titles, epigraphs, POV-specific headers, page breaks, etc. (Leave out anything you don’t want.)

The second compiles chapter titles, epigraphs, and synopsis entries and illustrates Scrivener’s ability to create very different exports from the same content.

Chapters, Headings, and all That

a synopsis/epigraph report

Also watch Literature & Latte’s Compile tutorials. Four videos, 22 minutes, can make a big difference.

Getting Your Work Out

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wow, that opened my eyes to a new world, thanks!
the only question remains: if I have a very long manuscript, is there a way for me to delete all those blank line paragraphs I inadvertently created for the past 5 years?
Or must I go over the whole thing and delete each one by hand?
Thanks you so much

Backup your project first.

There is also a dedicated menu item under the edit menu which will remove double-carriage returns (aka blank lines between paragraphs). Probably under the Text Tidying submenu.


Right right.
Good point @gr

[EDIT] Except that I’m not sure if it can do it for the whole project at once ? (I’ve only just tried it for the first time – or in a very long while.)

Thank you both @gr and @Vincent_Vincent.
As for “Except that I’m not sure if it can do it for the whole project at once” - that’s perfectly fine, as I won’t dare run it for the entire project at once :innocent: