Complete Newbie Help

I am new to all this. I really have no experience writing except for a journal I have kept for 35 years. A few months ago I decided to write a memoir as I am getting old and thought it would be fun to write one for my kids and grandkids.
I started writing it in Word and have maybe 50 pages so far. I discovered this app which was mentioned by an author I read who mentioned it in a X post as the tool he uses. I checked out the software and bought the whole deal, MacOS, Windows and iOS (use on my iPad). I use mostly my MacOS and iPad version really. I have a couple of times imported (cut/paste) my writing from Word into Scrivner which brings me to my request for help.
How do people arrange their writing (a novel might be the best comparison) in Scrivner? is the Folder level (with the folder icon) meant for chapters and then the Pages (page icon) for the actual writing? I am trying it that way and have multiple pages (meaning the icon) for paragraphs or groups of paragraphs by concept or idea/story.
As you can see I am even hampered by terminology I think. Any feedback, links to videos, etc. would be GREATLY appreciated. PS - if this should be posted somewhere else in the forum I apologize. Just point me in the right place and I will repost there.

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend taking a look at our Interactive Tutorial, available from the Help menu. It’s a good overview and will especially help you get familiar with the terminology – which will make other help resources easier to understand. I’d also recommend looking at the iOS Scrivener Tutorial: the basic structure is the same, but there are differences in how to accomplish certain tasks.

There’s also a collection of video tutorials here:

To your specific question: Scrivener doesn’t care. Some of the default settings for Folders are different from the default settings for documents, but there’s nothing you can do with one that you can’t do with the other.

Probably the most useful structure “principle” is that the smallest unit in your Binder should be no larger than whatever the atomic unit of your text is. That is, if you have daily journal entries, structure your Binder so that each day has its own document. If you want to organize by concept, break documents down so that each unit focuses on a single concept. You can always merge them or add more structure later, but you’ll find reorganizing, metadata, etc. easier to manage if the smallest units are pretty small.

(Oh, and I moved this thread to our Newcomer forum since it isn’t really Mac-specific.)


Awesome, I will dive into those videos. Also your response about structure principle is really helpful. Thanks for the quick response and moving the post to where it belongs!

Overall this is definitely one of those areas of Scrivener where it can support how you prefer to write, and think about your writings, rather than you having to meet it half-way or conform to its intentions. There are few right or wrong answers, with some exceptions, surely—we sometimes get people on the forum who have one single massive entry in the binder like they would use Word, and find the software hard to use. Yeah, that’s probably a case where a little compromise or conformity with the design might help. :slight_smile: But you’re past that point already!

I think once you get down to the “chapter length” part of using Scrivener, then you’re in the green zone, and anything beyond that point really, is fine and the program may well even become more useful if you do so.

This example is way outside of the realm of a novel, but you can download an older copy of the project used to create the user manual PDF, in your Help menu. Look for the .scriv ZIP entry in the dropdown.

For the most part you’ll find this approach follows the very headings you’ll see throughout the PDF, starting at the very top with the Parts, all the way down to unnumbered minor headings. In other areas you’ll find the detail goes much further than that though, most evident in some of the appendices like the menu appendix. In there, you will find an almost 1:1 copy of the entire menu hierarchy has been rebuilt as an outline in the binder. I can navigate through that area of the manual using the same navigation I would take to look at the menus themselves. In the preferences/settings appendix, in many case each individual checkbox or dropdown is listed as a separate entry.

So that project certainly represents extremes, and supports your speculation that this could even become a paragraph-by-paragraph tool. Absolutely, if it makes sense to. The implication also being made here though is that even in one project you don’t always have to, if one areas makes sense to. There are a few chapters in the manual that only have a few sections of text in it, while others have many hundreds. How much detail does this area of your text need, how often will you want to jump to that specific piece of text, and how useful might it be for you to colour-code different areas of something a reader might see as one long block of text? These are all questions to ask, and they are things you can explore as you go. The Split and Merge tools (addressed in the aforementioned tutorial) mean you aren’t going to get trapped one way or another.

This forum thread contains a list of links of further reading you might find useful. There’s quite a number of branches off from there, and some of it may be a bit more advanced, but hopefully you find bits and pieces of it useful. The post itself also addresses one of the main operational differences between a program like Word with its own outliner feature, and program like Scrivener. So if you are familiar with Word’s outliner, that may be helpful. The main difference between the two, other than the mechanics of where you click and such, is what I touched on above: Scrivener’s outline can go way deeper than Word’s because it doesn’t have to represent headings your readers will see. This is why we call it an outline for writers, not readers.

Welcome to the forum!
I have no doubt your descendants will be forever grateful for your effort!

One feature that will likely be very useful for you is the custom metadata. Especially dates. You can tag your docs/folders with custom (or predefined) metadata and then add the column to your outliner. Then in the outliner you can sort by date by just clicking the column header. This is very useful if for instance your memoir is arranged by topics, but you want to just VIEW everything in the chronological order. (Or in any other order by column headers.)

Also, you can add metadata/tags for any topic that is important to your story - children, homes, vehicles, jobs, hobbies, friends, holidays, major events/celebrations, even a “add_more_details” tag.

Combined with the date, you can then create “collections” to VIEW each group of topics in chronological order. I find this helpful as a memory jog and to double check details. Collections allow you to temporarily view your WIP (work in progress) in alternative order/groupings without actually changing your binder structure.

Rather than cut/copy/paste, you may want to try “import and split”. This will bring the whole word doc into your project, and split it as it is in word (assuming you used headings or section breaks of some sort). At that point, you can either drag/drop sections around, or cut/paste pieces of longer sections around.

I suspect that you will find the “append to selection” and “split at selection” very useful features as you work out the workflow that works best for you.

The beauty of Scrivener is that you can organize and rearrange in the way that works with the way you think.

If there is a process or workflow that you have previously used with pen, paper, notes and notebooks, chances are there is a way to do that in Scrivener. Just ask!

Good luck with your project!

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