further probs breaking chapters into scenes

I feel like a bear of very little brain right now. I’ve followed the excellent advice of both Keith and Robert. I used ‘Split at Selection’ to break my chapters into scenes, but when I did that every split created a new chapter, rather than a scene within that chapter.

So then I tried reimporting the whole novel from Word and splitting it automatically using File > Import > Import and Split. That worked a treat, except that it gave me a series of scenes and no chapters.

Is there a way of using one or other of these processes to create a nice hierarchical chapter-and-its scenes structure?


Scrivener doesn’t know what the hierarchy of your document is. Create new binder items, one for each chapter. Drag the scenes into them.


This is how it’s designed to work, I think, as Scrivener can’t really guess whether you want to split as siblings or as children. But it’s really easy to get your hierarchy once you’ve done the splits.

In the binder, select all the scenes under the first chapter. Press ctl-cmd-right arrow once. They will all be indented as sub-documents of the chapter.

Then do the same for each subsequent chapter and scenes until you’ve got the hierarchy you want. The shortcuts ctl-cmd-up / down / left / right are really useful for moving files around for rearranging documents.

In your second example, simply add new empty folders (opt-cmd-N) at the relevant points in the Binder, then indent the scenes beneath them as above.

By the way, the Binder doesn’t really care about whether something’s a Chapter or a Scene – although of course you do – it just goes on the indent and you can have as many levels as you want.

The easiest way I’ve found to think about it is to use Folders for when I just want a title with no text (e.g. Chapters with no abstract or quotation), and documents for when I want text and optionally a title (e.g. Scenes with or without a scene title.) I think (but I’m not certain) that the default compilation options are set up to reflect this scheme.

Hope this helps


David, that’s extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your clear and simple explanation!

David’s advice is spot on, and I’d just add that another quick way of grouping scenes into chapters is to select the scenes and then hit opt-cmd-G (which is the same as Documents > Group). This creates a new group and places the selected documents inside it - so it’s the same as creating a new group and then indenting your scenes.

The thing to remember is that Scrivener’s binder is a completely freeform area where you can arrange groups and text documents however you want (and even convert groups to text documents and vice versa, as groups and text documents are not fundamentally different). It’s like a file browser, except that you determine the order of items. It’s called the “binder” because it is exactly that - a virtual ring-binder that contain whatever you want. So, as David says, Scrivener knows nothing about chapters or scenes or parts at all. There are project templates such as the Novel template that has some pre-made groups for chapters and text documents for scenes, but that’s just one way of going about things - you could equally write each chapter as a single text document.

So, when you split up an imported text document, either using Import and Split or manually, all that happens is that your text document gets split up into several text documents. Scrivener doesn’t know whether these are scenes or chapters (or sections and chapters in a textbook, for instance) - it leaves that knowledge to the user so as not to force any particular workflow, hierarchy or structure on the user. This means a little extra work when importing a long text you’ve created elsewhere, but allows for a lot more flexibility once you’re working. So, in your case, you want to split your text up into multiple scenes and then move each group of scenes that constitute a chapter into its own chapter folder - provided that’s the way you want to work. It’s entirely up to you how you go about arranging your work-in-progress.

Ultimately, Scrivener takes a little extra effort when importing and exporting (compiling) in order to allow for complete freedom while writing. The basic philosophy is that Scrivener has no place telling you how to structure your book (and nor do I, as it’s developer - there are published writers I’m in awe of who use Scriv, and as an unpublished procrastinator myself, I could hardly tell them that they have to write in a certain way :slight_smile: ).

I hope that helps in terms of understanding why things are as they are.

All the best,

Wow, that’s handy! I don’t often import and split large documents, but knowing this will make doing so much easier. This is why the forums are so valuable to me; they highlight things that I could learn on my own if I sat down and studied Scrivener, if I had that kind of mentality. Sadly, I’m too unfocused to actually read through the manual and find all of these hidden gems, but now that you’ve pointed this handy feature out, I’ll not soon forget that it’s available.

No problem – glad it helped!

And I, too was unaware of the ‘group’ option, so thanks Keith…