Help regarding best set up for simple novel structure

Hi there,

I am close to finishing my first novel and have just switched to Scrivener 3. I am trying to set it up so that when I compile it will be optimal for what I want.

I will simply use Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc for my headings in my novel

In terms of scenes within chapters, it seems one could:
a. Simply have one text document per chapter and within that use spacing with perhaps some icon to divide scenes within the chapter

b. use a folder for each chapter entitled with description for me only, not number
-within that put separate text documents for each scene

The approach in b seems least complicated.
If I just used say 40 text documents for 40 chapters how would I get scrivener when I compile it to print out the titles as Chapter One, Chapter Two etc

I know this is a basic question but I would greatly appreciate suggestions before I go to the trouble of copying my entire manuscript into Scrivener sections. I hope I am being clear.

Thanks to whomever is kind enough to answer me.

My experience only. :slight_smile:

I have used both methods with equally good results. Option B requires a little additional setup as you have to make sure your section types (Act, Chapter, Scene) are properly set up and then set up you compile format to accommodate them correctly.

The current project I am working on this morning uses the B approach. The last novel I sent to the editor used the A approach. :wink:

1 Like

How close to finished is your novel, and why do you hope to use Scrivener?

I ask because sometimes people bring a complete manuscript to Scrivener, hoping to use it for final formatting, only to find out that Scrivener isn’t really the best tool for that. Our focus is on research, writing, and editing. While formatting in Scrivener can produce reasonable results, especially for simple documents like novels, probably whatever tool you’re currently using (Word? Pages?) can, too.

That said, Rabbitroo is correct and either option will work. In part, it depends on how the manuscript is currently set up. If you have delimiters between scenes already, then you can use the Import and Split command to split things up automatically. If you don’t, you may find that the manual Document → Split command is less tedious to use for a few dozen chapters than for several hundred scenes.

1 Like

Thanks so much for answering. My novel should be done in a couple of months. I had everything in Scrivener 2.2 but b/o fears of the complexities of importing to the latest version I am not doing that.

I have a word document for my whole manuscript and I will enter into the latest Scrivener. I have been very happy with Scrivener so I wasn’t planning to use another format.

So, I’m trying to figure out the best way to set up my new scrivener version for my nearly done novel. I played with it some last night and see if I use a chapter folder for each chapter but do not call it Chapter One (rather a name to identify) and if I put my scenes in as text documents within, it prints out with a Chapter One, Chapter Two heading appropriately. So I guess that is a way to go. I am using the Novel TImes New Roman format I believe.

I assume I can:

  1. learn how to format the text for the Chapter One printing so it is attractive
  2. Make the scene divisions what I want – I only want a line in between, no icon needed
  3. Get my pagination so it is continuous and doesn’t start from scratch with each chapter

I have a feeling that my needs are pretty simple. When I’m done with this novel I will start another but again it will be simple. So I think Scrivener will work for me with a little bit of education

Again, thanks so much for the comments.

I should ask how easy it is to get a scrivener format novel into Rabbitroo as I don’t want to just ignore your suggestion

Again, huge thanks, Carol

Hi Carol,
Scrivener is built around a model where composing (the act of creating text, sections, outlining, etc.) is separate from formatting a final product where the all the indiviudual piece of your novel get threaded together into a final manuscript, word, doc, ebook, etc. Once you’re comfortable that model, compiling a manuscript for me it’s a three step process:

1- Assign the correct section types to all the parts of the manuscript. Scrivener does a pretty good job of this automatically, but I like to check in the outliner that every part has the right section type. Note: Folders have section types, too! These can be where titles and headers come from.

2- Once section types are right, I go into the compiler and assign section layouts for each type, such as part, chapter, body text for the output type I want like PDF, Word Document, Epub, etc. This is very important, this is where you tell the compiler when it sees section type “chapter” it should use a sepecific layout. Sometimes layouts aren’t what I want, so I have to go into the layout editor and modify them to my liking. This can be confusing and frustrating, so going in cold is a bad idea. Fortunate L&L has some nice videos that walk you the the processes.

3-Set the various book level parameters for the output in the compiler pane. There are a handful of them, but most of them should be obvious like the metadata for the book.

From my perspective, people often get hung up on step two because we often use the same name for section types (the tag on a manuscript component that tells us what kind of componet it is) and section layouts (the instructions for the compiler on how to lay out a section.) These are really very distinct things and it’s important to relate the right section type to the right layout or the compiler will not produce the result you want. Most people I know don’t find the section layout designer all that intuitive–YMMV.

Fortunately, there are lot of video tutorials, though sometimes you need to look in the Mac section. It’s worth going through those videos before tackling the compiler for the first time.

It is my sincere recommendation that you don’t tackle the compiler without first availing yourself of these videos–it will save hours of confusion and frustration later.

It sounds worse than it actually is–once you get the hang of Scrivener’s way of doing things, I find I can’t live without it. (I tend to write non-linearly, so it makes managing the jumble of chapters and scenes much more manageable for me.)

As mentioned by @kewms, its the power of making my research, writing, and editing jobs easier is where Scrivener really shines. The compiler is just the end stage that threads all the work together into a final manuscript or book.



I would recommend importing your Scrivener 2 project into Scrivener 3. Scrivener will make a back up first, so you can go back if you need to, but using Word as an intermediary will require you to assemble a complete document only to split it up again.

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend taking a look at our upgrade guide for Scrivener 2 users, which walks through the process. You can find it here:

1 Like

Huge thanks. This is a great guide and I will take your advice . Carol