How can I control the format for my novel?

I selected the ‘Novel’ template and started writing. I have completed my draft but the program is not consistent.
My Problem is

  1. The format looks one way (Indent paragraphs) early in the draft.
  2. It looks different later in the draft. (No indent to paragraphs)
  3. I want to push a button and make the whole draft look one way.
  4. I would also like to be able to compare different format looks and select one.

Can someone help?
Below are screen shots to illustrate the difference.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like while you are writing. You decide the format when you compile.
Have you done the built-in interactive tutorial?

The Format menu has all the commands you need to control text formatting.

Once you’ve formatted one paragraph to work the way you want, you can use the Project → Project Settings → Formatting pane to make it the default for this project, or Scrivener → Scrivener Preferences → Editing → Formatting to make it the default Scrivener-wide.

Then, the Documents → Convert → Text to Default Formatting command will reformat existing text to the new default.


Another use case for Compile Wizard.

Why? Several of the supplied Compile formats already do this. The issue here is that the OP appears unaware of the capability, not that using it is “hard.”


“Unaware of the capability” is precisely what gives rise to the perception, don’t you think?
Or is the whole “Scrivener is hard” perception only a fantasy?
It would be interesting to count the number of v.3.x compile questions; their frequency, geographic distribution, etc.
Maybe it’s just a dream.

If someone is unaware that the Compile capability exists, then they haven’t been through the Tutorial or any of our other support materials. So how are they going to learn about a hypothetical Wizard?

Beyond that, might I suggest continuing the discussion in your other thread? The OP is just trying to finish their novel, and I’d rather not use their question as a venue for completely rethinking the Compile command.


Thank you Katherine, That worked.

Yes, I went through the tutorial but I don’t remember it all. Is there a way I could look at various styles and compare the options of how my paragraph might look in different styles?

In the main Compile screen, choose the output file format you want from the dropdown menu at the top. You’ll see a list of the available Compile formats on the left, and previews of the available Section Layouts for that format in the middle pane.

See the “Get It Out There” section of the Tutorial for an overview.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR ADVICE, However, I tried it again and it does not work now. I did the exact same thing.

Failing that, I highlighted a paragraph that looks reasonably like I would like it to be. This is after going through the tutorial twice and finding no instructions for something so basic as this. Yes, I can fix one paragraph but not the whole manuscript.
So, I highlighted the paragraph and went to project settings as directed, but ALL the options are greyed out in the formatting window. It simply allows me to click OK and that’s it.

I simply wish to

  1. Change the indent style to my paragraphs for the entire novel.
  2. Control the fonts for the text sections separate from the Chapter Titles or subtitles
  3. I have 74 chapters so I would rather not do them one by one.
  4. Change the formatting as the tutorial says I can, but then fails to explain how I can do it. All the controls are greyed out. (see below)
    I don’t know why it seemed to work the other day. I did the same thing today but nothing changed.

This is a basic function that should be easy. I have reviewed the tutorial twice. Instructions for this are not there.
Please help. I’m quite frustrated and apparently not seeing things clearly.

From your screenshots, it looks like you’re confusing two different things:

  1. what the document looks like in the editor while you’re writing it.

  2. what your final document will look like when it’s compiled.

Default format in the editor

The screen shot you’ve shown is exclusively for the first issue. That dialogue you’ve opened allows you to change the default formatting for THIS project only, otherwise the formatting in Preferences > Editing> Formatting will apply. You have to tell Scrivener that you want a special format for this project, and you do that by ticking the “Use different default formatting for new documents in this project”. You haven’t ticked that in your screenshot: once you’ve done that, the formatting tools will become available.

[attachment=0]Screenshot 2020-10-23 at 04.29.40.png[/attachment]

Convert existing documents in the binder to the new format

Then, when you’ve set it up the way you want it, you need to select all the documents in the binder you want to change and press Documents > Convert > Text to Default Formatting.… and every appropriate paragraph in those documents will change to your new format.

This is covered in the Tutorial under the section: Default Formatting.

Changing the look of the final output (Compilation)

Now, changing the default style for the editor while your writing is a different process from changing it for the document which is compiled. There’s a very good reason for this, and it goes back to one of the main reasons why Scrivener exists in the first place, and that’s to Write Once – Compile to Many Formats.

When you write a novel in Word, you basically write it in the format you’ll going to publish it: if that’s a typical submission to a publisher, you write it with one font / margins / line spacing etc. If you change your mind and need to send a camera ready copy to self-publisher (different font, margins, page size, line spacing, paragraph layout etc) you have to completely reformat the Word document itself.

Scrivener is different: you write the document in the Editor once, in the format you like writing in (font can be green Comic Sans 22pt if that’s what you want).

It’s only when you compile that you choose what the final output will look like: a manuscript for a publisher, an Ebook, a PDF of the paperback and so on. Each of those formats has its own different specific requirements, but Scrivener handles all of that for you, without you having to change the edited text itself.

You simply say: “I want to compile to a traditional Manuscript using Courier”, make a couple of choices about how you want the Chapters titles to look etc, and press compile. The program comes with many default compilation targets and layouts, but you can of course amend them if you want.

How does this work?

  1. The compiler knows that a certain compilation format will typically use a certain paragraph layout. e.g. the Manuscript (Courier) format has paragraphs with a 0.5in indent, 1" margins, double-spaced Courier, while the Paperback may have 0.2" indent, 1.2 line height Palatino. The compiler takes your 22pt green Comic Sans default paragraph from the editor and translates it automatically to the default paragraph for the compilation format you choose each time.

  2. In the Editor you tell Scrivener what type of thing each element in the binder is: is it a Chapter? is it a scene? (This is usually done for you depending on the hierarchy in the binder – folders are Chapters, Scenes are scenes. NB: the actual name of the Section Type is irrelevant, as long as it’s different for Chapters and Scenes). This is called the elements Section Type. When you come to compile the project, you choose the format (e.g. Manuscript) and then Assign Section Layout. In the dialogue that comes, you choose a look (a Section Layout) for each of your Section Types. This is where you tell the compiler what you want the Chapter headings to look like: you will see several default options in the list: “1”, “Chapter 1”, “1 The Beginning”, etc etc and you choose the one you want.

You save your choice and press compile.

What happens if the compilation defaults don’t meet your precise needs? E.g. you don’t want the default paragraph to be indented: well, then you can amend the Section Layouts and almost every other aspect of the format to you taste – but this post is long enough as it is…

You’ll find the basics of how to compile in the Tutorial in Compiling the Draft.

It’s taken me a while to type out the explanation of this, because I thought it may help you to understand the reasons why it works this way, but the basic process is very simple:

  1. Write the thing in whatever default format feels comfortable, and tell Scrivener what each bit of the project does (Section Type)

  2. Compile it to whatever format you need, and tell scrivener how you want each Section Type to look (Section Layout).

If you don’t have any major changes to make, this literally takes 30 seconds – it’s a lot easier to do than describe!


In the screenshot you posted, check the box to “Use different default formatting in new documents in this project.” That will override the Scrivener-wide preferences. (If you want to change your Scrivener-wide defaults, you can do so in the Scrivener → Preferences → Editing → Formatting pane.)

The “Default Formatting” section under “Tips” in the Tutorial covers this information. So does Appendix C.5. in the Scrivener manual.


Thank you both for your kind reply. I was able to format in the editor and apply to the manuscript.
I feel much better.

Your explanations are much appreciated!


Please help. I want to change how one chapter looks in the editor.
I tried what is noted above but it didn’t work. This must be different.

I added a new Chapter 1. I call it 1a for the moment. I added a text field and pasted in a chapter I wrote in Word. The paragraphs were not indented. The first attachment is my Chapter 1a with no indention.
The rest of my manuscript has indented paragraphs. See the second attachment.
I went to Project and tried to get 1a indented like the rest but failed. See third attachment.

What sequence of commands will change my Chapter 1a to indented paragraphs without screwing up the rest of my manuscript?

Also, is there a quick and easy way to adjust Chapter numbers after I complete this next draft as opposed to redoing each manually?
Thank you[attachment=2]1.png[/attachment][attachment=1]2.png[/attachment][attachment=0]3.png[/attachment]

Documents > Convert > Text to Default Formatting…



For future reference, you may also want to use the Paste and Match Style command when pasting material from other sources.


Thanks Mark. That worked.