Is anyone using Scrivener for poetry manuscripting?

I’ve found that the short story template is perfect for drafting a poetry manuscript.
The corkboard and synopsis features have really helped me break apart my poems and
ask a million and one questions about each one. It’s starting to look like a daunting task.
And since Scrivener 2.0 is going to have EPub conversion, It’ll be easy to publish on
Apple’s iBooks server. For those who don’t know, all you need is an ISBN # and you’re good to go.

Also, hi! My name is Nolan, and this is my first post on the Scrivener forums. I’ve been using Scrivener
for only a couple weeks now, and I love it and can’t wait to get the 2.0 upgrade.

Hi Nolan,

What good timing! At the moment I’m working on (among bug fixes) creating some new project templates for 2.0. Here is the new templates chooser:

As you can see, there is a category for “Poetry & Lyrics”. The only problem is that, as I write, that category is completely empty!

Do you have any suggestions as to what might go into a project template for poetry? Do you have or know of any examples of a poetry manuscript that I might refer to? I have to make sure there are at least a couple of templates in that category… Obviously I’ll be researching poetry magazine submission guidelines, but any ideas you have for what would be useful in such a project, fire away.

Many thanks,

I don’t know if Scrivener would be quite the right platform for a single poem or single song. The reason it’s working so well for me at the moment is that I’m writing and revising an entire manuscript that carries a coherent theme, which I can poke and prod via the corkboard and snapshot systems. That’s just my feeling at the moment.

As for your actual question (and I don’t even know if this falls under the category of templates), but perhaps auto 5-count line numbering, formatting for small-release chapbooks (view mode of page orientation?). I guess theses are all just features more than templates.

See the thing is, my definition of poetry doesn’t end at pure form. While there are forms to follow, there is also poetry that is ALL OVER the page, and some that genuinely looks like fiction (I’m of such a vein for my current manuscript). I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re trying to construct a template, you have to take all these factors into consideration (at least in the case of poetry, as for lyrics, it might be a tad bit easier on your sore coding hands).

I’m honored you came to me directly, even though I don’t feel I’m any sort of expert. I’m always happy to give my input on a wonderful program like Scrivener.

Off topic poetry, on topic templates:

Any chance the new templates include an AV script template?

If you give me some links or send me some material on what exactly should go into such a template, then sure. The thing is, I’m no expert on every format out there, so I an only provide what I can find or what people point me to, and I don’t have time to research how each format should be done properly. But if you point me to some specifications and describe exactly how you see such a template working, then I’d certainly consider it.


Y’know a feature that would definitely be definitely conducive to free-form poetry? The ability to select anywhere in the text field to write. When writing in a program like Word (and currently in Scrivener), I would have to brute-force space things out by using Space or Tab. But if we could select anywhere on the text field, and also not have the separate selections interfere with each other (I’m pretty much referring to creating a text box in a program like Illustrator), then it would allow for maximum usage of page space.

That would involve a rather different sort of program and layout. :slight_smile:

Sorry, but these all fall under “feature requests” - I was just asking for ideas about what might go into a template!

That said, you have a point about line numbering. I had wanted it in 2.0, but it turned out rather complicated and so I had delayed it until a 2.x update. But I have just found a solution that may work nicely. I’m not sure it will work in page layout mode, and I need to delve into the code some more, but having line numbers would surely help for poetry.


Have a look at Conjure for “click-and-type” free-form writing:

So this post is a month old, but I figure I’ll add my .02 – I use Scrivener for poetry! I’m still refining the workflow in 2.0, but I’m beginning to work it out.

All the poetry (I tend to write reasonably short poems, no more than a couple dozen lines per piece; if I ever wrote something like Kenneth Koch’s Ko, I doubt this would work) lives in a single .scriv project. There’s only one folder in the Binder, and every poem is a file within that folder; I keep them organized alphabetically by title, but there’s no reason to do that other than my tidiness mania.

If a poem is part of a themed cycle/set/whatever (like, the poetry I wrote for my girlfriend throughout our relationship), I add a Keyword so I can pull them all together easily. (I’m treating Keywords like freeform tags; possibly I should be using Labels instead, but I find the HUD drag-and-drop more to my taste. Plus, the auto-colors are prettier for Keywords. Of such decisions are kingdoms made.)

When I get comfortable with Collections, I suspect that will be how I organize subsets of the whole thing – eg, samples for workshops, manuscripts for editors, and so on – but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around Collections. The solution I used in 1.5 was to create an as-needed folder, move the relevant poems in there, fuss with the order until I was done or the deadline was upon me, compile to .rtf, shove the poems back into their usual places, and go on my merry way. (Yes, I know this is a stupid solution, but perfect, enemy of the good, etc.)

One thing I’m profoundly grateful for, speaking as a poet, in 2.0, is the format-across-files thing; I often zero-draft poetry in emails or in blog comments, and when I used to copy and paste my scribbles into Scrivener, the formatting would be totally inconsistent. And it was a pain in the neck to get them to have all the same spacing, typeface, indentation, and whatnot. I actually gave up and endured the shrieks of my inner neatnik, comforting myself that it would all be pretty and identical when I compiled.

Since each poem is a separate file, the name of the file is the poem’s title, and this is the only project where I have turned on View/Editor/Show titles in Scrivenings. I’m trying to remember what else I changed from the default settings in 2.0, but it’s escaping me; if people want a screenshot, I’m happy to get one.

And now for poking suspiciously at the enjambment in the current piece. Yay, that was a whole ten minutes wasted!

In reading this, I was wondering about auto-correct preferences (capitalization, etc.) and whether those are preferences that could be changed per project and thus having auto-correct turned off could be part of a template for poetry or lyrics, or whether that’s a global preference that’s always either on or off. There are so many different preferences, even checking in the manual I wasn’t sure how to tell what could be customized for a template and what couldn’t…

I would love to see a screenshot of your organizational structure!


Everything in the Preferences pane (ie Scrivener>Preferences) is global, although the default text style and some others can be overridden per project. Auto-correct options like the capitalization are global, though spelling and grammar checking can be per-project. It’s not too hard to turn them on and off while you’re working, but it does require you to remember to do it.

Maybe a poetry template’s “How To” instructions could include this suggestion or perhaps there could be another “Daily Checklist” sort of page (with a nice red flag kind of icon to catch your attention!) that the user could habitually look at when getting to work. This could include some pre-set items like “turn off auto-correct options!” as well as be a place the individual user might write his or her own list of “things to work on” that could change as the manuscript progresses.

Here is a screenshot of my usual “workspace” when I’m poetrying; I’m trying to think what other screenshots might be of interest to people, and I’m coming up pretty blank. I don’t use the corkboard or outliner much (for poetry; they’re invaluable for prose); Collections is mostly for arranging sets for editors and workshops; I’m not someone who futzes with the visuals of her poetry much, so the Format bar was one of the first things I banished and haven’t touched since (it was one of the things that made me wince and say, “oh, Scrivener, I love you because you are not Word, strut your non-Word-ness!”). Ignore the fact that the screenshot looks like I’m in Terminal, which you can see at the very bottom, that’s just to grab the screenshot.

Edit 2015: The old screenshots were no longer accurate and had some identifying information that I hadn’t realized was in them so I’ve replaced them with an up-to-date screenshot (done in Skitch instead of via Terminal!) that blurs out text.

The Binder is just a document-per-poem; whenever I begin a major revision of a piece, I Snapshot, and title the snapshot with the date; the first few lines of the poem are in the “Synopsis”; tags are used for general themes of my work (love poems, political poems, formal experiments, etc.); status denotes “revising, publication-ready, published”); I used to use “Document Notes” for tracking the journals I sent stuff to, but these days I just rely on Submittable/gmail search and only submit to places that take simultaneous submissions, because life is too damn short.

Yep - I’m using the windows beta for mine - migrating from MS Onenote - my only wish is there was an auto-sync for me to use between PC>><><<laptop.

[Oh . and a built-in syllable counter and rhyme generator would be nice … :snicker: ]

It’s been a while since I’ve written poetry (since well before Scrivener began life) so I don’t have much to offer. But I do have a technical question: why did you use Terminal for the screenshot? Indeed, how did you use Terminal for the screenshot? It would never in a thousand years have occurred to me to use Terminal for that…

I don’t like Grab, and I generally have Terminal open anyway. For one-use things like this, if I use screencapture ~/Desktop/poetryworkspace.jpg , it’s faster and more in my usual workflow. But what works for me may not work for you, grain of salt, objects in mirror may be closer than they appear, etc., etc.!

Thanks. 8)
I’m more of a keyboard shortcut kinda guy (Cmd-Shft-4, Spacebar) so I forget that Grab is even involved. Nice to learn more.

I complete at least one poem a day using Scrivener. I collect all the poems for a year in folders named A, B, C etc. I also keep a collection for each month, to keep me honest (as I am committed to doing poetry practice daily). I also keep collections of keywords, based on saved searches, e.g ‘red’ (which I just did, discovering to my surprise that I have used the word in 13 different poems this year) and-why not?-‘blue’, which I have used in 16 poems. Hmm. Perhaps I could publish themes collection…I now have so many poems that I will have to start doing keyword collections, e.g. sonnet, metaphysical, etc.

All my significant offcuts go into the ‘Offcuts’ Project Notes, and all of my editorial comments and my own ideas go into the poem’s Documents Notes. If I have an idea for a poem, e.g. ‘I wondered lonely as a runaway ride-on mower…’ I begin a new poem (= new doc) and just leave it hanging and go onto something else.

But the numbering system could be better, as I am a counter of lines. However, the count always begins at the poem title, which makes my brain work harder. But the title doesn’t have to be there, you say. Well, actually, it does, as it is the pennant around which my brain rallies in moments of desperation.

I prefer not to capitalise the beginning of every line.


I love Scrivener, and use it for every creative writing task, including poetry.

However, backspacing to correct auto-caps on first words of new lines, when I’ve broken a sentence across one or more lines, can be pretty maddening.

I would love a Poetry template with an option to turn new line first word auto-capitalization on/off.

You see, enjambment is a central structural component of modern poetry, and what that means is it’s more common than not that a sentence will break across a new line - or new strophe - without the sentence having been completed and closed. And presently, most poets who use enjambment don’t cap the first word of every line - they cap the first word of every sentence.

In modern poetry:
– The start of a new line does not signal a new sentence.
– The start of a new strophe (stanza / paragraph) does not signal a new sentence.
– What signals a new sentence is any sentence-closing punctuation - full stop, semi-color, question mark or exclamation point.

Whether to auto-cap or not on the first word of a new line should be up to the poet, in a Poetry template setup.

BTW: a few poets never cap at all - for them, a Poetry template with the option to turn off all first word capitalization would be helpful.

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I’m not sure about the Windows version, but in Mac you can go to Preferences > Corrections > Auto-Capitalization > uncheck Fix capitalization of sentences.