It seems overwhelming

So, I have gone through part one of the tutorial, and I’m also reading the e-book Writing a Novel with Scrivener, but it seems overwhelming. I just want to know how to divide up my novel that is already substantially written, plug it into Scrivener, and make the program useful to me. Any thoughts?

I don’t think there is ONE answer to your question. The beauty of Scrivener is that it’s incredibly flexible. You can divide your novel up in many different ways, the ways that make sense to you. I often use Scrivener to divide up a two-page document! I think you should forget reading the e-book and watching the tutorial. Scrivener is pretty intuitive. Just start working on it, and when you encounter a specific issue, look for it in the manual (which is pretty detailed and clear). If the manual is not enough (and I doubt it, in most cases it does the trick), search the forums.

At any rate, the way I see it, how to divide your novel is something that can make sense only to you at this stage.

Yeah, but I’m worried I’ll import my novel, and then mess it up somehow and be unable to figure out how to get it back the way it was. Anyway, I guess since I have a copy of it elsewhere it wouldn’t hurt to just try some things and see what happens. Thanks for your advice!

I just came up with a question. How do I put stuff in a folder that I’ve just made? For example, my novel is based on a character named “Colter” and so that’s what I named the project. So if I wanted to copy my opening scene and put it into a new folder I created in the Binder, how would I do that? I tried highlighting it and then copy, but could find no “paste” option. I highlighting it and then dragging it onto the folder named “Opening Scene” that I had just created, but that didn’t work either.

I’ve just begun using Scrivener as well; after reading the tutorial and figuring out how and where the Find menu item is in the Help document, I’m making progress and I think I have an answer for you.

You don’t destroy a work that you’ve imported by the act of importing it. If you screw things up in Scrivener, you’ll still have your original work.

You can also make versions of the work in Scrivener as you try out different a tact and when you discover one doesn’t work, you can go back to a previous version and try something else.

I am just jumped into it and I’m finding out by trial and error what works for me; it’s still a bit of a mysterie, but that’s the way of software, whether this, or a CAD program, or a spreadsheet program… One day, I’ll find myself saying, “Ah-HA!”, and will just get on with it. (You could say “Eureka!”, or “Huzzah!”… results may vary in your area…)


I think I’ll probably say, “Yes!” Thanks CyberDave358. I guess I’m just anxious to get up and working on my novel and want to be able to get there ASAP…with New Year’s goals and all of that. I’ve been floundering in my novel writing because of many things, then purchased Scrivener because I thought it would help me out with at least some of my problem areas. I don’t want my enthusiasm to wane because I can’t figure out what I’m doing.

First create a copy!
I would then start by breaking out the chapters and copy them into individual folders in the Binder. Probably once that was established I would break it down further into scenes within the corresponding chapter folders.
This would facilitate editing as well as the use of the many Scrivener functions.
If something does not immediately fit just stuff it into a folder in Research until you can properly place it where it fits.

Good Luck


Thanks, Jim. So do you mean copy a chapter at a time out of my word processor (currently as an .rtf file in WordPerfect) and paste it in the editor, then make a folder for it in the binder? Or which order do I do it in? Of course, I need to copy it first, but then…?

Have you got to part 3 of the Interactive Tutorial? That’s where it gets into importing your manuscript and splitting it. What you get before part 3 may feel overwhelming, but think of it as a tour of the workshop, where you are shown tools and given a brief overview of how they might be used. You won’t need to know it all; many people never use much of Scrivener, but it won’t hurt to see the individual parts.

Note that importing files into Scrivener doesn’t touch the original, it creates a copy.

There is a much simpler and faster way to import a word doc into Scrivener
Copying and pasting every single chapter is WAY too time consuming and one can lose one’s place in a large document.
Scrivener has an IMPORT AND SPLIT option, which literally takes one or two MINUTES
Below is a link to a David Hewson video showing how to do it for mac, (the option is exactly the same for windows) … o-minutes/
a larger video available here
PS-- if you have any questions, ask. I’ve imported screenplays from Final Draft, short stories and a 80,000 word novel easily

Thanks, Marta. That’s good to know.

Thanks for bringing me up to date.
When I moved my stuff to Scrivener some time ago I was not aware of the split option.

Take care and enjoy


Yeah, the early windows version didn’t have that and it is a godsend!

You might find this post useful:

It seems there are as many ways to structure Scrivener projects as there are people using it.

If “import and split” doesn’t do the trick, you can easily split a file that’s already in the binder. Look at Documents->Split. You should have your cursor at a position in the file where you want the text to be split off from the preceding text. Also take note of the keyboard short-cut shown next to the menu item; if you’re doing any entire manuscript, you’ll probably want to do it a number of times in rapid succession.

Thanks, Robert. Which brings up another question, although I’m not sure how to formulate it, because it might just betray my simple ignorance of the program, but…what if I do “import and split” and get a bunch of scenes that are listed in the Binder, but then want to recombine some of those scenes together to form a chapter? I guess in the out line it would look something like:

Chapter 1
1. Scene
2. Scene
3. Scene

Whereas when I did “import and split” it just divided everything up per #, which includes partial scenes and no structure beyond what goes in between said #s.

Two ways:

  1. In the menu, under Documents, there is a merge command for merging two texts into one.
  2. In the binder, drag the different scenes you want to compile into a chapter into a pile (or a stack if you will). Start with the first scene in the bottom, than drag each subsequent scene ontop of it. This leaves them as separate scenes, but they will be handled as chapter when compiled.

The second alternative above is the “dirty” way and there are some formatting issues that can and/or will appear when you compile.

But yeah, watch the rest of the tutorial. I spent two days watching it off and on, and many things I couldn’t figure out on my own was explained in technicolor in the tutorial. It’s definitely worth your time and effort to do so.

Thanks, Soren. That helped. I watched the tutorial that Marta posted above, which just showed how to import and split, but not how to organize the parts together into chapters, as you posted. I will definitely go back and watch that tutorial, and all the others that I need. I’ve only gone through the interactive tutorial, and of course the video that Marta posted links to thus far.

Hey, all of you, I really appreciate the help! Happy New Year!

Yeah, unfortunately, the import and split function isn’t able to suss out heirarchy, so you’ll have to do that structuring yourself. You can create chapter folders by clicking on the folder icon at the bottom of the binder. Then you can drag your scene files into each folder as appropriate (or use the keyboard shortcuts under Documents->Move To for a more precise way of moving files around).

Just another way so think of the binder…

I try to think of binder as a filesystem with folders, nested folders, and files. Each file contains data, the text, while the folders contain files that belong together (you keep all your documents for a project in one folder on your computer…). Then the Binder has the special areas for the highest level groupings: Draft, Research, etc. The thing is that inside each of those I can create logical groups as I see fit. I may have a three part book so three “part folders”. Inside each of those I may have chapter folders. Inside chapters I might have sections, then in the sections i would have text files for scenes.


I might not group my text by chapters at all. I may be working on 3 or four separate story threads that interleave throughout the larger outline. I might have a highest level folder for each thread. Then inside the highest level I would have subsections folders for major plot points. Then the text may be inside those folders. And this MAY exist outside the draft folder altogether.

Try not to get too hung up on what defines a chapter in a given project. Scrivener is a draft creation tool that is intended to allow you the creative flexibility to structure your working environment in the most productive manner possible. Once you are very close to done with drafting then you can start worrying about structure for the final compile before you polish the manuscript in your word processor/layout tool of choice.

Keep in mind I’m not a professional … anything … I’m just a guy who uses scriv for fun (and a little bit of work).

Absolutely. That is the way I use it also