Need advice on chapter organization in Scrivener

I’m not sure if I’m in the right place for my question. I have been using Scivener for a while, but I know I don’t use it to its full potential. Anyway - my specific reason for reaching out is for advice. Or thoughts from people who most likely do use it to its full potential. Specifically regarding organizing in chapters. I tend to organize by scene. But I sometimes change the order of my scenes around - which I know is what many people do - but I’m not sure about the best ways to do that in scrivener. Thoughts??? Advice???

Hi Katiepink 13, and welcome to the forum.

In my opinion, giving me easy ways to rearrange my scenes is an area where Scrivener excels over other writing tools I’ve used.

I’m not a writer who works from an outline, nor do I write my fictional work in chronological order. I bounce around in my project.

I’ll add a scene here with notes about different things I think might occur. Maybe I’ll write out a draft of a scene there, and so on. I leave figuring out if all those scenes fit into the project later.

Since Scrivener handles a lot of documents well, I can write a boatload of scenes in my project and place them all in the Draft/Manuscript root folder of my project without thinking about the narrative flow at first.

Sometimes I just add a new document for each scene that comes to mind and worry about organizing stuff in revision. Other times, I’ll drag-and-drop my new scene into a rough chronological order for the narrative (assuming I think the story will be told chronologically) while I’m writing. It really depends.

Later, I can add some folders to my project so that I can collect a group of scenes into those folders as a chapter. Adding folders for each chapter as I figure out where the rise, fall, and hooks will align gives me a rough structure when I’m ready to start revising and fixing holes.

If I’m not sure that I’ve found the exact flow for my project that I want, I might use Scrivener’s Collections to take my different scenes and group them in different ways. Collections won’t affect the binder order, so I can test out if a batch of scenes makes sense as a chapter.

I can also create multiple collections to test out different arrangements without altering the order of my scenes in my binder until I’m ready to commit them to a specific progression.

In the Scrivener manual, Collections are explained in §10.2. You can access a PDF of the manual from Scrivener’s Help menu.

The Help menu also houses Scrivener’s Interactive Tutorial, which can give you some tips on starting to use collections.

I’d also suggest reviewing some past forum discussions on using collections. This discussion has a general overview of how they can work, as does this one.

Our outreach specialist has also talked about using collections for organizing different scenes based on keyword searches. For example, if he has a keyword for one character’s name and applied that to each document where that character appeared, he can create a collection for that character’s arc and then read through only the scenes where that character appears.

He mentioned that in the webinar he did on Friday, October 20, 2023. Those webinar videos are only up for about 30 days or so, but you might find some of those organizational tips helpful as you consider your options.

Other users may have other ways they prefer to work, and I’m sure you’ll hear from them if they have tips that they’d like to share. You might also do some searching on the forum for “collections” to see other discussions.


Oh my goodness. This is amazing and exactly what I am asking!!! THANK YOU! These are fabulous options and the “collections” feature sounds like it could be very helpful. I’m taking a look at these suggestions now. I appreciate you and responding so promptly and thoroughly!

I’m glad that was helpful, Katie.

A couple of other tips I’ll pass along. When I’m creating my different scene documents or folders, I’ll try to give them a short, descriptive name. Something other than the generic “scene” or “chapter.” Maybe “Lisa and the Stairs” or “Finding the Sword.”

That way as I rearrange them and use collections, I’m not just staring at dozens of “Chapter” folders and potentially hundreds of documents titled “Scene” with no idea what is in any of them.

I made that “generic title” mistake in my rookie Scrivener days. Then realized that I’d never figure out what any of them were when trying to rearrange them.

It’s something I’ll see a lot in help tickets, so perhaps I can spare you (or another newer user) that grief by sharing that tip here.

Ruth, why the short lifespan on the Webinar, why not keep up longer, they serve as a great resource.

That’s an excellent question. My understanding is that Oliver will cover some of the topics again in other sessions. However, he’ll take a slightly different approach to presenting it or incorporate users’ questions and feedback when he does.

When I’ve handled Q&A on some of the webinars, I’ve seen attendees request a longer shelf life on the replays. I think it’s something he and the Outreach team are considering, but I haven’t heard much beyond that.

This may be a related question. In the manuscript intro, it says “(You do not need to—and indeed shouldn’t—title the folders “Chapter One” and so on, because chapter numbering will be taken care of automatically during the Compile process.)” However, when you duplicate the initial chapter, the program does assign a chapter number (first 1, then 2, etc.) Likewise when you duplicate a scene.

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What you’ve actually done is create a duplicate document with the same name (“Chapter”). Scrivener adds a number to avoid confusion between the original and the duplicate.

You would see the exact same behavior if you duplicated (or split) a document called “Widgets” or “Life, The Universe, and Everything.” That is, this isn’t really “chapter numbering” behavior, it’s “name conflict resolution.”

But in both cases, your life will be easier if you change the name of the duplicate to more accurately reflect its contents.

OK – that makes sense. Is duplicating still the correct way to create new chapters? (Sorry — I know this is pretty basic!)

Hi PaulG1. Duplicating is one way to get new chapter folders or text documents.

You can also click on the downward-facing chevron just to the right of the green Plus button in the toolbar and select either “New Folder” or “New Text” from it.

The Project > New Text or Project > New Folder commands are also available, and they’ll have the keyboard shortcuts shown if you feel that using keyboard commands is easier.

If you use your mouse a lot, you can right-click on an existing document in the binder and select Add > New Text or Add > New Folder as well.

The Help menu houses Scrivener’s Interactive Tutorial. It is a Scrivener project that we provide so that users can get hands-on practice navigating through Scrivener and learning about its features without using your own writing as a testing space.

If you haven’t gone through the Tutorial yet, you may want to start with reviewing it since that’s a good way to test out some of the different commands and experimenting with a live project that is not your actual work.

Thank you, Ruth. I have been working through the tutorial very assiduously. It’s a complicated program, and I know I’ll get it eventually. Thanks for your additional advice.

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I have been using the first sentence of the scene, or a good chunk of that sentence as the name of the file. Will this create a problem later on during compiling?

If the scene is destined to be without a title, no.
In the other case you’d have to type the right title somewhere at some point. In this case in the binder, but you can do it a the very last moment, just before the compiling stage of your work process.

No ground for worries.

Having a description of a scene as its title in the binder is something I almost systematically do. Never did it cause me an issue.

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Compile can use the title of the document, but it doesn’t have to.

There are a few other options, though. You can use the Synopsis field for the short description, for instance.

If you don’t set any title at all, Scrivener will auto-generate one from the body text or the Synopsis (if one exists). Once you decide what the final title should be, you can just overwrite the auto-generated one.

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