NEWBIE Help for: Chapter New Text Scene

Okay, I am in the test period of this program, so if my questions are basic, at least you understand why.

I read the user manual and watched some videos, which were somewhat helpful. Of course, what would be really helpful is an animated tutorial that actually showed you how to (a) open a format/template (b) showed you how to set up your work with chapters and what not and get started right away. Writers tend to want a writing program to write, so the sooner you can get us to it, without 22 steps in the binder telling us how the program works, the better off for all of us.

Let me use this analogy: When I ask someone for the time, I don’t want to know how the clock works. I just want the bloody time.

That out of my system, here are the questions:

(1) I wanted to start a book project, so I found a format and I opened a New Project, saved it to a location. Now I want to actually start writing. So I click on Manuscript and a screen with a cork board pops up with a note card with Chapter on it. Uh-huh.

Question: What is this for? Obviously not writing the chapter. I typed a test chapter name in there but it doesn’t seem to appear anywhere.

(2) Now, under Manuscript is a tab labelled Chapter. Ah-ha! So highlighted the “Chapter” and added the chapter name I wanted, which isn’t exactly intuitive. I mean, if you have a cork board with a card named Chapter on it, why wouldn’t you just type the chapter title there? Just sayin’…

(3) Now I go up to Project=> New Text, which seem to FINALLY get me to a place where I can start writing. What a concept for a writing software program: bury the page where you actually write your work in a menu. Suggestion: CREATE A BUTTON ON THE MENU BAR FOR NEW TEXT !!!

(4) I click on Manuscript again, click on the little folder icon on the bottom left, and now I have a new folder. I put another chapter name in there, highlight it, and click on Project=>new text for my next chapter.

(5) I reclick on Manuscript to find that the Folder titles I entered have become my Chapter Titles. Oh, so that’s how that works. Suggestion: THAT SHOULD BE IN THE INTRO MANUAL SOMEWHERE–LIKE FIRST PARAGRAPH !!!

  While I can type on the lines on the cork-board cards in Manuscript, the notes don't appear anywhere.  Can I assume these are just notes for me and do not actually show up anywhere?

(6) I see the Title Page is not filled out when I compile. Where does one fill out the Title Page?

That’s it for now!

Glad I’m still in the test phase–I’m not shelling out any $$ for this just yet.

There are three parts to any file in Scrivener:

  • file name – this appears in the binder and at the top of the editor window when you’re editing that file
  • synopsis – this is what you typed onto the notecard. It also appears in the inspector window if you have that turned on, and in the outline view if desired.
  • text – this is the main text of the file, and what you enter into the big editor window in the middle

Thirty second summary of “how to get started right away:”

  • Create new project.
  • Create as many Chapters and scenes as you like, using the corkboard or outliner. (This step is optional. You can start typing directly in any of the listed binder items if you like.)
  • Pick a Chapter or scene, open it in text view, and start typing.


One point, it sounds like you might almost be better served by the Quick Tour in the User Manual PDF, for now. I think eventually you would want to keep picking away at the main tutorial, as the tour only covers the absolute basics—but its primary goal was to put forth a 15 or 20 minute exercise that would give you enough knowledge to just write, and even compile out at the end. The rest can be learned as needed. Scrivener at its foundation is actually quite simple, but because it is a platform for more than simplicity, this can be a little deceptive at first.

The Tour goes over some of the stuff you are asking about. In particular, what a card on the corkboard means, what it means when a template starter file has an example called “chapter” in it, and how that is just a little demonstration that you can use or discard, etc.

(3) Not sure what you mean by a button on the menu bar. Buttons traditionally have no place on a menu (well, technically menus are a categorically stacked sequence of buttons, of which the “New Text” button is stacked at the top of the “Project” category, but I don’t think that is what you mean). You can make a text file with Ctrl-N, or by clicking the bright green + button in the toolbar, or the little file looking icon button at the bottom of the binder (next to the folder icon you clicked on in your step 4), or with Project/New Text, or by pressing the Enter key in the binder or corkboard, or even optionally by double-clicking in the corkboard. I’d say we have the multiple routes thing pretty covered for just about any preferred way of working.

(5) Well, I don’t know about that actually, because you are just naming folders. They have not “become” chapter titles. You might be using folders for chapter tiles, but another writer might be using them for clauses in a legal document. So it would be deceptive to state in the manual that following the steps you took will result in a “chapter title”. The program is a general purpose tool that can be used to architect anything from a search & rescue protocol manual to a video game plot.

(5b) Yes, that is the whole point of the synopsis. They are notes to yourself on what the scene is about. They are aids for you, when a mere title isn’t enough to remind you of what is going on, without having to go into and waste time skim reading five sections in order to find the sixth that you want. For this reason they do not appear in the “book text” area of the editor, as you wouldn’t want the reader to be privy to these notes. They do also appear in the Outliner in their own column, and can also be viewed in the tooltip, when you hover over an item in the binder. The other place they appear is in the Inspector on the right-hand side of the editor.

In other words, treat index cards like you would treat real index cards. You jot down the plot point and a few lines to elaborate your thoughts on what will happen.

(6) Right there where you are looking at it. It is just a text editor. You can completely redesign that page if you want, or delete it.

I suppose a final point to make would be that what you are seeing in this example template is nothing “special” in the sense that you are working with real chapter features and title pages and such. They are just files and folders, arranged in such a way as to construct these familiar devices. You could yourself start using the Blank project started and make all of these things yourself from scratch, and it wouldn’t be too much more work to do so.

The Quick Tour in fact does start with Blank, specifically so anyone can benefit from it rather than just novelists, and also to implicitly demonstrate that how you arrange things in the binder is how they will be. It is up to you if you wish to write as a long sequence of chapter length files in the binder, with no sorting at all, or if you have eight levels of depth that go all the way down to paragraphs. Most work somewhere in between those extremes, and some use a mixture depending on how tough a particular section might be.