Spec Novel Format

Hi All,

I very much like the way Scrivener lets you create your own templates so easily, and modify the ones they already provide. I’m very excited about using my personalized templates going forward.

However, the Formats are not so easily tweaked, or created from the Blank. And matters are confused by the existence of Format, Presets, Templates, Preferences, and all of this vs. Compile, which seem largely to ignore each other.

I spend enormous amounts of time trying to subtract things Scrivener has in their Novel Format. It is very much a format for submitting to people you don’t know–which is a valuable thing, God knows. But when you are submitting to people you work with regularly, a lot of this stuff is unnecessary.

For example, all you need on a Title Page is title, author name, and page count. Everything else is clutter. Similarly, a running header that includes surname and title is also ugly, distracting, and unnecessary–especially now that most editors and agents are reading you in electronic versions. But even on paper, those elements are not necessary.

Also, the Chapter Title business. How often do you read a novel where the chapters have titles? I’ve been taking them out in Compile, but I end up with a gap where the title was. And the Chapter heading doesn’t print out, and I lose the page padding as well. So everything starts flush with the top of the page with no indication of chapter. Ugh.

I’ve posted elsewhere about the page numbering.

I’ve been trying to create my own simpler Novel Format for a month now, and it actually is not easy. It seems like you have to set all your preferences for Font, spacing, numbering, etc., only to have them ignored when you get to Compile. You set them all in Compile, but they disappear when you go back to editor. It’s very frustrating.

Would be nice if Scrivener provided another, simpler Novel Format, so we don’t waste vast amounts of times subtracting things. In the meantime, advice on how to get rid of them would be most appreciated.



Yes, clearly for your needs you want to just either create your own template from scratch (starting with the blank project and modeling it after the standard novel template as much as suits you) or refine an existing template to your needs and then save it as a new template so you only have to make these adjustments once. §7.5 of the manual covers project templates and §7.5.2 specifically goes over creating your own, so if you haven’t it might be worthwhile to take a peek at that. Given that it sounds like you’re doing a lot with Compile settings as well, you may also want to look through chapter 25 for more information on the options there.

Scrivener’s separation of draft and compile text formatting is one of its key features, meant to be liberating rather than frustrating. You can use whatever font and size and styling is comfortable to you when working on the computer, even if it’s different on any given day or any given document in your project, without having to worry about how it will appear when you print. Scrivener can do all the readjustment for you when you’re ready to compile, with minimal effort on your part. The “override text and notes formatting” checkbox in the compile formatting pane gives you the power to take mismatched text throughout your novel and convert it easily to a standard formatting.

It’s equally easy to have Scrivener leave your text alone: if you prefer to compile with the same formatting as you use for working in the editor, simply don’t check the “override” option in the compile formatting pane. You can also check “compile as-is” for any or all of your documents in the “content” pane of the compile settings and this will take precedence over the “override” setting in the Formatting pane. For instance, a title page is generally set to compile as-is so the spacing formatted in the editor doesn’t get destroyed at compile, but you can choose to have other documents preserve their formatting by this means as well.

You can easily take out the titles of your documents if you don’t want to include them, and you can replace them by something standard like “Chapter (number)” during compile. To do this, ensure that the “title” box in the formatting pane of the compile settings is unchecked and that for the document types/levels you want a standard “chapter” title included you edit the “title settings” (in that pane, just below the list of document types) and set the prefix to whatever you’d like, e.g. “Chapter <$n>”. Except for documents checked to compile as-is, which will not print a title or prefix/suffix regardless of other settings, the prefix and suffix will be printed whether or not the document title is included. The <$n> variable will be replaced in the compiled document with an incremented Arabic numeral. You can view Help>Placeholder Tags List… to see all the possibilities and for further information on the variables.

You can then format the appearance of this “Chapter <$n>” title in the sample text box in the bottom of the pane, centering it, resizing it, etc. as you like. This applies whether or not you have selected to override the other text settings. You can also select specific documents to not include the prefix/suffix via the processing options tab.

The “page padding” option to the right of the “title settings” lets you put in a number of blank lines that will appear before the title (or the prefix/suffix if that’s all there is) if that title is the start of a new page. I’m not clear whether that’s what you’re attempting or if your problem with padding is that all text everywhere ends up flush with the top of the page—if it’s the latter, then it sounds like you need to adjust your page settings. Check that tab in the compile settings and either explicitly set the margin there or ensure that your project page settings (File>Page Settings) are how you want them, if you’re using that option.

Modifications you make in a project’s compile settings will be preserved in that project once you click compile; you can also hold down the option key to change the “compile” button to “save” so that you can preserve the settings and close the compile pane without compiling. To save the compile settings so that they’re available to load later (in other projects or after you’ve made changes to the settings in this project) you can use the “save…” button always visible in the bottom left of the compile pane. So the formatting preferences don’t “disappear”; they’re just compile settings, not writing preferences, so they don’t affect anything outside compile.

For text formatting in the editor, note that the main text style preferences set via Scrivener>Preferences are global and apply to all new projects. If you’re painstakingly crafting text formatting for a specific template, ensure that you’re doing so in the Project>Text Preferences pane and that the box there is checked to “override text formatting for this project.” That way your settings for new documents created in the project will remain as part of the template even if you change your global preferences later. (Any formatting you do for documents saved as part of the template will retain their formatting regardless of your main text style preferences; this is for new documents created.)

I’m not quite clear on what you’re saying about preferences for numbering; what sort of numbering and where? Also you mentioned “Format,” “Templates,” and “Presets,” and I’m not clear on what you’re referring to by all of those or how you’re seeking to use them in your project template. Presets are global and not saved as part of the project template. Document templates are explained in the manual §8.4.

I hope that helps a bit. I’m not sure I quite answered all your questions, because I don’t fully understand the difficulties you’re running into deleting elements of the pre-existing template aside from the few specific issues you mentioned. Feel free to explain if it’s still troubling you.

As MimeticMouton says, start with the blank project format (which is how all the other templates start off). That should be much easier. I really don’t think it is that difficult if you start from that. Then just go through each pane in the Compile sheet and set it how you want - as long as you know what you want to achieve, it should take only ten minutes at most (probably longer for a bit of tweaking). The novel template even includes instructions on how to change that format so that it doesn’t include titles, too.

Thanks guys,

Most helpful. I’m going to print out your responses. I am trainable! (I think.)

Maybe the thing I’m most misunderstanding viz Chapter headings is this: it seems from your responses that Scrivener’s “title” at the top of the Compile formatting pane in fact refers to the Chapter #? Is that why it keeps not showing up? As it’s sitting right under the word “Chapter” I assumed it was a separate title, which is why I was trying to remove it.

Okay, I’m going to try the things you suggest and post back when I have a little more experience with my Format tweaking.

Thanks again,


Yes, the “Title” in the checkboxes (Title/Meta-Data/Synopsis/Notes/Text) refers to the title of the document in the binder. If that is ticked, then the title of the document from the binder gets included at the top of the document. The “Title Settings…” allow you to add a prefix or suffix to this title - but the prefix/suffix will be included even if “Title” is not included.

Thus, if you set up a title prefix of “Chapter <$t>” ("<$t>" being title-case numbering) with a return after it and ticked “Title” (which is how the novel template is set up), you would get this on compile:

Chapter One Title of Document in Binder Main text blah blah...

If you unticked “Title”, you would get:

[code]Chapter One

Main text blah blah…[/code]

(You would probably want to get rid of the return after the title prefix for this situation, so you don’t get the extra blank line.)

So, “Title” includes the title from the binder at the top of this document component; using the “Title Settings…” allows you to use an arbitrary numbered title either instead of or in combination with the document title.

Hope that makes sense! Once you’ve messed around with it and got used to it, hopefully you’ll see that it gives you quite a bit of flexibility.

All the best,

Think you mean in this case the title of doc in binder doesn’t show…?

Wow typing on an iPod in a forum is as awful as I imagined. I must be really bored at the doctor’s. Blah.

Oops, you’re right of course - edited accordingly!