Steep learning curve for compiling

I have spent hours on youtube looking at videos, and scoured the user manual about compiling.

Is it me or is this devilishly difficult to master?

As a noobie to Scrivener, I find this the most difficult thing to master, and because I want o make sure I use the binder correctly to be able to have the most straight forward compiling, I need to understand this part before I feel I know how to use the binder and editor to write.

Anyone else have this experience.
How did you get over it?
What resources helped the most.

I am only trying to compile my fiction novel (in a diary format) into an epub file

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Just write. And when you’d like to change the structure, just change it. And when you have a intermediate result, just Compile it.
Discover the way it works by doing, not by looking others doing it. At least, that’s how I learned Scrivener.

Granted, Compiling is not straightforward. With regular practice it all falls into place.


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What @AntoniDol says. Part of the reason why the compiler looks fearsome is that you’re seeing it at this current endpoint of development where it has evolved to cover a wide variety of situations and uses. Trying to understand everything up front leads you to a situation where you can’t really understand how to use compiler option X without understanding the nuances of how it affects binder/editor organization Y.

Start using one of the default templates; they contain compile formats to make things look a certain way. Play with compiling those and focus on solving specific issues – I want A and it’s doing B – sometimes getting A from B requires a change in the compiler, sometimes in the editor, sometimes in the binder, sometimes some combination of all three. But you’ll be focused on functional learning – learning just enough about the features to do what you want.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be a master out of the gate. There’s no one perfect way to do things. Start with doing things one way, make incremental adjustments, and as you and your writing skills and needs evolve, how you use your tools will also evolve.


No, you don’t. Particularly in Scrivener 3, we’ve put a great deal of effort into making sure that you can use whatever Binder structure supports your writing, and worry about the (compiled) structure that the reader sees later.

Moreover, the Compile command is so complex in part because it supports a vast array of potential output documents, from poetry chapbooks to technical textbooks. You only need to worry about the fraction of its capabilities that is relevant to your own work.

For a fiction novel, the best place to start is probably with one of the Manuscript Compile Formats. That will probably get close to what you want right out of the box. Then decide what (if anything) you want to change, and either consult the manual or ask specific questions here.

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I can demystify it in a half hour Zoom session if you like.

DrMajorBob at Facebook

I come from a sector where software was a big part and know how it can take a life of its own when the marketing department ropes in more and more use cases and stakeholders. Looks like all the magic sits in this compiler.

I began to use the defaults, but I was always confused how the result would look. This lead me to think that it was the way I am using the folders and documents that leads to this.

A chicken and egg situation when I basically have neither! heheheee

I did exactly this with v1, but now have a total shamozzle which I cannot seem to get into any reasonable format. My frustration left me in limbo with this project (frustrating)

But since then, I have written another book in google docs (I took a long road trip recently and wrote it on my phone with a little bluetooth keyboard). Now I want to bring it into Scrivener, and get a draft out for some feedback and this compiler is driving me nuts.

I feel I am falling into this frustrated vicious cycle again.

Copy and paste one page and Compile it.
Create one Chapter and Compile it.
Compile after every new Chapter until you’ve covered your entire story.
By the end you know how to Compile for feedback.

Baby steps…


That is such a kind and warm offer.
I want to take you up on it.
I have DMed you in Facebook

I am basically doing this in my clumsy trial and error journey.
I seek shortcuts. This was the motivation for my original post.

I know enough (I think) to realise that the magic happens between section types (as defined in the binder) and section layouts as defined in the compiler.

The devil sits quietly waiting to bedevil the noobies in this murky zone of confusion.

Yeah, I’m one of those who has problems with Compile in Scrivener 3. Had absolutely no problems with Scrivener 1, but when I upgraded, problems occurred which even Scrivener has not yet solved. I compile one chapter at a time for critique and proofing. If I compile directly to PDF or Word, no problems. If I compile to print, I only get the first 7 pages of the document. And it doesn’t matter which project. And it doesn’t matter if I compile for print and then print to PDF instead of to my printer. I keep figuring it must be something I’m doing wrong, but I haven’t figured it out. Best advice I can give you is to keep plugging away at it to figure out what works and what doesn’t. If you can print to PDF rather than an actual printer, it will save you tons of paper while figuring it out.

If you have previously compiled in Scrivener 1, the first thing to recognize is that Scrivener 3 is very different. Our upgrade guide is here: Scrivener 3: A Guide for Scrivener 1 Users | Literature and Latte

In particular, the Binder structure and the Compile settings are much more independent of each other.


If you were fine with Scrivener 1 compile, this should get you started with version 3:

Scrivener 1 or 2 Compile → Scrivener 3

Below are a few links on Compile.


end-to-end example

Compile a very different product from the same content

I definitely was not OK with v1 compile.

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I started with v1 and could not make the compile work then.
My difficulties with v3 seem to me to just be a continuation of the same problems.

Though I have to say that I feel a bit more confident of getting over this learning curve this time around.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts

I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who has waded into my desperate initial comment, driven by transient frustration I have to admit.

Your words have helped me to regain my lost momentum in this project.


A post was split to a new topic: Compiling for poetry