VERY large project to make section type definition changes

Hello All, This is my first user forum post of any type and it’s a major one. I am in the process of writing a series of 32 books to 32 distinct target audiences, where about 65% of the content is common to all books and the balance is similar but uniquely specific in content but identical in structure. Therefore, I decided write all the books concurrently so that I could write and edit all of them as I went along AND in the end I would use the Scrivener compile capabilities to assemble each of the 32 books according to their appropriate components. Well, I’ve created a monster that I believe can still work if I can figure out how to do bulk changes to section types to existing documents. Yesterday, I tried to compile/print a PDF of my first draft of one of 9 books that are complete. I just could not follow the instructions presented in the User Guide to make that happen even after 3 hours of trying. Given that I have 100% of the content complete on 9 books and 80-90% on the rest of the series - all in one Draft folder - BUT with no prior attention given to how to actually compile and print each individual manuscript, it makes this a very big Oh @^$# moment for me. Can anyone point me in the right direction on how to slay this monster I’ve created? I am using Scrivener version 3.01.

How you organize your binder will have a HUGE impact on the advice that can be given. Also, which version of Scrivener you are running is a major component. You have “mac” as your platform; are you running Scrivener version 3?

Can you provide some screenshots of your binder as it’s currently organized, preferably with annotations, demonstrating how you store and reference sections that are common to two or more of your books vs sections that are unique to any given book? Because having a concrete example of how you’ve done things so far will go a long way towards getting you where you need to be.

Be prepared to reorganized your project to take advantage of features suggested. Also, be prepared for people to offer different solutions, as Scrivener is flexible enough to allow for many approaches to the same or similar needs.

Before you change ANYTHING, use the File->Back Up->Back Up To… menu so you have an easily identifiable backup of your project before you dive down this rabbit hole.

I don’t know if I will personally have the time or energy to help with your project, but I’m sure a few people will be able to give you some guidance. Good luck!

Here is a screenshot. It shows the first level nested sections. For one of the books. All the other books only differ in their unique version of the Part 1 content. Let me know what you would recommend. Thanks.

I’d say you’re probably in less of a pickle than you may feel like you are—especially with them all being structurally similar. Scrivener is designed to be very forgiving—in part because we shouldn’t have to worry too much about these kinds of things while writing. We can if we want, but if you save it all to the end of the process, there is nothing you can do here that cannot be changed.

Now you might want to swap chunks of books in and out of the draft folder. You can easily switch between them in the Contents pane of the compile overview screen—but with 32 books worth of content in that dropdown menu, it might be overwhelming to find, say, book #23 out of all of that. It hurts nothing at all to move things in an out of this folder. You could even just focus one at a time if that is what you want.

There are three good ways of doing that:

  • Select everything you want to set to a Type and right-click on the selection in the binder, outliner or corkboard. Use the “Section Type” dropdown.
  • If you try doing that on container, note the options to set subdocuments to use a type automatically? That could come in handy for bulk implicit assignments.
  • And last but certainly not least, the “master switch” approach is that “Default Types by Structure” tab in the Project Settings: Section Types pane. Since you mention the books are all structurally very similar, you might be able to get away with handling the bulk of your type assignments here. For example you can set the highest used file group level to Part, the next highest to Chapter and on down as you need to.

Then you can save the above two manual methods for those cases that go against the standard structure. Even in one book that can be a good tactic. The user manual for example has a basic structural definition in Project Settings—but there are plenty of places within it (like the Menu appendix) where I wanted the content to print completely differently from how text files at that level would normally print.

So hopefully that gives you some ideas for tactics in how to tame this thing. The tools you have available here are extremely flexible and efficient when all used together.

Do note that if you’ve already made a bunch of manual section type assignments, you may not see the default types by structure making an impact immediately. It might be worthwhile to scrap the manual settings (perhaps in a duplicated test project), get the rough outline sketched out, and then refine from there.

One good thing about Scrivener is that it is very difficult to paint yourself into a corner. It might feel that way, but just about everything in this program is reversable, malleable, adjustable—you can even turn a folder into a file if you need to, and that can be valuable tactic in all of this as well if you used File Groups at one level and realise how that it would be simpler to handle them as Folders—you can use folders and files groups for different tasks at the same level for example.

You’ve got some work ahead of you, no denying that, but start small and work upward. Get one thing working right, and then move on to the next. Get one group of Types all set up, then move over to Compile and get them assigned to the right Layout in the middle column—or design the layout if that’s what you want to do. Then get the next type working. Before long you should be getting a compiled result that looks good.

By the way, how are you handling the duplicated content? I’m assuming this project started a little bit before Scrivener 3 came along, so it may be you’ve got all of that content actually duplicated—but going forward you might want to take a look at the <$include> placeholder (Help menu). That little thing can copy the text from one binder item into another. If all 32 books have the same chapter on Topic X, then you only need to have one master copy.

Here’s one specific way to organize your binder and use that structure to set up your compile.

First, create a folder for a “template” of your books (do not confuse this with any of Scrivener’s features that use the word ‘template’ in them… this is separate from those features). Then create a copy of one book in that “Book Template” folder. Rename every document to start with “TEMPLATE 1:” or “T1” or something.

For each book, make sure it’s in its own named folder, so that the structure is:
Book A->Title Page
Book A->Title Page->Carpenter

Book B->Title Page
Book B->Title Page->Carpenter
… and so on…

Put all books A through Z (but not the Book Template folder) in your draft folder.

Then in the first book you want to work on (let’s call it Book A), for any document that should re-use the contents from the “T1” copy, delete its contents and replace it using the <$include:> technique that AmberV suggested. All documents with unique content should NOT use that <$include:> method.

For instance, in the Draft folder, you might have the following nested document:
Draft->Book A->Part 1:At your Best->Carpenter: A Career…
It will contain the text unique to Book A.

But, for instance, the following document:
Draft->Book A->Part 2: At your Best->At your Best as a…
Would only contain:
<$include:T1:At Your Best as a…>

This assumes that the title “T1:At your Best as a…” is unique to that copy’s set of documents (there aren’t any other identically named documents in the T1 folder, in other words). During compile, this <$include:…> tag copies the contents of T1: At Your Best as a…, but compile would use the title from Book A’s copy, “At Your Best as a…” if the title is included as part of that section’s output.

Obviously (I hope), the ellipses are only there because I don’t know what words follow. You would use the entire title of each document.

And that’s how I’d start. When you compile, you would select the “Book A” folder from the drop-down list on the right pane of the compile window. That will restrict the compile to just Book A’s contents, and not Book B’s or Book Z’s that are sitting in the Draft folder too.

Don’t worry if it fails to format each document the way you want, just confirm that the text that you want in your book is there. You may need to learn more about setting up Sections/Section Layouts with this structure, as it could throw things off a bit.

I hope that gets you started; there’s a lot to learn about the intricacies of the compile setup, but I think once you get the hang of sections, section layouts, and how to automatically assign section types by structure to take advantage of this setup, things will smooth out after a while.

Thanks SO much for the above. I will let you know how it all turns out. All the best!