Very Large Scrivener Projects?

So, this is all theoretical at this point, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to organize my novels into Scrivener projects, and I’m wondering at what point is performance negatively affected?

I use Scrivener on Windows primarily – beta version, too! – but I also have Macs, and so I do go between the two operating systems on occasion. I also integrate with Aeon Timeline.

At the moment, I’m writing a series of fantasy novels, only one of which is completed. It’s about 70 scenes, 130k words. I imagine most of the novels will be about this length, and there will be (I hope) at least 4. If I put all these in the same Scrivener project, am I going to get freezing and lag?

I should mention that my computers are relatively “good” computers – I’m a software engineer, so I splurged.


As I understand it, the Scrivener project format is a disk-based format, like a database, and as in a database, only the portions of the project that are actively being worked with are held in RAM. So unless you put together massive Scrivenings views that also have massive embedded illustrations, you shouldn’t have the sort of lag that results from heavy use of disk space as virtual memory (which is what you describe.) I have a fantasy series in one project at about 250k words, and have no problem with lag on my older Macbook Air, even with an entire novel displayed in a single Scrivening.

Where you may run into problems is backing up, which will make a copy of the entire project, and can be slow for massive projects. If I forget how I’ve set up automatic backups, I can confuse a long backup with a freeze.

One issue with cross-platform use such as you describe comes with research documents. If it’s important to you to have your research available on all your platforms, you’ll need to actually let Scrivener copy the documents to your project ( instead of importing them as aliases as is sometimes recommended.) This will bulk up your project but again should only affect backup speed. (I personally avoid this issue by using Evernote for my research and notes, but that’s me. I value Scriv for manuscript organisation, but plenty of users buy Scriv especially to keep research & notes in the same app with their work in progress.)

Aeon Timeline ignores 99% of a Scrivener project. All it works with is the metadata and the main project index (i.e., the .scrivx file and the synopsis files). I find AT invaluable for working with my entire series timeline, and that is a lot easier with the whole series in one Scriv project.

My experience is strictly Mac except for occasionally commenting on an emailed Win manuscript, so I may have missed some issue, but I still hope you find this helpful!

I do! It is so useful! Thanks!

Is it okay if I ask for more details about how you use Evernote to handle your research? I have been struggling for years – literally years! – with various ways to store research, both in the academic sense for a series based on ancient Egypt and in the writer sense, with world-building and character histories, etc. In addition, I’ve been looking for years for a good way to store all my little plot bunnies and random ideas, quotes that trigger the creative side, etc. I’ve used EVERYTHING, from note-taking apps like Evernote to journals to wikis. I’ve even built my own website as a character bible! It’s exhausting. So I’m always curious to see how other people do it!

DevonThink Pro is, IMO, the best research database available. I throw almost everything in there. My biggest database is well north of 5 million words and the software feels like it’s barely getting warmed up. Sadly, it’s Mac only.

For everything else – notes, ideas, plot bunnies – I use Scrivener.


My use of Evernote is… idiosyncratic. I almost never create a note in it directly, by typing. Instead, I depend on EN’s ability to take data from almost any source – and I heavily depend on its handwriting search, and its search in general.

  • I clip webpages.
  • I take photos of documents.
  • I use Noteshelf 2. I either use it to hand-mark images or write and draw directly. The notes are easy to publish to Evernote, where my handwriting is searchable. For example, I draw really crude maps and drawings of my settings with handwritten labels – and I don’t need to take it any further. Tag them, and publish to EN. Done.
  • While I do use brainstorming / mind mapping software sometimes, more often my preliminary work is done on a whiteboard or in a lab notebook. I can photograph these in to EN and search them without having to bother with cleaning them up and typing them.

I don’t heavily organise my… stuff in EN. I stick everything in one notebook (Writing) and tag my notes with series and title, but that’s as far as I take it. This is because I am organisationally challenged, and have real problems breaking my notes and research into smaller categories. Rather, I depend on EN’s search to find a note I made on 19th century British railroads. Or Martian weather. Or what my protagonist’s apartment looks like. Or molten salt reactors.…

I can’t use Scriv because it won’t search my handwriting. Besides, it ties everything to specific projects. I’d rather have it all in one big massive pile. My Scriv projects have very lonely research folders… :smiley:

Another vote for DEVONthink Pro Office. I also throw everything in it and it never even blinks. It allows quite complex search criteria, and has the ability to flag up files on similar subjects using the actual content of a file. Also concordances, word frequency, etc. It is a big program and takes a while to learn. Good forum with good AppleScripters who can do some amazing things.

I’m in a similar situation, but I’ve divided up my work into a project for each novel, and a project for a “Project bible”. I use the ‘bible’ for continuity and that research that makes the cut into the series. For pure research and storing things I’m not sure I need, I use OneNote primarily because it’s the best free software for notetaking (IMO), and it is available for all my computing devices, and it makes saving notes from the internet very easy. My desktop computer (Win 10) is powerful enough to have two instances of Scivener, one instance of OneNote, a Browser (usually Edge, but it can be Chrome) running concurrently. OneDrive is always running in the background.

Frankly, it has never occurred to me to put all novels into the same project

Frankly, it never occurred to me to separate my novels (novellas, short stories, etc.) That’s partly because I have a grandiose ambition to produce an omnibus volume Some Day – which will be easier if they are all in the same project. And it’s partly my trouble with classification. Is this bit of text outline? Or is it part of this story here? Or maybe that novel there? I am a notorious “seat-of-the-pants” writer with the barest veneer of structure (not because I think it “artistic” – I think of it as a handicap.)

The beauty of Scrivener is that we can all work each in his/her preferred manner. :smiley:

On a different subject entirely – does anyone know if Devonthink can search handwriting? I’d like to know of an alternative should Evernote go belly-up (heaven forbid!)

I’ve never seen any reference to DEVONthink being able to search handwriting, and I’ve been using it a long time. Nor do I recall anyone ever asking for such a feature. You could post on their forum to confirm – or to float the idea.

I should add that I have just tried writing something on my iPad in Nebo, and exporting it as text to DEVONthink To Go. It took a couple of clicks and went across fine.

You might be able to streamline things even more by having Nebo or some other app save to a folder that is indexed by DEVONthink. Then you wouldn’t even need to bother explicitly exporting. Just to be clear, by “Indexing” I’m referring to the feature by which DEVONthink can “watch” a folder and present it in a folder in the database for you to work on. The files etc don’t live in the database, but they, and their content, are available to it.

To the best of my knowledge, DevonThink itself does not do handwriting recognition. But it can definitely import (or index) files from your handwriting app of choice.


Thanks, all. What I want to do is avoid the step of converting to text for my crude notes. It almost always involves correcting the conversion so that I know what I wrote. In the case of diagrams and maps it also involves including the image somehow.The beauty of Evernote is that I can skip this. Evernote indexes enough of my handwriting correctly that I can find what I want and go straight to the image and read my handwriting. Some people are annoyed that EN only indexes handwriting rather than converting, but I find it freeing. I can convert in the rare cases I need to with Noteshelf 2.

And of course, I’ll take the advice of going to the Devonthink forums and asking. :smiley: