Writing Without Teachers

I am a new boy to Scrivener and am enjoying the experience! Has anyone used Scrivener to apply the drafting principles laid down in Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow? The particular steps I’m thinking about are contained in pages 19 (“Suppose you have four hours …”) to 22 (“ … to make ourselves write more and not waste time.”). In essence you write furiously and uncritically and without hesitating for say 45 min and then spent 15 min extracting the most important words, phrases or sentences which you then use to produce your second draft. Instead of using a simple but tedious cut and paste I would like to be able to highlight these keys parts in my first draft and then (after taking a snapshot) in one step delete all the rest. This process may sound a bit daft if you have not read the book, but makes very good sense if you have! Any suggestions please?

One idea that immediately jumps to mind is inline annotations. If you can stand the excessive outlining that is done to each line, that is. There two two advantages:

  1. There is a handy command to copy all material that is not an annotation.
  2. Due to the current implementation[size=80][1][/size], the paragraph your cursor is in will be highlighted while the rest of the document is diminished with “Ghost Notes”.

Result: you can focus on the document paragraph by paragraph, select choice phrases and words that leap out to you, and toggle their annotation status off. Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is [b]Ctrl-A[/b] + [b]Ctrl-Shift-A[/b] to select the whole document and then turn it into an annotation. As you work down the document, the prior paragraph will ghost out, leaving only the words you selected as vivid.

Once you’ve culled the wheat, Snapshot the document, Ctrl-A to select all again, and use [b]Edit/Copy Special/Copy Without Annotations or Footnotes[/b]. Then just [b]Ctrl-V[/b] back over the selection to paste only the text you pulled out.

Otherwise, the only things I can think of that would be easy are procedural—that is you’d have to revisit the selections step-by-step. Highlighting, of course, is the obvious answer. You can search by highlighting with [b]Edit/Find/Find by Formatting...[/b], but like I say that’s one by one and a bunch of copy and paste—in a single document it would almost be faster to just do your own selection and C&P.

A bizarre notion would be excessive splitting. Find the start of the phrase you like—Split the document with [b]Ctrl-K[/b], find the end point, split again—rinse repeat. You’d want to snapshot first into the original document, but after all of that you could pull out the selected pieces, [b]Documents/Merge[/b] them and discard the slag (and restore the Snapshot from the first document). While that would force you to work in a very linear one-way-only fashion—that might be considered an advantage depending on how this method works. You can’t even see the stuff you’ve already gone over since they are in the split off remnants.


  1. Which is, to be perfectly honest, actually a bit of a compromise with how things should be. So it may not always work this way in the future. Technically, annotations should be contiguous even if they contain multiple paragraphs—but right now ghost mode highlights as though each paragraph is its own annotation.


Many thanks AmberV, very helpful. Just one thing, I cannot get your safety advice “Once you’ve culled the wheat, Snapshot the document” to work i.e. I cannot get the Snapshot feature to work at that stage, any advice on how to get around this please? One refinement I am trying is to press return after selecting each item so that at the final stage each is on a new line rather than having one continuous stream of words, but is it possible to turn these latter items into outline mode for further sorting, I have tried to work that out but without success?

Not sure—sounds like a bug as that should be working. I believe the keyboard shortcut has changed for that, so maybe if you are trying to snapshot with an older shortcut that is what is going wrong. It is Ctrl-5 now. Maybe you meant that the annotations disappear—that’s just a display problem in the Snapshot preview pane. If you roll back to it you’ll get the annotated copy.

Should be, what steps are you taking? I typed in three test lines, selected them all, and use the list button in the Format Bar to set them to alphabetic listing. Now I’ve got an outline. Is that what you mean or are you wanting to turn these into index cards?

Selecting each line and Ctrl-Shift-K’ing them would be easiest I do believe. That will turn each line into an index card named by the selected line. Follow it up with a double tap on the Del key to remove the selected line (now that it is the title of a card) and advance the next line up.