September 6, 2013

Adventures in Scrivener #1

I posted a picture of my screen with this writing software on my Facebook page the other day, which prompted a few people to ask me if I could help them figure out how it works.  Well, I'm no expert on this, and I probably know less than I don't know about how it works...but I can find my way around it well enough to make it productive. 

Important:  If you find this information helpful, please leave a comment to that effect.  I will keep going with this only if I feel like it's appreciated.  I've got books to write and I already know how to use the program, so while I'm happy to pay it forward, I'll only do it if I know that people are getting something out of it.

That said, let's get started!
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Scrivener is, of course, a software to aid writers (novelists, nonfiction writers, screenwriters) organize and complete their projects.  It's not a magic bullet that will write the book for you (experienced writers already know this, but I figured it was worth mentioning), but more of an aid to structuring your story, with many capabilities to help you keep everything straight and monitor your progress.  Unfortunately, their user manual sucks (it's probably easier to clip a brain aneurysm than to understand it) and has turned many people off from using the product.  I work with the latest version for Windows.  I understand that the Mac version is more sophisticated, but I only know about the Windows version.

There are three main screen views in Scrivener:  Scrivenings, corkboard, and outline.  The first one, Scrivenings, looks like this:


It looks like a typical word processor, at least the middle section does.  The section on the left is called the Binder.  The section on the right has three parts, the Synopsis, General Metadata, and Document/Project Notes (today we'll only talk briefly about the Synopsis).

To set up a new project, go to the File menu and create a new project (I haven't experimented with this much, so I always use the blank template), name it (if your projects tend to undergo several title changes don't fear, you can always go back and change it later), and create it.  You will get the above screen, except it will be blank.  (I would have put a picture here, but my computer isn't recognizing my camera at the moment.)

At the very top left of your blank screen, next to the Scrivener logo, will be "Scrivener" followed by the name of your project.  In the Binder column on the left will be a blue "Draft" icon, which is the main folder for your project.  Right click this, choose "Rename" and type in the name of your project.  There will be an "Untitled" sub-folder under this, representing your first text folder, then two more folders:  "Research" and "Trash." 

People use the Research folder to store their important notes, links and even (I believe) photos of their characters, where they live, Main Street, etc.  I don't store photos, so I'm not 100% sure if this is where they go.  Hey, I never claimed to be an expert.

The Trash folder is just what it implies.  Even though anything put in the Trash folder stays there until you empty the trash (by right clicking and choosing this option), I personally do not like to throw anything out until I'm absolutely, positively sure I don't need it, so I create a new Folder called, "Leftovers."  To create a new folder, position your cursor on the file name in the Binder just above where you want the new folder to be...in this case "Research."  Select Project from the menu, click on "New Folder" and name the folder that appears.

You're now ready to start your project!  I find it's easier for me to format my work like the eBook it will eventually become, so I use single spacing, no indent, with extra spacing before and after each hard return (1.0x 12.0/12.0), which I have set as my default.  Those of you creating manuscripts to turn in to an editor will want to use the traditional double spacing.  To set line spacing, look for the box just left of the familiar bold/italic/underline icons at the top of the white section, click on the drop-down arrow, then select "2.0."  

After setting your spacing and fonts (the drop-down box for this is a little to the left of the line spacing box), position your cursor in the body of the white area in the center of the screen.  Whatever you type on that first line is going to auto-populate both the Synopsis on the upper right of your screen and the name of the sub-folder in the Binder on the left (if it's a very long passage, it will eventually cut off).  You'll probably want to assign a chapter name/number to this.  When you tab or return, the aforementioned areas will reflect whatever you have entered there:  "Prologue," "Chapter 1," etc.  In the Synopsis on the right, on the lines after the top one you can summarize the action of that particular chapter (this will be very, very helpful when viewing your project in Corkboard or Outline modes, which we'll talk about at a later time).  I personally like to start with a sense of place (Location, month, and year), but if course if your story's action is going to unfold over a period of a few weeks you won't need this and can just say something like, "Cesca and Gen are asked by Officer Terrence Gulliver to move their illegally parked car; Cesca is knocked unconscious when the car's trunk lid slams down on her."


Some people who want no distractions don't like to have anything else on their screen when they are writing.  If that's you, simply click on the Binder icon in the upper left (just below the word "File" in the main menu) to close the notations on the left, and click on the lower case scripted "i" in the upper right (just below the "x" to terminate the program) to close those sections, and you will have nothing but white screen (these will toggle back on by doing the same actions).  But you will likely want to use some of the special features, so let's use a couple:


Go to Project from the menu and choose Project Targets.  A little box will pop up with two fields.  In the first one, put in how many words you anticipate your finished project to be (especially useful if writing for a market with a tightly controlled word count).  In the second one, enter how many words you want to create in this (or each) writing session.  If you are out of practice, try for 500 words per session.  If you are more seasoned, or if you are trying to get your project completed by a certain date, you'll want to set it higher.  A trick I used to use was to do 750 words per session, with two or three sessions per day. Keep the box open, just move it over to the right so it's out of your way.  The bar will start out red and will turn orange, yellow, and finally deepen to a green as you get closer to your goal.  

Note that there will be a running total of both words and characters on the bottom of your screen when in Scrivenings mode.  As you add chapters (in the Binder, position your cursor on the sub-folder you want your new chapter to follow, click Project and then New Text) you will only see the total words and characters for each chapter on the bottom of the screen.  To see the word count for the entire manuscript in Scrivenings mode, you will have to move your cursor to the main project folder (the one with the title of the work) on top of the Binder (you will also have to position your cursor here to switch from Scrivenings to Corkboard or Outline modes).  Project Statistics (also under the Project menu) will also give you this information.

If you are writing and aren't sure of a fact but don't want to stop to look it up, you can use the Inline Annotation feature.  From the Format menu, select Inline Annotation, then enter your note to yourself: "[check this]", etc.  The notation will appear in red to stand out, and you can do a search for inline annotations to make sure you address them all.  To turn off the notation, select the function again (or use the keystroke combination listed next to it as a shortcut).  You can also type your note, highlight it, then apply the Inline Annotation to the highlighted text.

You can also put notes to yourself in the Document/Project Note section on the bottom right of the screen.  I prefer the Project Note (it toggles back and forth) because it pertains to the entire project, not just a particular chapter, and will show up from anywhere in the project and not just the chapter.  Let's say you want to add something (i.e., "give Heroine a dog"), or you need to correct something (i.e., "Julia's nickname is 'Jules'), this is where you want to put it so you don't forget.  Before finalizing your project you will want to check both your Inline Annotations and your Project Notes to make sure you took care of all these threads.
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I think that's enough info to get you started.  Feel free to ask any questions, and I will do my best to answer them.  If there is a good response I'll give you more tips sometime next week.

Update:  Part 2 has been posted; you can find it here.

7 comments:

Michelle Stimpson said...

Thanks, Bettye, for the lesson!

Donna Hill said...

gee. thanks Bettye. i will be following along. your screen looked similar to super notecard which i use from time to time.

Kat Yares said...

Great lesson! I don't use Scrivener (have it, but) preferring to use my old Power Writer software instead. Did bookmark this in case PW ever fails me. :)

PatriciaW said...

Thanks, Bettye! Specifically commenting because you said so, but I read it in Feedly earlier and made note of a few things.

Sofia Harper said...

I found this extremely helpful. I haven't waded that far into it, but I want to for my next big project.

Bev said...

Thanks, Bettye! Appreciate the tutorial.

L. V. Lewis said...

Thanks, Bettye. The tutorial was great!