Scrivener for Fun and Profit

Using the world’s best word processor to manage ideas and ongoing projects

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash
  • my “back burner” historical fantasy
  • a virtual binder of Medium drafts and Youtube scripts and notes (which I group together because there’s a lot of overlap)
  • the catch-all file I call my “Repository”

Straight-Up Drafting a Novel

For my first few novels, I kept a separate Word or OpenOffice file for each scene or chapter, collecting them in a file folder on my desktop and compiling them when the draft was more or less complete. Cole Cohen introduced me to Scrivener at an artists’ colony back in 2010, and I was thrilled (in true nerdy fashion) at the prospect of a “virtual Trapper-Keeper,” officially known as The Binder: different ideas, sections of prose, and bits of research oh-so-easily re-orderable and categorizable along a left-side column. The Scrivener interface is clean and pleasing to the eye; I could move a scene to another part of the book with a single click-and-drag; I could view two documents at once using the split-panes feature; and composition mode (which shows nothing but the page you’re writing on) made it so much easier to focus on the scene at hand. It all sounds so simple, I know, but as any Scrivener evangelist will tell you: it was a revelation.

My completed first draft of The Paranormal Adventure Society (book 1).

Importing and Using Research

My historical fantasy is set in 18th-century Edinburgh, so this Scrivener file contains thousands of pages of primary and secondary sources (most of them scanned by Google Books): social life and customs, urban planning, folklore, cookbooks, and suchlike.

To return to single-pane editing, click the icon at the top right of the pane you wish to continue viewing. To choose between vertical and horizontal split panes, go to View > Editor Layout > Split Horizontally / Vertically.

Ongoing-Project Management

Now that I’m posting regularly on YouTube and Medium, I need one place to store all my ideas and drafts — virtual Trapper-Keeper for the win yet again! Pieces I intend to publish within the next week or two are at the top of my Medium folder, and the rest of my drafts live in folders also arranged in priority order. Once a draft has been copied and pasted into the Medium editor, or a video recorded, I move the document to the archive at the bottom of the binder.

To use a custom icon, you’ll first need to do a Google search for a transparent PNG file and save it to your desktop. (For this mini-tutorial I used a fifth file, my “Inspiration Trilogy,” which has turned out two books so far: Life Without Envy and A Bright Clean Mind.)

The Repository

This is the file into which the ideas on all those little scraps of paper ought to migrate. Back in 2010 I started this Scrivener project as a virtual filing cabinet, and though this screenshot is the closest some of these stories will ever come to publication, I want to keep every idea in the running until I’m absolutely certain I’m never going to use it.

An Irish fairy tale I started in 2014. Someday I will finish this!

Authoress: LIFE WITHOUT ENVY (“a self-help book that’s actually helpful”) and assorted fantasy novels. http://bit.ly/cometparty

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