If you’ve never used Scrivener, it has some little-known tools that are exceptionally powerful, and make planning and editing your novel much more effective. I’m going to go through the first ones I’ve done, and then explain the ones I still need to do. This way, this blog post acts as a public reminder to me to get theses done!

  1. Set project target. That’s done. I try to keep my novels at 150,000 words, since that’s standard for an action/apocalyptic novel. Which means my current first book is about 50,000 words over the target, and needs judicious editing.

  2. Set scene targets.
    I’ve described before how I set them all at long scenes (1,200 words) and then, as I write them, determine if it’s an action snippet (400 words), short scene (600 words), Medium scene (900 words) or long scene. These are all done.
  3. Act Synopsis. I use a three act template to plan my novels. Each act should have its own synopsis entered. I entered very terse descriptions in my synopsis, and those need to be updated a little (as the scenes tend to change slightly as I write them).
  4. Chapter synopsis. I need to enter these. This is one thing I never did. What is the entering situation in the chapter? What is the desired outcome? Where are my obstacles and setbacks?
  5. Scene Synopsis. I need to write these as well. Roughly the same, but now on minor levels. On the scene level, you need to be thinking about what is your promises and payoffs? If you have to, create custom meta data fields to track those. (Project>Custom Meta Data>+)
  6. Add each scene to it’s character collections. This is a huge tool, one that quite a few Scrivener users don’t seem to play with, like the custom meta data fields. I add collections for every characters, then add each scene the character appears in. This way I can see how they talk, are portrayed, etc. You CANNOT allow something in any part of your book for your character’s voicing and portrayal to change, unless it’s driven by the plot over a progression. Adding scenes to collections allows you to read just those scenes they’re in, sequenced according to the book. It can take a lot if you’ve got 30 chapters and 7 scenes per chapter, and 8 major/minor characters. My first novel has over 14 major & minor re-occurring characters. Each one requires its own collection. That means 14 separate reviews of my book. That’s a huge project, but trust me, it’s worth it. Things begin to jump out at you that you’d never notice using Microsoft Word.
  7. Footnotes and Comments: Use comments upon read-through to go through your book, and label thoughts on “Move to ch.4?” “Weak…” “Tighten here” “Excessively wordy” “On the nose dialog”. You can color code the comments, or you can just use a different color for each comment so they don’t blur one into another.
  8. Highlights. Make sure you use the highlighting function to show areas that need working on. The comments can highlight some areas, but other areas can just do a quick “Green highlight” or “Blue highlight” to show you need to fix those little areas. You can color code them, or just use the different colors to keep them from blending together.
  9. Snapshots. I make snapshots for every major change within Scrivener, in case the edits I’m making cause the scene to be less powerful than how I first had it!

Scrivener is a surprisingly powerful piece of writing software for only $40. I’ve never looked back once I committed to buying it. Make sure you are using these tools to help you in the re-write and editing process!

What other tools do you use within Scrivener?