Category: | Scrivener

Tracking Writing Goals in Your Bullet Journal

Writing Goals Bullet JournalA while back I blogged about using my Bullet Journal (what the kids are calling BuJos) to get my writing life organized. Well I’m about ten months in, and I love it more and more. And then, a few weeks ago, I discovered another way it can help me with my writing: color coding my progress.

A Little Backstory

I got WAY off course with my writing at the end of the summer. The kids were off school, none of our usual routines were in place, and even so I was maintaining pretty well until I got an ovarian cyst that completely knocked me for a loop. Who knew that shit could hurt so much? I guess lots of women, actually, but I certainly didn’t. Anyway, I was on a bunch of pain meds and not writing AT ALL.

And just like exercise, writing is really hard to get back into if you stop for any significant period of time. Even once I was feeling better, and the kids were back in school, I was having a lot of trouble getting back on track with my draft.

Where I Want To Be

My current writing goal is to have a completed draft of 120,000 words by the end of October. I had about 84,000 words. Writing six days a week, I figured out I’d have to write about 1,100 words a day to hit my goal. That’s a lot for me, but with some focus I can do it. (BTW, if you’re using Scrivener, it will calculate that for you.)

Now, I’m going to geek out for a sec, but I’m hoping that it might help other, like-minded nerds, if they’re stuck with their writing.

The project has six chapters, so I’m roughly shooting for 20,000 words a chapter. I went through and calculated how many words I needed to write for each chapter:

Chapter 1: I have 17,000 words, so I need another 3,000
Chapter 2: need another 6,000 words
Chapter 3: need another 10,000 words
Chapter 4: need another 2,000 words
Chapter 5: need another 10,000 words
Chapter 6: need another 16,000 words

Then, I divided the words needed by 1,100 to find out how many writing days I will be spending on each chapter:

Chapter 1: about 3 days
Chapter 2: about 5.5 days
Chapter 3: about 9 days
Chapter 4: about 2 days
Chapter 5: about 9 days
Chapter 6: about 14 days (ug – the hardest chapter – I’m so dreading these 14 days)

Bringing It Back To The BuJo

Every day, when I’m done with my writing, I color in a square for every 100 words I wrote. You can see at the top of this post what September looks like so far. I give myself Sundays off (or use them to catch up). You can see some days I was totally rocking it, writing as much as 2,000 words, and then there was that one day I only got 400 words on the page.

I find it a really motivating tool. Looking ahead at October, I blocked out the work I need to do to hit my goal. Here’s what October looks like:
Writing Goals Bullet Journal

One day wrapping up chapter 3, two days on chapter 4, a week and a half on chapter 5 and the rest of the month on the dreaded chapter 6.

And okay, yes, when I started with the BuJo I said I would “never” be the kind of person to “carry around a case of different colored markers with which to decorate a glorified day planner,” but I find it really motivating to color in a square for each hundred words I write. It’s SO satisfying. And I don’t know why, but I love looking at it and seeing all those colorful squares. It’s a really quick snapshot of work actually getting done.

What’s more, I know if I’m suffering on a section, it won’t last forever. When I was hating chapter two, I just looked at my calendar and knew I only had to spend another three days on it and then I would have my word count and I would move on.

And if that wasn’t enough reason to love the BuJo, having this little map also helps alleviate any fears that I’m spending too much time in one chapter. I’m writing to 20,000 words on each chapter and then moving on. I will certainly come back. The chapters won’t be 20,000 words when I’m done with the final draft, but it’s a good starting point, and it prevents me from writing a 40,000-word chapter 1, and avoiding chapter 6 all together because I’ve run out of time (which I would totally do to myself because I don’t want to write chapter 6).

Do you have any tricks you use to keep yourself motivated and or organized? Do you maybe have a digital version of this that you find useful? Please share. We’re all learning here.

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Four Easy Ways to Make Scrivener Instantly Awesome

Scrivener 3.0Last week I had lunch with a writer friend who recently took the leap and downloaded the Scrivener app. I was so excited for her, because, well, I’m such a Scrivener nerd. I pulled my laptop out right there in the restaurant and showed her a few of my favorite little tricks, just enough to get her started without being overwhelming. And it seemed to me that others out there might be interested. So here we go:

Four Easy Ways to Make Scrivener Instantly Awesome

1. My number one favorite way in which Scrivener helps me with my writing is with the daily word count. Especially if you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo this year, you have to check this out. It allows you to enter your writing days (for example: I write Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off), and then calculates how many words a day you have to write to hit your goal. If you miss a day it recalculates automatically. It’s AWESOME for keeping on track with writing goals.

2. Second is Scrivener Snapshots. This has changed the way I organize versions of my story in ways I didn’t even appreciated when I started. Used to be, every time I changed something significant in my story, I would save a new version and my files were cluttered with drafts and I could never find anything. Scrivener Snapshots made all that a thing of the past.

3. Similar to how I used to save drafts, I used to have files stuffed full of research, both on my computer and in my web browser, and I could never find anything. In Scrivener, you can drag and drop whole websites into your research files and never have to go looking for shit ever again. You can even access them when you’re offline. Awesome.

4. Then, once you have all that research, you can open it easily without losing your place in your writing by using Quick Reference Windows. Sometimes I’ll use this function to open an image so I can look at it as I’m describing it. Sometimes I use it to reference historical facts, or orient myself geographically in a city. You can also use it to open another chapter and view it beside the one you’re working on. So handy.

Using those four basic tools makes Scrivener instantly awesome, but there’s much more, when you’re ready…

For Instance

You could just type “Scrivener” in to the search bar here on my website (top right there) and see everything I’ve ever written on the topic, but here are a few of my favorite, slightly more advanced, tricks and tips:

Color coding your files/chapters
Using the Corkboard View
Word frequency function (great for highlighting those pesky adverbs)
The handy name generator
Track your work history
Get nerdy with meta-data

And the coolest thing about Scrivener is that I keep discovering ways in which it makes my life easier (well, my writing life at least). To keep learning with me, consider signing up for my newsletter (to get these posts in your inbox every Friday), or follow me on Twitter (where I share links to all kinds of good Scrivener info).

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Getting Your Word Counts to Match in Scrivener

I’m a big fan of the word count tracker in Scrivener. In case you’re unfamiliar, go to the Projects drop down menu, then click on Project Targets (shortcut: command shift T), and you get this handy little pop-up that helps you track how much you’ve written on any given day. Especially when I’m working toward a goal, I find the it super helpful. (FYI – you can also track progress in any given section of your project – check out my post on that by clicking here.)

But for some reason, the total word count listed in my word count tracker (the little pop-up window) never matches the word count at the bottom of the screen when I’m looking at the whole document. It’s always bugged me. Which count is right? Because that’s a 10,000 word difference…

Well I finally figured it out. When you’re looking at the Word Tracker pop-up window, click the little button labeled “options.” That gives you a second-level pop-up that looks like this.

You have to make sure those top two check boxes are UNCHECKED. Then go ahead and click “okay.” You may have to click around in the binder a little to get the changes to show.

Alternately, you can leave those two boxes checked and just make sure that your entire manuscript is included in the compile. What got my word counts all screwy was that, once upon a time, I compiled just a portion of my manuscript for printing and never went back to check those boxes again.

So there you have it. Just another little trick to help you use Scrivener like a boss.

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Scrivener Drafts

Today we’re going to talk about saving whole drafts of your WIP (work in progress) using Scrivener. This post assumes you’re working with Scrivener 3.0. If you haven’t yet upgraded to 3.0, check out this post for a basic overview of the software update. 

Small Changes

In a previous post, I talked about how to track line edits using the Scrivener Snapshot function. In short, it’s an easy way to save a copy of the section you’re working on, before you start messing around with it, so that you can revert back to what you had if things go terribly awry.

This is a handy little trick, but when you’re doing massive overhauls, it can feel a bit piecemeal.

The Challenge of a Second Draft

If you follow along with the blog, you know I’m working on Novel 2, and that I’m just embarking on some massive edits. Basically, I’ve been typing away at this baby for years, and now it’s time to transform it from a collection of pages into a real story.

While I don’t want to start editing without saving what I have, it feels a little tedious to do a snapshot of each chapter. Also, I tend to forget to do things like backing up my work once I get rolling creatively.

So I devised a super simple way to keep my first draft, in the same file as the second, so that it stays as it is and I can always come back to it. It’s really pretty simple.

Saving Drafts in Scrivener

Step 1. To start, click on “Manuscript” at the top of your binder. Then click the little dropdown icon next to the plus sign in the top menu bar and select “New Folder”.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 2. Name that new folder “Draft 1.”

Scrivener Drafts

Step 3. Select/highlight the folders of your first draft and move them to the new folder.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 4. While they are still selected/highlighted, copy them by going to Documents -> Duplicate -> with Subdocuments and Unique Title.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 5. Repeat steps 1 and 2, but name the new folder “Draft 2” then move the copies you created in step 4 into that new folder.

Scrivener Drafts

Notice how, under “Manuscript” I now have all my folders organized in the Draft 2 folder, but at the bottom, I also have the Draft 1 folder. It will just sit there, out of the way, in case I ever need to go back to it.

I could even move it down into the research folder if I wanted to get it out of the way.

Now I can hack away at my draft without any fear of not being able to find something from an earlier version and without cluttering up my files on my computer.

This, once again, is the brilliance of Scrivener. Everything to do with this project, stays in this one file, no matter how big and sprawling it gets.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

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How to Open a Quick Reference Window in Scrivener in One Step

This post assumes you’re working with Scrivener 3.0. If you haven’t yet upgraded to 3.0, check out this post for a basic overview of the software update. 


One of the things I like best about Scrivener is the flexibility. There’s rarely just one way to do something. But when it comes to quick reference windows, I sometimes feel like there’s so many options on how to view them that the options overwhelm my distracted brain and I end up not being able to remember any of them.

Well, in my current project, I have a lot of reference material – things I’ve pulled from the Internet, timelines, photos – and out of necessity I’ve finally found the quickest, easiest way to pull things up when I just want a quick look and don’t want to lose my place in my writing.

Back Up

What’s a quick reference window, you ask? It’s a small window that floats above the window you’re working in so that you can see your research (or another section of your writing) while you’re writing.

It looks like this:

Sweet. Show Me How

It’s so simple. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. Just drag and drop the thing you want to see in the pop-up window to the little icon at the top that looks like a pad of paper with a pencil.

To really use this trick like a pro, don’t click on the thing you want to show in the pop-up window. Doing that will jump you away from what you’re working on. Just drag and drop. Bam.

Like a Boss

That’s pretty much it for today, but as a parting shot, here are a few more tricks you can do with the quick reference window function:

If you think better with all your material spread out for you to see, take heart, you can open as many windows as you want. There’s probably a limit, but I haven’t found it. Just keep dragging and dropping and windows will keep popping up:

If you’re curious how I got a whole webpage to show up in my research section, you probably missed this post on how to embed a website.

If you like to minimize distractions, check out this post on how to view your research in composition mode.

Do you have any unusual ways to use the quick reference windows in your writing? Share them in the comments below. It’s always fun to hear how other writers are making the most of their software.

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Explore Your Project History in Scrivener

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I like data, especially data that shows me I’m making progress on my projects. So today we’re going to talk about your Scrivener Project History. It’s new since the software update and I totally dig it. (This post assumes you’ve already upgraded. If not, you can read my post about the new version here, and you can save 20% off the price of the upgrade if you use the code APRILDAVILA at getscrivener.com.)

Find Your Project History

This is such a simple little thing, but I just love it. Start by clicking on Project -> Writing History. Like this:

Scrivener Project History

What you’ll get is a pop-up window like this one:
Scrivener Project History

Now, I usually don’t share from my WIP (did you recognize the opening chapter of Moby Dick in the first image?), but since I don’t actually work on that mock-up on a day-to-day basis, I had to pull from my own work to show you the rest. Please be kind.

Day by Day

Start at the top with writing days. As it turns out, I have opened this project and worked on it on 42 different days. Funny. It feels like a lot more. And in truth, this count only goes back to the day I resurrected this project and uploaded it from Word, so I actually have spent a lot more than 42 days on it. But 42 since I got serious. Moving on…

Below that, you can see average words (and note that you can switch to characters by using the drop down menu at the top right there – and if you do, will you please tell me in the comments below why you prefer that? I’ve never understood why that’s a thing).

I deleted a lot when I first dug into reworking this project (thus the negative count on March 12), so my net word count is low, but I actually wrote about 700 words a day, which is respectable.

I also like to look at the dates lined up in the first column there. I try to write six days a week when I’m working on a draft. It would appear I didn’t quite hit that goal, but I was working pretty consistently. Yeah me.

The data at the bottom there is a summary of the highlighted day, March 14 in this case. I like that it also gives you the session target. If you’re not familiar with setting daily word count targets, check out my post on that. It’s SUPER handy when you’re working toward a specific goal. Cough*NaNoWriMo*cough.

Lastly, you can toggle from “Months and Days” to “Months Only” (on the right there above the chart), to get a wider perspective on your work.

Month by Month

Here’s what mine looks like:

Scrivener Project History
March was a good month. Kind of made up for January. Stupid January.
Anyway, you can see how the data at the bottom shifts. Under “Words written” the first column displays totals. The column on the right you can change with the drop-down menu.

For this example I chose to show averages, but you can also do maximum in a day or minimum in a day.

So that’s it. Just a quick and easy way to review your writing habits and see the progress you’re making. Happy writing!

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Using the Scrivener Timeline

Today we’re exploring one of the coolest new features in the recent Scrivener 3.0 upgrade: the timeline. (This post assumes you’ve already upgraded. If not, you can read my post about the new version here, and you can save 20% off the price of the upgrade if you use the code APRILDAVILA at getscrivener.com.)

Scrivener Timeline

The Scrivener Timeline feature is so intuitive, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t one of the first things developed, back in version 1.0. But it was worth the wait. Here’s how it works.

Label Your Chapters

The first step is to label your chapters/sections/folders (whatever unit of your story you want to work with, really, for this example I chose chapters). Do this by right clicking the name of the chapter (not the icon), and choosing the option for “label.” It should look something like this:

Scrivener Timeline

Now, you can use the colors provided there, or you can click edit and make those colors represent anything you want. Maybe you have four POVs in your story. Maybe you jump around in time. Maybe you have alternate universes in your story, or you move from planet to planet. Who knows. It’s your story. Point is, you can change the labels. For this example, I’m going with POV. Here’s what it looks like once I’ve edited the labels to represent the four POVs of my story:

Scrivener Timeline

It’s important to note that you won’t see any sign of those labels in the binder (that column of items on the left) unless you go to VIEW > USE LABEL COLOR IN > BINDER. Then it’ll look like this (see image on the left there).

And this is kind of neat and all, but where it really gets useful is when you click to go to corkboard view. To do that, you can either click the little icon at the top (just right of the header bar) that looks like a waffle.

OR you can cherry pick the items you want to work with (COMMAND-click on my mac), then click the icon at the bottom right of your screen to display those items in the corkboard.

Scrivener Timeline

Now, if I zoom out a bit, you can see how this looks with all of my chapters lined up by whose POV their told from:

Scrivener Timeline

Looking at it like that I can see that my story starts out with more of Sam’s POV, then kind of shifts to more of Alex’s POV. Maybe I intended that, maybe not.

A Few Cool Things to Know

You can change the size and spacing of the cards which really helps a writer see all their cards in whatever space they happen to have. I like my little laptop screen, but I know some writers work on big ‘ol screens, and this feature works for both.

If you move a card around (say from one timeline to another, or to a spot earlier or later in the story) it will move accordingly in your binder. Even the color will change automatically.

You can add research to your timeline. Say you’re writing a historical novel and you want to lay out the actual historical timeline next to your story, simple create documents in your research folder for each event you want on the timeline, and label them something like “historical.”

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Highlight Your Adverbs (and More) with Scrivener

This post assumes you’re working with Scrivener 3.0. If you haven’t yet upgraded to 3.0, check out this post for a basic overview of the software update. 


If you’ve ever attended a writing conference or picked up a Writer’s Digest, you’ve heard how adverbs are the enemy of good writing. They weaken our verbs, and by association, our prose. But sometimes it can be hard to see our own writing objectively. Our eyes can skim right over things without seeing them.

So I’m loving this new feature in Scrivener 3.0. It’s called the Linguistic Focus.

Linguistic Focus in Scrivener 3.0

Select the text file in the binder that you want to focus on, go to edit -> writing tools -> linguistic focus.

When the option window pops up, click “adverb.”

As soon as you select the type of focus you want, everything else in the document will fade out and you’ll get something that looks like this:

As a fun side note, you don’t have to select adverbs. You can choose direct speech, nouns, verbs, prepositions and more.

It’s one of the many new functions that the folks at Scrivener added when they did their recent software update.

Stay tuned for more posts on all things Scrivener.

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Scrivener 3.0 ~ What You Need To Know

Scrivener 3.0If you use Scrivener, you are probably aware that the company recently released an update for the software: Scrivener 3.0. If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little nervous about it.

Worth It?

I like to think of myself as pretty tech savvy, but updates always make me cringe. Because even if they’re great (and let’s face it, software upgrades can be full of glitches) updating can mean wrapping my brain around new ways of doing things.

So even though I’m a total Scrivener nerd, I dragged my feet a bit on downloading the update. But last week I decided to go for it and let me just tell you now, officially, for the record: it’s good. You can update now and go right back to writing. Seriously, it didn’t require any extra brain power to get up and running with it.

And though they added a lot of cool functionality (which I will be blogging about in the weeks to come), it is basically like it was before with a slightly muted color scheme. It’s $20 for an upgrade from Scrivener 2.0 and $45 if you’re starting fresh. (Use the code APRILDAVILA for a 20% discount.)

What You Need To Know About Scrivener 3.0

There is only one tiny thing I would say you need to know to avoid frustration as you make the transition and that is the new location of the search bar. The search bar used to be at the top right. In the update they’ve moved it to the header, but it’s kind of hidden.

See the header bar at the top, and how it tells you want section you’re looking at. In this case, it’s my whole manuscript.
Scrivener 3.0

If you hover over the header bar, it now tells you your word count and word count goals. (more on this in future posts)
Scrivener 3.0

And if you click on it, you get the search bar:
Scrivener 3.0 So now you know.

Watch This Space

As I mentioned, I’ll be blogging about some of the cool new features in Scrivener 3.0, so make sure to check back, or sign up for my newsletter and get posts delivered directly to your inbox every Friday.

A few teasers of what I’ve discovered so far:

Ohhh… there are fun times ahead. Stay tuned.

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