Category: | Scrivener

Color Coding Scrivener

Color coding Scrivener is one of my favorite little writerly tricks. It’s just so freaking handy. Here’s how it works.

In the binder of your project simply right-click on any item (or selection of items) and move your mouse down the resulting menu to to “Label.” You can chose one of the existing labels, or click the bottom option there to edit and create your very own labels (for this example, I have created name labels).

Don’t get frustrated when you see no change in your binder after adding a label. To get the colors to show up simply go to VIEW > USE LABEL COLOR IN > BINDER.

Once you’ve told Scrivener to use the color codes in the binder, you’ll get something that looks like this:

POV

For this example, I’ve set up the binder to highlight different points of view. There are two main benefits to this. The first is that you will be required to break your scene when you shift point of view. As a result, you will be less likely to drift between POVs. The other benefit comes when it’s time to edit. If you look at your binder and see 90% of your scenes are from one POV, you might question whether you even need that other POV.

Timeline

My first novel was told linearly. It took place over about eight days and I found it helpful to have this visual clue as to what scenes took place on what day. Here’s what it looked like (granted, this is many drafts ago, in an older version of Scrivener, but you’ll get the idea):

But there are plenty of other uses for labeling. Here are just a few I have heard writers discuss:

Time Period or Location

If you have a story that shifts around in time or jumps locations, color coding in Scrivener can help you keep track of where you are in time and place. Again, this can be useful for big picture edits. If you had a structure in mind that rotates through time periods or locations in a regular order, then you will be able to see at a glance if the scenes you’ve written match the order you wanted.

Status

Some people use color labels to denote the status of a section of writing. While there is an option for setting a section’s status (right there below the Labels option on the menu), the status option doesn’t allow for color coding. Labels like “first draft,” “final draft,” “needs research,” can be given a color. Then, as you work each scene toward completion, you can watch the colors change. Writer Bronwen Fleetwood has a funny post about his own use of status labels here.

Color Coding Scrivener

I’m sure there are other ways people use color coding. Maybe you are sharing sections of your work as your write it and you want to know at a glance which are out in the world and which aren’t. Maybe there is a Major Event in your story and you want everything before it to be one color, while everything after is another.

If you have a creative way you use color coding in Scrivener, share it here. We are all, forever, learning.

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Tidying Up Those Double Spaces in Your Manuscript

double spacesI was doing some freelance work a while back, working with a small marketing team, and I was lamenting the prevalence of double spaces after periods. It’s a pet peeve of mine. The woman I was working with, who was about fifteen years younger than me, voiced her theory that people tend to hit the space bar twice because that’s how texting works (for the old fogies who don’t know, if you hit the space bar twice while you’re texting, you automatically get a period – very handy).

I paused for a moment and said something that made me sound really old, something like “that’s why someone from YOUR generation might hit the space bar twice, but in MY DAY, when we learned to type on typewriters, we were taught to hit the space bar twice after a period to give a little extra space before beginning a new sentence.” Nothing says “over 40” like those double spaces.

To be fair, because I’m really not THAT old, I fall somewhere in between. I actually learned to type on a word processor. A Brother (anyone remember those?). And by then you didn’t have to hit space twice because the computer automatically put 1.5 spaces after a period.

But whatever the reason, there is a whole contingency of people who put two spaces after every period. So I’d like to state for the record: you don’t have to do that. ALL modern fonts put 1.5 spaces after a period, so that you get that elegant bit of extra space before the next sentence starts.

Cleaning Up in Word

Most word processing programs have a find-and-replace function, so if you have a manuscript full of double spaces, all you have to do is use this function to clean up your document. In Word, for instance, go to Edit -> Find -> Replace. In the “find” field enter two spaces. In the “replace” field enter one. It will look a little strange, since you don’t actually see anything in either field, but hit “Replace All” and the program will automatically tidy everything up for you.

If you’re one of those people who kind of goes crazy with the space bar every now and then, hitting it two or three or even four times, you might have to repeat the above process a few times, replacing three or four spaces with one.

Tidying Up in Scrivener

If you have Scrivener, it’s even easier to clean up your manuscript. Just go to Edit -> Text Tidying -> Replace Multiple Spaces With Single Spaces.

You’ll also see options there to remove extra lines or page breaks. These are new since the 3.0 upgrade. Pretty cool. Especially when you get to the point that you’re doing a final polish for publication. Yeah Scrivener!

And down with unnecessary spaces!

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Four NaNoWriMo Scrivener Tips

As I’m sure you know, NaNoWriMo starts next week. I’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter traffic about people getting ready, so even though I’m not participating this year, I thought I’d share four NaNoWriMo Scrivener tips that have been super helpful to me in the past when trying to write 50,000 words in a month. Because this challenge is not for lightweights, and anything that makes it a little easier is worth knowing.

Here they are:

1. Make Notes

When you’re writing for NaNoWriMo, you don’t have time to stop and research, so just make notes to remind yourself to come back.

To do that, quick and easy, first make sure your Notes window is open in your Inspector window (that’s the window that opens to the right of your manuscript). Do that by clicking here:

Then highlight a section of your text. Then click on the little note icon just below the chapter name in the Inspector window.

You can also go to the menu at the top and click Insert -> Comment. Or use Shift Command Star as a shortcut. However you do it, you’ll get a little window there where you can type up your note and it will wait there with your text so you can keep working and come back to it later.

2. Split Screen

If you’ve been using Scrivener for any length of time, you probably know this one, but just in case (and because it’s super handy), here’s how you split your screen so you can view things side by side.

Click the same button again to un-split the screen.

Quick tip: you can change whether the screen splits vertically (like I did here) or horizontally by go to View -> Editor Layout.

3. Mimimize Distractions

If your eye is easily drawn to things that are open on your desktop (hello, Facebook), try clicking this button right here.

You can adjust the display at the bottom of the screen. When you’re ready to minimize it again, just hit ESC on your keyboard.

And now, dear writers, I’ve saved the best for last…

4. Project Targets

This is one of my favorite features of Scrivener. Because for all the best laid plans, life gets in the way. Or maybe you already know you can’t write every day and are trying to figure out your game plan. By using the Project Targets function you can set Scrivener to tell you how many words you have to write every day, and automatically recalculates if you miss a day.

Step 1: Go to Project -> Show Project Targets

Your’ll get a window that looks like this:

Under the top bar you’ll see the number of words you have written so far. In this example it says 20,878 of (and then a blank) words. Click on that blank space, and when you get a cursor, enter your goal of 50,000.

Step 2: Click Options to get this window:

Step 3: Set your due date at November 30th. Then, click the days you plan to write. In this example, I’m planning to write six days a week.

When you click OK, you’ll get the first popup screen again and it will show, under the lower bar (your Session Target) it will show you how many words you need to write that day to stay on target.

Play around with it a little. I’m telling you, this is SUPER handy when you’re just working for a word count with a specific deadline.

Good luck to you all! May the words flow like water in a stream.

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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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