Category: | Scrivener

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

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

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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Scrivener Tip: View Your Research in Composition Mode

Back in March, I wrote a post about embedding websites into Scrivener. Not only is a great way to keep your research where you can easily find it, it’s also great for minimizing distractions, because you don’t actually have to go online to do a quick fact check. It’s a super-handy little trick, but I recently discovered another little trick that makes it even more useful. With a few clicks, you can see your embeded research files next to your manuscript as you write in Composition Mode. Check it out:

Composition Mode

First a quick explanation of Composition Mode. If you click this little icon at the top of your Scrivener window, the rest of your desktop will fade out so that all you see is your project.You can adjust the settings with a pop-up menu at the bottom, and exit Composition Mode by hitting escape. Try it.


This is great and all… but what if you need to reference some of your research while you’re writing? Going back to the post I wrote about embeding a website, imagine you’re writing something set in a coal mining town, and you want to reference this great article you found as you’re writing.

Keep Your Research Handy

Here are four simple steps for accessing your research while writing in Composition Mode:

1. Click on the research you want to be able to see while you’re in Composition Mode. For this example, I’m using a website I embeded about coal mining towns.

2. Click on the Quick Reference icon, circled in red here. You will see your research (in this case, the website on coal mining towns) in a pop-up window.

3. Click back into the text of your manuscript. For many people, just being able to have your research in that pop-up window while you work in the normal Scrivener display will be enough, but if you like working in Composition Mode, check it out:

4. You can click the icon for Composition Mode and the pop-up window will remain visible, even though the rest of your desktop will fade away.

Bam. There you have it. Your writing and your research side by side, without distraction.

It should look something like this:

If it doesn’t look quite like that, you can adjust the view using the pop-up menu at the bottom of the screen so that your page shifts left or right. You can widen or shrink your draft. And you can move the research window around by dragging it.

But Wait, There’s More

Now that you know this little trick, you can use it with any of your files. You’re not limited to embeded websites by any means. It works just as well with any research files, or character studies, or place descriptions. You can can even select a whole part of your manuscript to show in the pop-up window as you write.

Play around with it. Have fun. And let me know if you find any other ways this little trick can be used to make our writing more efficient.

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Creating and Using Scrivener Collections

(This post assumes you’re already using Scrivener. If you haven’t made the leap yet, check out my post “5 Reasons You Should Be Using Scrivener.”) 

If you’ve been using Scrivener for any period of time, you know that the column on the left, the one with the all the files and folders that make up your story, is called the binder. What you may not know is that there are several layers to the binder.

These are called Scrivener Collections and they can be super useful for organizing your work in various ways without messing up your draft. Let’s explore.

Open Collections

To reveal your collections, click the little purple file folder at the top left of your window next to the Binder icon.

Scrivener Collections

Then, to create your first collection, click the little + symbol next to the word “Collections.” Your binder will disappear (don’t worry) and you’ll get something that looks like this:

Scrivener Collections

Name your collection by clicking on the highlighted text and typing in whatever you’d like. This is easy to change at any point so don’t stress.

How To Use Scrivener Collections

As the name Scrivener Collections would imply, these folders allow you to collect pieces of your project in one place and play with them a little, without messing up your project.

One example is rearranging the timeline of a story. My second novel (still in early draft stages) jumps around in time. In my binder I have it organized as I intend it to be read. A chapter from the 1700s, followed by a bit from the 1900s, then a chapter set in the 1800s. Frankly it’s kind of a mess right now. I’m not even sure it’s going to work. But that’s how I like it (for now). But sometimes it is helpful to see it arranged chronologically.

I created a collection called “Chronological Order” to experiment with.

To fill that collection, I click back to the binder and highlight the content I want to move to the collection. Then I click the little wheel icon at the bottom of the binder.

Scrivener Collections

From the pop-up window, I select which collection to move the files to:

(the astute observer will notice that these screen grabs are actually not my WIP, but rather a popular novel that I’m borrowing in the hopes that everyone has read it by now and I’m not spoiling anything)

Now, in the Chronological Order Collection, I can move things around, just to see how they read in a different order:

Notice that, in the collection, the left column is blue. This is to alert you to the fact that you are not in your binder anymore, but are instead working in a collection. You can change the color by clicking on the little box next to the name of your collection at the top there.

Two Things To Know

  1. You can move things around as much as you want in your collection and NOT CHANGE the order they appear in your binder.
  2. Any changes you make to the actual content WILL CHANGE what is in your binder. So if you’re reading along in your collection and correct a typo, it will be also be corrected in the binder.

If you delete something from a collection, it will also be deleted from your binder. That goes for whole folders as well. But don’t panic. If you accidentally delete a folder, it will be in your trash (at the bottom of the binder), and you can retrieve it until you do an official “Empty Trash” which I’m not even going to explain how to do, because you just never should.)

A Few Practical Applications

As I mentioned, I like to use this to read my story through in chronological order.

I’ve also heard people say they use it to pull one character’s story apart from the main narrative. If you have a novel that has two perspectives, you could have it all laid out in the binder, then have a collection where you separate out each character’s POV to check the consistency of their narrative.

You could use it to track themes.

Or maybe there’s an object in your story that changes hands a lot. You could pull out the scenes with just that object and track how it moves without the distraction of scenes that don’t address the object.

Like most things in Scrivener, you can experiment without fear of breaking anything. So have fun, play around. And let me know how it works for you. I’m always curious to hear how different people use the various functions in Scrivener.

Shameless self-promotion

In a few weeks, I’m teaching a session on Scrivener at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena. If you’re in the area (or would like to come soak up some of our fabulous fall weather) check it out:
And let me know you’re coming. I would love to meet up for coffee. Cheers!

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How to Use the Document Word Counter in Scrivener

(This post assumes you’re already using Scrivener. If you haven’t made the leap yet, check out my post “5 Reasons You Should Be Using Scrivener.”) 

In Scrivener, there are two ways that I know of to keep track of how many words you’ve written on a project.

Session Word Counter

The first way to track your progress is the Session Word Counter, or as I like to call it – the daily word counter. I wrote a post about that one last year. The Session Word Counter is great when you’re trying to track how much you’ve written overall in a day, and track progress toward a certain goal, like 50,000 words in a month (ahem, NaNoWriMo).

The super cool part about this function is that if you skip a day it automatically recalculates so you know how many words you have write on your remaining days to hit your goal. It also allows you to schedule days off. This is one of my favorite Scrivener functions. Check it out.

Document Word Counter

I’ve only just become aware that there is another way to track your word count in Scrivener. It’s much more specific, and independent of a time frame. It’s called the Document Word Count. You’ve probably seen the little icon for it at the bottom of the page there.

If you click on that icon, you’ll get this pop-up window:

This is where you enter your target word count for THIS PARTICULAR section of your project. See the band at the left of the image? the one the color of mushroom soup? That is the section for which I am setting my goal of 5,000 words. It won’t apply to anything else in the project and it has no timeframe associated with it.

Once you enter your word count goal and click ok, that information at the bottom of the screen will change.

Notice that now, instead of just a word count at the bottom of the screen, you have a readout of where you are in relationship to your word count goal. Here it’s 3,550 words out of 5,000.

We’ve also gained a progress bar next to our little target icon. That bar starts out red when you only have a few words, then shifts to orange, yellow, then yellow-green, to bright green when you hit your target. Here’s what it looks like with the goal met:

If you’re working on a particular section and could use a little motivation, this little colored bar can be a fun way to see your progress.

Check out the links below for more Scrivener tricks.

Also, I can’t pass up the opportunity to share that I’ll be teaching a session on Scrivener at the upcoming Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena this October. Click the image below to sign up and let me know you’re coming!


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