How I use Scrivener — A Step-By-Step Guide.

Scrivener is a great tool I’ve been using for a few years now.  While no writing tool will ever be the magic bullet that makes writing a snap, Scrivener has helped me in several ways. Most of the things I love about it are adequately covered on the information page for the program, so I won’t go into it here, except to say that Scrivener makes it easy to move around your manuscript in ways that would make Word or most other business-oriented word processors choke.

However, as useful as Scrivener is, it can also be somewhat difficult to set up.  I’ve also seen over the years that there are almost as many ways to use Scrivener as there are users. I thought I’d do a post on how I use it, for the curious.

First thing I do is divide the screen.  To do that, you click on the button indicated by the arrow in the picture below. Now, normally, Scrivener divides the screen horizontally, but if you hold Option while clicking, it will split vertically, which is what I do.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.41.50

Okay, I hear you.  So you’ve got two screens.  Now what?  Well, what I do is click in the left pane.  Then I click the little clipboard icon in the top middle of the screen, so I end up with this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 21.31.31

Next, I click on View -> Corkboard Options -> Cards Across -> 1.  This sets the cards in the clipboard view to resize no matter how big or small the window is.  It’s not a vital step, but it helps me.  Then I resize the window by putting the mouse in the divider and moving it to the left, like you do.  I put it as far to the left as it will go.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.08    Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.14

Next, I click on View -> Binder Affects -> Left editor only.  This means that when I click on a chapter folder in the binder (that’s the area to the left of the screen), it will open the chapter’s index cards in the left binder.  Then I click on this little button down here:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 Button

THIS little button makes it so that anything you click on in the LEFT editor window will open in the RIGHT editor window.  This makes it so that I click on the chapter I’m working in, which opens the cards describing the scenes in that chapter, and when I click on one of those scenes, it opens in the right editor window.  Like this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.18.13

It may not work for all people, but it helps me keep my workflow straight.  One added benefit is that if I use the search window in the upper right to look for a particular text string, it shows up in the LEFT pane, leaving the section I’m working on at the moment alone.  Then, when I click the X on the search pane to clear the search, it’s all back to normal.

You’ll notice in that last picture that my scenes are “described” on the cards as short phrases.  I used to write detailed summations of each scene, but now I do this, which I learned from Jason M. Hough in this series of posts. 

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About Michael Johnston

Father of a fifth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-six years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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3 Responses to How I use Scrivener — A Step-By-Step Guide.

  1. This is very useful, thanks! I’ll have to see what winds up working for me, but this layout is definitely worth a try. Scrivener has SO many options that it’s easy to wind up underutilizing it if you don’t happen to think just like its designers do or have friends around to give you examples.

  2. Lise says:

    Thanks for this! I’m always interested in learning new stuff about Scrivener, because I know I’m not using half the features. Out of curiosity, is this the Mac or PC version? I have the PC version, and I’ve learned there are several features that don’t exist on that one.

  3. I’m on the Mac version.

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