A Sneak Peek into How I Set Up My Scrivener for Writing Fiction

If you are a writer–either a veteran or an aspiring or somewhere in-between–you’ve probably heard other writers gush over the writing software named Scrivener. When I finally purchased it, I said to myself, “I should have started using Scrivener sooner.” Most fans of Scrivener agree.

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The best part of Scrivener is its versatility. You can customize it for your writing needs. I write both fiction and nonfiction, but for this posting, I’m going to concentrate on discussing novel writing through Scrivener.

I’ll show how I use it, but my way may not work for you. My main philosophy about using Scrivener is:

Borrow from others’ Scrivener novel templates to customize your own work in progress (WIP).

Templates

I’m a nerd about seeing how other writers use Scrivener. I love to Google “Scrivener novel templates” or “Scrivener fiction templates” and download what other writers have to offer. I have a nice collection, but I’m constantly updating it.

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I recommend you start your own collection of Scrivener templates for writing novels.

To get you started, here is a link to The Great American Novel TEMPLATE by Literature and Latte, the creators of Scrivener.

Following are the folders in Scrivener’s binder section I am using to write the episodes of my CONSORTIUM series. I could have a separate Scrivener document for each episode, but I have chosen to keep them all in one document. This makes it easier to reference another episode if needed.

Each of the folders in the binder comes from the original Scrivener template for fiction or are borrowed and customized from other templates. Some of the folders are my own ideas and creations. If you are not familiar with Scrivener, the binder is the section in light blue running down on the left side of the dashboard.

For this post, I am just focusing on my binder. Let’s start with my folders for drafts and manuscripts.

Drafts and Manuscripts

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In my draft folder, I keep my current work in progress. For me, this means the current episode of my series. In my manuscript folder, I keep copies of previous episodes in each of their respective folders.

The draft folder is set up to print an MS Word document of my WIP. Sometimes I’ll compile (export) a copy of my work in progress and open it in MS Word and work on it. Most of the time I work on my project directly in Scrivener, which lessens the chance of mixing up documents with the latest updates.

Because I’m writing a series, I’ve found it handy to have past episodes archived in the manuscript folder. If I need to find a quote from a character or look up some other detail about a past scene, it’s right there.

Scenes

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For the most part, I keep a folder of unused scenes. Some of these I wrote and decided not to use, so I store them here in case I change my mind. Some of these scenes I will definitely use in the future, but I haven’t reached that episode yet, so I store them here for when I’m ready to use them. Anything I’ve written that I may or may not use goes here. Some of the documents in this folder may only be scraps of dialog or partial scenes cut out from the final manuscript.

For writing fiction, Scrivener is designed for the writer to write in scenes which can be moved around as necessary on the faux bulletin board at will. I’m surprised how often I need to do that. So easy in Scrivener.

While I have nothing against MS Word, I believe Scrivener is the better choice for facilitating the order of your story. If a writer uses Word, she may find the document long and unwieldy.

Characters

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Another standard of the Scrivener fiction writing template is a character folder. In this folder, the writer has a file for each character. She can arrange the characters any way she wants, whether that be alphabetically or whatever. I find it helpful to group characters together in the social patterns in which they belong. See my blog post about grouping characters in Scrivener.

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In each folder for each character is a description sheet. Feel free to use the character template that comes with the Scrivener template, or make your own. There as many character template sheets as there are Scrivener templates.

One of the fun things about character creation is using pictures. You can use photos from the web to give your character a face. If a writer has a large cast of characters, this feature helps him keep track.

Also, for the character description, the writer shouldn’t feel obligated to fill out the entire sheet for each character before beginning to write. I believe in filling out the form as I write the draft of my story. When I discover a certain detail about my character, I can record it on their character sheet.

Fiction Toolbox

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This is my own creation. I keep a folder of documents about the craft of writing fiction. I have checklists for writing scenes; list of filter words to avoid; tips for show don’t tell and so on. Sometimes, I’ll use the documents in this folder for editing, while other times I use them for motivation.

And just for fun, the icon for this folder is a red toolbox. You can find icons from all over the internet and pull them into Scrivener.

Sales Copy

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Several templates I’ve come across contain folders for marketing and sales. Here is one sales copy. I use the copy to describe the book when I upload a book to CreateSpace, KDP or Smashwords. It’s convenient to have it right here in the same document as the actual manuscript for when I need it.

Front Matter

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Some templates have forms with fields you fill out so when compiling, my information is automatically included on the outgoing document. Most of the time, I customize my front matter pages within the final manuscript. See the graphic under “Drafts and Manuscripts.” In the top of the faux bulletin board are pages for the title page, copyright page, dedication page, and table of contents. It’s your choice how you want to handle the front matter.

Novel Format

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This is a folder with Scrivener’s instructions on using their own novel format template. I kept it in case I need to look up something.

Standard Files

Most templates come with these standard files:

Research

The writer can import documents from the internet with information about certain cities, weapons, machinery, etc. Any kind of research is stored in here for when the writer needs it.

Trash

Self-explanatory. I make it a habit to store unused material in Scenes, but if I accidentally make an extra folder or duplicate something, I trash it. Make sure it’s not something you’ll regret trashing.

Conclusion

Other possibilities for a novel template could be

  • Idea folder for future novels and stories
  • Worldbuilding folder to keep track of a societies culture (money, clothing, weapons, government, religion, etc.)
  • Template folder where you keep templates for character description template, scene outline template, etc.
  • Outline folder for storing outlines of entire novels
  • Synopsis of novel(s) for submission to publishers. This could be grouped with Sales Copy.
  • Character Arc folder. This could be separate from the character folder or a subfolder.

So many free templates are available for download. I encourage you to mix and match folders and documents from each template until you create a Scrivener document that works for you. Half the fun of using Scrivener is borrowing from others.

If you haven’t used Scrivener, give it a try.


 

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