Friday, July 26, 2013

Revising with Scrivener!

by MarcyKate Connolly

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that I’m something of a Scrivenervangelist. I LOVE IT. It revolutionized my writing life in so many ways, but in particular, it streamlined and organized the way I revise.

So when I hear people on Twitter say things like, “Oh I love Scrivener for drafting, but I still revise in Word,” it Boggles. My. Mind.

And since I’ve been seeing this a lot lately, I thought I’d share with you lovely readers how I use Scrivener to revise.

When I get notes back from beta readers (or an editorial letter!), I divide them up into two buckets: Things Run Throughout the Book and Things That are Scene/Chapter Specific. (Lucky for me, my editor actually writes editorial letters like this, which is just one of many reasons why she’s awesome!) After reading them over, sleeping on them (not literally – you might get a paper cut!), and reading them again until they’re imprinted on my brain, I open up my Scrivener file.

Project Notes & Document Notes Feature
My favorite part of revising with Scrivener is the notes feature on the sidebar (on the right-hand side, under the Synopsis and General Meta-Data). You can toggle between Project Notes and Document Notes. 

Here’s why I love them:

Project Notes 
  • Used to track larger scope edits such as themes or threads that run throughout and need to be beefed up. If you have the Notes toggled to "Project," they will show up regardless of what scene you are on in the manuscript. 
  • Example: Good for when you need to add a character/theme, or add/remove a plot thread.

Document Notes
  • Used for individual scrivenings (that’s the official name of the text files in Scrivener) and notes specific to each chapter or scene. If you have the Notes toggled to "Document," they will change depending on what scene you are viewing. 
  • Example: I pasted the relevant notes from my edit letter for each chapter here

Why They Rock
  • Insta-reminder of what needs fixing that is constantly in your line of vision
  • Easy way to keep your revisions organized, so you don’t have to keep referring back to other documents. 
  • Easy to implement color coding for specific themes and such if you're just doing a read-through to plot out revisions.
Split Screen Feature
But wait! There’s MOAR :) Another awesome tool is the split screen feature. This is located right above the ruler and next to the sidebar.
You can split between two scrivenings vertically or horizontally. It comes in handy for moving pieces from one scene to another, or keeping a particular scene in mind that impacts the one you’re currently revising. It’s also very good for those unfortunate times when you need to rewrite a scene from scratch but want to reference the original. And if you store research or inspiration in your Scrivener file too, it’s a great way to keep those things easily at hand for reference.

Status Selection
A neat way to keep track of where you are in revisions and what pieces need work, is to use the Status flags. These can be adjusted either under the General Meta-Data in the main drafting view or on the notecards view (right click on the Note card, scroll down to Status, and select the appropriate one). Scrivener comes with several default Statuses, but I like to add my own so I know where it is in the process. For example, I’ll label a scene I know needs work as "To Do," and the one I’ve gone over twice already as "Edited Draft." If I have to draft a new scene, I’ll flag it as "New Draft" so I know that while it’s complete, it will need some polishing.  And I must say, there’s great satisfaction to be had at changing a scene’s status to “Final Draft.”

And one last tip: you can keep a running “Cut Scenes” folder in your Scrivener Doc so all those little bits and bobs you love, but have to cut, are easily accessible in case you want to recycle them elsewhere.

While there are, I’m sure, about as many ways to use Scrivener to revise as there are people, these are things I personally find particularly useful.  Do you use Scrivener? If so, please share your tips in the comments!

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.


Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips! I love Scrivener too. The split screen is my favourite feature at the moment because I'm doing a fairly major rewrite where I want to combine several scenes and make a few big plot changes. Makes life SO much easier!

JeffO said...

I don't use Scrivener. It's funny, when I read about things like this, I always think how complicated it sounds, what a pain it must be to use it, etc., but I'm sure it's not as hard as it looks, and you get used to it. Glad it works so well for you!

SC Author said...

I've always wanted to use Scrivener. But I don't know.... It sounds so complicated. *hides* But my current draft is so messed up, I might have to start using it.

MarcyKate said...

So here's the thing - I was skeptical when I first tried Scrivener back in 2010. I was afraid it would be too complicated, and I'd never get any actual writing done, etc. However, it didn't take long before I was completely sold on it. Yes, there are a ton of features, but the beauty of it is that you can use those features in whatever way works best for you and get a personalized experience. For example, I don't really use the Notecard feature, but a lot of people love it. I'm a fan of the outliner but most pantsers won't be. And that's OK! I think everyone uses it a little bit differently.

If you're curious about it, I'd highly recommend downloading the free trial and watching their 10 minute tutorial overview. ( They have several tutorial videos on their website that go into more specifics but this one is a great way to get acclimated at first. :)

Charlee Vale said...

I love Scrivener. I love the snapshots feature, the notes you talked about, and especially the full screen writing feature. Plus the ability to flip back and forth between chapters (and move them around) quickly. There's so much I love!

To everyone who keeps thinking Scrivener is difficult, I can honestly say I've never use a more intuitive writing program. That may be because it fits my process so well, but there are a lot of use who love it. Plus, the creators have made many very detailed tutorials that help you get on board with the program quickly.

I encourage everyone who hasn't to download the free trial and at least give it a shot for a few days and see how it fits on you.


Jean Oram said...

I lovvvve Scrivener too. I love the way I can swap chapters around with a click and see a tree of all the scenes on the left (the binder). Scrivener also makes great epubs, mobis, and POD files. I love it. I also find that I have fewer continuity errors and I can jump into my story a lot faster. I hope Scrivener is around forever.

Ifeoma Dennis said...

Thank you for writing about the Document and Project Notes because I've been creating extra text files under chapters and writing synopsis on the corkboard to save ideas for future references, but I really wasn't making use of the Inspector. I started using it a few weeks ago, but it's been really fun so far!

E. M. LaBonte said...

I love the split screen option, swapping around scenes, and well, everything I've encountered with it. It's well worth getting!

Mel Kinnel said...

I always heard great things about Scrivener. Thanks for giving me more reasons to invest in it.

cleemckenziebooks said...

I keep promising myself to investigate Scrivener, but I haven't done it. Thanks for the nudge.

Mary Sutton said...

Love Scrivener. It took forever for me to convert from Word ("why do I need another app when Word works just fine?"). Love the statuses; keeps me on track regarding where I am in the process. And yes, it's a great feeling to tick something to "Final Draft" or "Done" (which I use after I've addressed editorial feedback).

I also love the character sheets; they make me really think about who my characters are. And I can copy them between projects, so I don't have to remember "what color were her eyes in book 1?"

Anyone on the fence, I say download a trial, watch the video, and do the tutorial. It's not nearly as complicated as it sounds!

Nora said...

Scrivener always seems too messy and complicated for me. I use Excel to track my overall outline/scenes, and then Word for actual writing. I've tried other writing programs, and all the gimmicks waste more time than they save. I'd prefer even just a legal pad and a pen!

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