How to use Scrivener – Get writing fast

How to use Scrivener

I’m a big fan of Scrivener, so I’m going to share some simple features on how to use Scrivener and get you started fast. I’m also sharing some cool features you can find in the Mac version. Scrivener works by letting you put all your research, character sketches, and story content in one setting. PC Magazine gave it an “Excellent” rating because it’s “one of the best pieces of software for writers because it was built with their needs in mind.”

Know Your Version

Currently, I’m using version on my Mac. If you have it on your computer and you don’t know what version you have:

  1. Open the program
  2. Go to upper left Scrivener/Check for Updates
  3. A screen will open with your version number (or will tell you to update)

They now have a 3.0 version available for purchase for Mac (the PC 3.0 version is coming in 2019) – so I’ll be getting that soon.

Get Started

Open Scrivener and you should see the Start Panel pop-up. From this screen, you have several options. (If you are already in Scrivener and this screen isn’t open, you can go to File/New Project to open the Start Panel.)

How to use Scrivener
How to use Scrivener

From the left side, choose from Getting Started, or the type of project you want to start. Getting Started is nice if you want to check out the interactive tutorial, the expansive User Manual, or YouTube videos.

Or, choose the kind of project you’ll be working on.

In this case, I’m going to select Fiction. For this blog, I’m going to use my already published novel, “Toy of the Gods
, as an example, but pretend I’m starting from the beginning so you can see how it all works.

Start Your Novel

  • Click on Fiction, then double click on Novel to open up a new novel project.
  • scrivener save
    scrivener save
  • Name your project in the Save As field.
  • Click Create.
  • Now you have a new Novel project to start with.

Write Your Novel

Navigate your new project by using the Binder on the left side of your screen.

  • Novel Format: Explains how to use the template.
  • Manuscript: You can rename this file anything you want, but this top file is where your story lives.
  • Chapter: You can rename chapters anything you want – just don’t use numbers – Scrivener can number them for you.
  • Scene: You can split your Chapters into scenes – for example, The second chapter of my book is split into three scenes. Intro Leslie, Leslie explores the eco-resort, Leslie chases a burglar.
  • Characters: I love this part of Scrivener! I create a sheet for each character. This helps keep my characters organized. I title each sheet the name of the character so I can quickly find them.
  • Places: If your story is based on a certain location, you can make place sheets, just like a character.
  • Front Matter: This will be important when you’re ready to publish.
  • Research: Whatever research you collected for your story can go here. For example, I collected a ton of research about the Amazon. Once I add it there, I can access it quickly when I need to be reminded of something.
  • Template Sheets: I love this option! This is where you can find templates for your new character and setting (Place) sheets. I use a very detailed table for my characters. Here I can insert the table and now every time I create a new character, the table will be there in a new sheet.
  • Trash: When you send something to trash in your project, this is where it goes.

Start writing:

  1. Click on Scene.
  2. Click in the open space known as the editor window.
  3. Start typing. This is where the text of your scene goes.

Create new chapters or scenes:

  1. Click on the green + sign along the top in the for new scenes
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the green + sign to add a new chapter.

Here’s another screenshot with some examples of the chapters and scenes named. You can rename them by double clicking on them and typing the new name. 

Fun Things to Use

And, here are a few fun tools you might want to try out!

Word Count Goals. Have a writing goal? You can set a goal for your complete manuscript as well as session. Go to:

  1. Project
  2. Show Project Targets
  3. Click Edit
  4. Edit the number goals
  5. Click Apply

Then you can always go back to the Project Targets to see where you’re at with your goals.

Name Generator. Seriously! There’s a name generator.

  1. On the top bar, click Edit
  2. Writing Tools
  3. Name Generator
  4. At the bottom of the screen click and drag the indicator to tell it how many names you need
  5. Click Generate Names

Change the Icons for your folders. My other favorite option! When I’m editing the novel I’ll change the icon on a folder to show that I’ve edited it for the first draft, second draft, etc. It helps me visually see where I need to work next.

  1. Right click on a folder image in the Binder
  2. Select from the long list of images!

What Next?

FYI: If you’re in Albuquerque, we’re holding a class in January to teach Scrivener. Scrivener is also our sponsor, so we’re able to keep the tickets inexpensive for this 3-hour class. If you’re interested, sign up today!

Want help writing your novel? Check out the Plotfinder Package.

How to use Scrivener – Get writing fast

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