Scrivener Collections

Apart from my crit group, the other secret weapon in my arsenal is an excellent piece of software called Scrivener. Honestly, if I had a folder full of Word docs or worse, piles and piles of dead tree to dig through, I’m not sure I would have gotten as far as I have. The cool thing is, I’ve barely scratched the surface on the things this program can do.

Right now, I’m using it in a pretty basic way – I have all the scenes crammed into a single folder and laid out chronologically. As a first draft, I’m mostly concerned with getting the story down from start to finish. Soon however, I’ll start revising (on target for my end of the month date – so far at 88k words, 8k beyond my 2012 end of the year goal!) Once that happens, the array of awesome tricks built in to Scrivener will come in handy.

First off, I can easily organize the scenes into chapters on the binder panel. Moving them around is as quick as a drag and drop. As I revise, I can also mark scenes with labels like “To Do”, “First”, “Revised”, “Final” and any other customized label I prefer.

One organizational thing I needed to do early was to separate out some scenes featuring the antagonist. I dip into his viewpoint several times to reveal plot details which my main character isn’t necessarily aware of. These scenes are experimental (read – they are a mess) and I wanted to mark them somehow to set them apart.

First, I tagged the scenes I wanted with their own color – a little swatch visible on the cards in the corkboard view. Yep, you can look at your scenes laid out as little notecards on a cork board which is awesome. You can even make notes on the notecards right below the scene titles. I often use this for big structural things or ideas from the crit group which will be time consuming to incorporate and are better left for the second draft.

collectionsThis worked for a bit, but when I decided to take an in-depth look at these scenes, I wanted to be free of the distraction of the other scenes surrounding it. Scrivener answered this call for help with “collections.” It’s a simple process to make a collection of any number of scenes.

Creating a collection requires going the top of the binder window, clicking the plus sign next to “Collections”. A “New Collection” tab will pop up.  Name it, color code it if you like, and it’s ready for content. Next, you simply go to the scenes you want to add from the main binder, right click, and select the “add to collection” menu option. It’s that easy.

I know I’ve said it before, but I highly recommend Scrivener. You can find it at:

Categories: Articles

3 replies

  1. Good tip, thanks for posting this — my stuff is all in Word, and it is definitely a pain. In case you’re interested, I also just noted a software tip from Lynn Viehl at, where she recommended ‘SmartEdit’ software, which analyzes prose to spot usage of redundant words/phrases, cliches, and a number of other items. Maybe I’ll start with Scrivener, and reward myself with SmartEdit when I finally finish this @$#!% story…

    • Hey Brian! Yeah, actually with Scrivener you can check word frequency pretty easy. At 40-45 bucks, the thing is a bargain for all the stuff it can do. I haven’t even really scratched the surface with it honestly. The onl ytime I open Word now is for my final documents I print or send to editors. Oh, and I’d love to read whatever you’ve got! Let me know -when- (not if) you finish it!

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