ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Beginner's Guide to Scrivener

Updated on June 29, 2014
Scrivener Logo
Scrivener Logo | Source

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is writing software taken to the next level. It is an outliner, text editor, and editing tool all in one. About the only thing it doesn't do for you is come up with your ideas or actually do the writing for you (although if you read my review of Write or Die, you'd learn that writing isn't all that hard).

So you've downloaded the 30-day free trial of Scrivener, have opened it up, and have no clue where to go from here. I'll say it now, Scrivener looks overwhelming to people new to it. But there's no need to be overwhelmed, it's just a matter of learning how it works and then you'll be wondering how you ever put up with MS Word in the first place.

5 stars for Scrivener Software

Thinking in Scenes

The key to how Scrivener works is scenes - dividing your work up into smaller, re-arrangeable chunks called 'scenes', instead of working with larger chunks like chapters or even sections (don't worry, we'll get to that later). Thinking in scenes may seem a little alien to those used to dividing up their work into chapters at the smallest level, but think of it this way - when you 'compile' your novel (another Scrivener term we'll get to later), the compiler puts a '#' between each new scene. This should help you conceptualize how your novel will be broken up.

Thinking in scenes is the key to using Scrivener effectively; it'll let you divide up your work, rearrange your work as you see fit, and make the writing process flow a lot better.

If you selected novel with chapters when you started up Scrivener, you'll be faced with a blank scene - feel free to type something in there now, even if it's just a test line.

Chapters, Sections, and More

The folder you can see in the inspector (the bar down the left-hand side) is an example chapter - you can arrange scenes into chapters, your chapters into sections, and even more organisation if you wish, by dragging and dropping items in the inspector. You can also move them around using the corkboard, which we'll get to later.

You can name your chapters anything you like, as Scrivener automatically numbers them when you hit 'compile'. If you want, you can even name them something descriptive only for you and then remove the chapter titles in the compile window (but, like I said, we'll get onto compiling later).

You also have a few other folders outside of your novel; Settings and Characters. These are designed for you to drag information into, such as pictures, PDFs, and Scrivener text documents. You can have as many folders outside of your novel as you like; if you want to include them in your novel, then simply drag them so they appear under the 'manuscript' tag.

Rearranging using the Corkboard

You can get to the corkboard by clicking on any chapter folder. This will show you your current scenes as 'cards', which you can rename (Scrivener always ignores scene names) and add a description to (which Scrivener also ignores). This lets you see your novel at a glance and get an idea of the conceptional view of your novel.

The real power of the corkboard is that it lets you drag and drop these cards to rearrange your scenes, automatically updating their order in the inspector. This lets you conceptually rearrange your novel, see what it looks like, before reading through the rearranged scenes - far easier than trying to rearrange your writing in a simple text editor!

Vertical and Horizontal Split

You can also open scenes using the split-screen modes (available from the top right of the 'scene' title bar). I prefer horizontal split, but you can also vertical split the screen to allow you to view two scenes at once.

This is really good when it comes to editing, as it allows you to see how your novel's continuity plays out across scenes and how your writing style may differ from chapter to chapter. It can also help in the writing process, when you're trying to remember what happened in a previous scene!

Compiling your Novel

If you hit File > Compile, a dialogue box will appear with all kinds of options in. This is where you control how your novel will look in its final output - including font, scene and page dividers, chapter titles, and so on. Play around with all of these options, to see what will suit your novel best, and remember that you can change these options at any time from this menu.

You can also select which kind of output form you want your novel in, from standard PDF for proofreading and editing to EPUB and Kindle formats ready for publishing.

Good luck, and remember, the best way to learn new software is to explore it!

Do you use Scrivener?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      6 years ago from Texas USA

      I use scrivener for most of my writing endeavors. I plan to go back through all of my hubs and paste the text into a Scrivener file. I don't use even a fraction of it's capability for my needs. Powerful software.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)