How to Draft with Scrivener
Earlier this month, I wrote a post about outlining, brainstorming, and researching your novel with Scrivener. That is all basically Stage One of novel writing. Today, I’m moving on to Stage Two: Drafting. (Stage Three is Revising, and that post will come eventually.)
This will cover a few basic features of Scrivener that will help you while you’re drafting your manuscript.
If you haven’t already, read the first part of this series. It covers a ton of features that will help you while drafting that I won’t talk about here. (Using the Binder, Inspector, and Corkboard especially.) Many of the features you use while planning will still be features you use while drafting.
Customising Your Toolbar
The very first thing you should do before you start drafting is customize your toolbar so you have quick access to all of the features you like best. You’ll notice my toolbar is different from the default toolbar. For instance, I’ve included things like ‘typewriter mode’ which will keep my cursor centered on the page in composing view. I’ve removed things like ‘keywords’ which I don’t often use.
Simply go to View -> Customize Toolbar to find the screen above. As an added bonus, you’ll get the option to show text underneath the icons. You’ll notice in this guide, I say to click on a lot of icons. Knowing their names will make following these instructions so much less complicated.
The Default Drafting Screen
The default drafting screen in Scrivener looks something like the second image above, with the Binder and Inspector on either side of the drafting space. The Binder and Inspector can be extremely useful while drafting. The Binder makes all of your manuscript and research easy to navigate. The Inspector lets you view all of your notes for the chapter you’re writing. You can read more about them in my planning guide.
They’re wonderful features. Most of the time.
Sometimes, however, they clutter your drafting screen and get in your way. The good news is that the default drafting screen does not have to be the one you actually use to write in.
Full Screen Composition Mode
The easiest way to limit distractions and simplify your screen is by going into full screen composition mode. You can access this by clicking on the icon of a blue square with arrows in your toolbar, or going to View -> Enter Composition Mode.
Full screen mode is pretty customizable. You can change the size of the “page” on the screen, as well as the size of the text (by zooming, not changing the font point).
You can also add a background. The background can be a color or an image. In the example in image three, I’m using my desktop as a background. You can add an image by going to View -> Composition Backdrop.
In composition mode, there’s a toolbar that pops up when you hover at the bottom of your screen (which you can see above.) Here is where you can change the size of your text/page. You can also view your word count, pull up a simplified version of your Inspector, and navigate your manuscript.
Composition mode is a handy feature if you don’t want much more on your screen than a blank page and your text.
But if that’s not enough and you’re missing the Microsoft Word drafting screen, there’s a way to get that as well…
Mimicking the Microsoft Word Aesthetic
For the first year that I used Scrivener, I drafted in Word and copy and pasted the text to Scrivener to organize it. I’d written in Word my entire life, and found the transition to a new word processor extremely difficult.
Little did I know that you can make your Scrivener drafting window mimic Word with just a half-dozen clicks.
In your binder, click on ‘Manuscript.’ Then, click on the stacked pages icon in your toolbar (or using the keyboard shortcut [Command + 1]). This will give you a drafting view of your entire document.
Hide the Inspector and Binder by clicking the blue ‘i’ to the far right of your toolbar and the blue binder on the far left of your toolbar.
View the individual pages of your manuscript by clicking the ‘wrap’ icon to the right of the yellow comment icon in your toolbar.
You can even add the ruler view (by adding the icon to your toolbar when you customize your toolbar, and clicking on it, or using the command [Command + R])
See your chapter titles in this view by going to Format -> Options -> Show Titles in Scrivenings. (The full manuscript view.)
You can draft your entire manuscript in this view if you’d like. If not, to get your inspector and binder back, simply click on their icons again, and navigate back to viewing specific chapters, split screens, the cork board, etc.
Using the Split Screen to View References
Returning to the default drafting screen, Scrivener also has a great split screen feature. ([Command+”] or View-> Layout -> Split Vertically), you can use one half of your screen to draft and the other half of your screen to view items from your research and planning. In the example above, I have a picture of Darcy pulled up while “writing” his description in Chapter Three. However, there are even more useful ways to use this feature. You can pull up maps, character sketches, earlier chapters, videos, and just about anything else you may need.
By eliminating the need to search your computer for your references, toggling between programs, or scrolling within a document, this feature eliminates distractions, frustration, and makes using references while writing a breeze.
You can see in the fifth image that I’ve hidden the Inspector to give myself more screen space for my two documents.
Adding Target Word Counts
This is a NaNoWriMo prep post. At the bottom right corner of your drafting screen is a little bullseye. Click that and you can enter your daily word count goal. As you write, you can track your progress towards that goal in a little progress bar that will appear next to the bullseye.
If you’re too busy drafting to pay attention to it, Scrivener will notify you when you hit your target.
- You can change the drafting screen’s background color. If a white background hurts your eyes, you can change the color of your drafting background by going to Preferences -> Appearance -> Customizable Colors -> Editor -> Page Background and choosing a color that suits you. Basically every color in Scrivener is customizable.
- Syncing. I can’t write about it, because i don’t have Scrivener on my phone and my tablet is too old to support it, but you can put Scrivener on your phone, tablet, and other computers, and you can sync theme rather easily. You’ll just have to find another tutorial for that.
- Snapshots. If you edit while drafting, click the little camera icon in either the toolbar or binder, and you can save the previous version to your file. If you decide to revert the scene, or steal a paragraph from it, it will be in the Inspector waiting for you.
- The Name Generator. If you go to Edit -> Writing Tools, you’ll find the name generator. It can generate 500 full names in less than a second. If you need a quick name while drafting, you can grab one here.
- Automatic saves. Scrivener automatically saves your manuscript almost constantly and it rarely, rarely crashes. You will never have to worry about losing your work because of program failure. Never again cry because you exited without saving hours worth of work, or your word processor crashed before you even had a chance to save the document at all.
- Compiling. I’m going to save compiling for the ‘revising’ section of this series, but you can see how it’s done in my quickest Scrivener guide.