My other tutorials are tips and tricks to get the most out of Scrivener’s features. But if you’ve never used Scrivener and need to learn how to set it up and get started writing, this is for you.
I’ve done my best to accommodate for both Windows and Mac users, but they can be very different at times.
Take it step by step. You can do it. :)
Step 1 – Starting a New Project
After you’ve download Scrivener (30 non-consecutive day free trial or paid version), open up the program.
Under “File” choose “New Project” and you’ll see the screen above. (Mac users, this screen might come up when you open the program.) Choose the type of project you’ll be working on, for example “Fiction” and then “Novel.” This will work for most fiction writers.
Name your project under “Save As” and use the “Browse” button (or “Where” on Mac) to set where it will save to.
Hit “Create.” You’ll see the instructions below, which explain how to get started if you’d like to read through them.
Step 2 – Setting Font & Spacing
There are a lot of things you can preset in Scrivener, but we’re going to keep it simple. (You are free to skip this section if you don’t mind the standard presets. Some of these will not stay put when you finish and compile your document, but it will make it easier while you write, IMO.)
Mac users – choose “Scrivener” and “Preferences.”
Windows users - Under “Tools” choose “Options.” You’ll get a screen like this.
Mac – Click “Formatting.”
Windows - Click “Editor” on the left and you’ll see this.
We’re going to make sure the font and spacing are how you want them, so click the blue, italicized A at the top. (It won’t be blue for Mac users.)
Choose the font you want for your project. Windows users, click “OK.”
Click “More” (“Other” for Mac) and you’ll get this window.
Change “First Line” to “0.50 inch(es).” This is called a hanging indent. YOU WILL NOT NEED TO USE THE TAB KEY when this is set. Simply type and hit enter when you want the next line indented. (For Mac, skip this step and see below.)
Change “Line Spacing” to “Double” and click “OK.” (Change “Line height multiple” to 2.0 for Mac)
Mac users, in the formatting window, move the top slide bar to between the 0 and the 1. Also check the box under “Scrivenings” for “Separate scrivenings” so you don’t get any extra line breaks.
Windows users, click “ok.” Mac users, click “Use Formatting in Current Editor.”
Step 3 – Folders & Synopsis
Double click where is says “Manuscript” in the binder (to the left) and change it to your title. (If you have one!) Whenever you want to look at things in the whole project (word count, chapters in corkboard mode, etc.) you’ll want this selected.
Double click on the folder that says “Chapter” and rename it if you’d like. It can either be “Chapter 1” or a heading for your chapter like “Fall.”
Now here’s how I do it, because I find it the easiest.
Create enough new chapters to get started or if you already have an outline, create the number you know you need. There are several ways to do this.
For Windows Users -
Option 1. Click the arrow to the right of the green plus sign and choose “New Folder.”
Option 2. Right click and choose “Duplicate.” It will make a folder below that says something like “Chapter 1 copy.” Simply double click and change the name.
For Windows & Mac users -
Option 5. You can also do this from corkboard mode. Make sure you’ve selected the main manuscript in the binder and then click the little corkboard icon at the top. (Highlighted in yellow in the image above.)
Make sure you’ve selected the last index card and do one of the methods described above. Each time you do, a new index card will pop up to represent a chapter. (You’ll also see them appear in the binder.)
*OR you can just add folders as you write.
If you already have an outline, you can add chapter summaries. (You can also do this as you go along or after the manuscript is written.)
Make sure you have the correct chapter selected and that it says “Chapter” not “Scene” above the index card. You can also add summaries from corkboard mode.
Step 4 – Adding Text
Now you’re ready to start writing! No really, you are.
Just click on the icon in the binder for the first scene, click in the text editor in the center, and start writing.
(Or click on the chapter where you want to start a new scene.)
When you’re ready for the next scene, you have several options.
1. Windows users - Click the green plus sign at the top or the little arrow to the right of the green plus and choose “New Text.” You’ll see the new scene appear in the binder.
(If you want it to go in the next chapter, just drag it to the folder icon or chapter title. Or click on the chapter you want before you choose “New Text.”)
2. Click the New Text icon in the lower left corner of the screen. (It’s a + sign for Mac users)
3. Press “Ctrl+N” (Windows) or “Cmd+N” (Mac).
4. Click the scene in the binder that you want to be before the new text and hit Return.
*If you already have something written in Word, watch for an upcoming post on how to import files as chapters.
A few tips . . .
It might be a good idea to open up a new project just to get the hang of Scrivener. You can play around with it when you want to try a new feature and not worry about messing anything up. :)
Keep in mind that Scrivener is set to save your project every two seconds after a pause and back it up every time you close the program. (These can be adjusted.)
Items can be moved and rearranged in Scrivener (which can be super helpful when moving around scenes and chapters), but be careful if you don’t want things moved, especially if you have a touch screen.
So there you go, you’re all set to work in Scrivener!
To learn more about Scrivener, head over to the Tools for Writers page.