Quick-Start Scrivener Guide

I’ve maintained that it’s not hard to start benefiting from Scrivener. You don’t need all the bells and whistles. Here’s an “easy steps” starting guide I posted about a year ago on the Guppies list:

A Scrivener “project” consists of a series of “documents.” Unlike separate documents in a word processor like M$ Word, Scrivener documents are all members of a project. Most people will create one project per WIP. I’ll tell you how to create a project and some documents. Some documents will be part of your WIP; some will provide storage for different kinds of materials relating to your project. We’ll first focus on the WIP itself.

Create a project. If you’re just opening Scrivener and you don’t have any projects open, you’ll see a dialogue box. Double click “Blank” and give your project a title in the next dialogue that opens. (The reason for starting with the “Blank” project template is that other templates give you distracting options.)
I strongly suggest starting with a play project. “Lorem ipsum” or just nonsense that you write. Create several documents. They don’t have to be more than a short paragraph each. Move them around. Mess with Scrivenings and the Outline mode and writing synopses. Trial-and-error can’t be fun if you’re worried about losing important stuff. 

When the project opens, make sure your window is wide enough to see all the icons at the top.

Binder. Make sure the Binder is open. The Binder is your table of contents for all the documents in your project. It should be open by default. If not, click on the “View” icon and click “Show Binder.” (The view icon in the Scrivener app, not to be confused with the “View” option in the main menu at the very top of the screen.)

Click on “Draft” (some versions call it “Manuscript). This is your main folder/directory for storing the project. Everything else is supplementary stuff—play with these folders later:
Characters: many people create a separate document here for each character
Research: create documents here if you want to store research results related to your WIP
Project Notes: documents here for misc info, ideas that you want to save
You can create other top-level folders to suit your style and needs.

Start creating documents. There will probably already be one under “Draft/Manuscript” called “Untitled Document.” Double click it to give it the name you want.
The ability to create and shuffle documents within a project is a major advantage of Scrivener over M$ Word and other word processors. You can change the order of documents by click-dragging them in the Binder and pulling them where you want.

Start writing your WIP. Click in the wide open space to the right of the Binder and start typing—anything. This is your practice project. Scrivener saves your work automatically each time you pause for a couple of seconds.
Cmd-N gives you a second document. You can do this with your cursor on the title of existing document in the Binder or with your cursor on the “Draft” or “Manuscript” line.
For me, each document works best if thought of as a scene. Later you can merge documents or split documents.
Remember, you can drag them around in the binder.

Open the Inspector if it’s not open—click on the Inspector icon. A third column will open, to the right of the space where you’re entering text.
The Synopsis window lets you create summary of the document or, if you don’t enter anything, it gives you the first bit of the text of the document. This is particularly useful when you use the Outliner view (see below). (If you’re an outliner rather than a pantser, you can create your entire outline by creating dummy documents and then outlining each document’s contents in the Synopsis window. Then you write the MS by entering text into the document using the Synopsis as your guide.)
You can type stuff into the Notes window or paste stuff there. For example, if I delete something I might want later, I cut it from the document and paste it there. Or something I want to remember to do later with this document.

You’re on your way.

Next thing you might want to use is the grouping function—creating “folders” to subgroup your documents. You might want to group your documents into chapters, for example. I found I was making my life harder by grouping documents into chapters too early.
Right click on a document in the Binder. One option you see is “Convert to folder.”
Most likely you’ll create a new document to convert to a folder and then drag some existing documents into it.

To see the entire project, click on “Draft/Manuscript” rather than on an individual document. There are three options. Choose one at the “Group Mode” icon at the top of the app:
Corkboard: play with this later.
Scrivenings: shows you the entire text of your project.
Outliner: shows you an outline with each folder (if you’ve created them) and each document, along with their synopses.
If you want to edit a different document while keeping the entire Draft/Manuscript open, you can switch from Scrivenings view to Outliner view, find the document you want to switch to, click on it, and return to Scrivenings view. You’ll now be able to edit that document. (If you click on a particular document in the Binder, you leave the Draft/Manuscript view and now only have that particular document open.)

I find it’s sometimes easier to Google a Scrivener “how-to” question rather than trying to find it in the manual. (E.g., search “Scrivener 3—how to create a comment.”)

I hope this helps. There’s much more in Scrivener than any one person needs. It’s important to start simple.

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