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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scrivener #6 - Writing a Novel From Scratch

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts based on my experience with Scrivener - A Swiss Army Knife of a tool for writers. The previous post can be found HERE. The complete series can be found HERE.

During the past couple of weeks I have been preparing the characters and plot for an upcoming novella that I am writing totally in Scrivener. Although I have now been using Scrivener for the past 6 weeks or so, it has been more of a retro-fit piece of software for previously finished novels. This is the first time I am using the software from the get go.

I have blogged previously about the novella I am writing. It's going to be another feature series of blog posts labeled My Writing Experiment (I will be blogging about the writing of a complete novella from start to finish, on a day-by-day basis). If you want to catch up with that then click on the link in this paragraph.

But for those of you that have arrived here via the Scrivener route, let me describe the process. It went a little like this:
  • Start with the Novel template in the fiction section of create a new project
  • Add a text file in the Research section called BASICS
  • Add all sorts of notes to the BASICS file as I thought about them
  • Once the BASICS file has quite a lot of notes, start creating scenes from the notes under the Manuscript section
  • Re-order the scenes as necessary and keep adding new ones
  • Add a few character descriptions to Character Templates (also in the Research section)
  • Start adding Chapters in the manuscript section to break up the book
  • Place the scenes into chapters as appropriate
It's probably good to take a little break here and look at a portion of my BASICS file so that you get an idea of how things get done.

As you can see I decided quite early on just how long the novella would be and how it would be structured. This is important to me because I'm a planner, and not a free-form writer. I also know up front approximately how many scenes I need to write to complete the story (and as you can see I already have enough to start the book - writing starts on Saturday 21st April).

Once I transcribe the notes in my BASICS file into scenes then new scenes are only added under the Manuscript section. My BASICS file just becomes a high level note file at this point.

So, back to the plot. To continue my new novella Scrivener process:

  • Add POV (Point Of View) coloring to the scenes so that I can visually see the story flow
  • Make sure that conflicts / story highlights / etc are appropriately spaced out in the novella
  • Move more scenes as appropriate
  • Add more scenes
  • Update character and other background information

After I've come back and forth to this several times over a two week period, my novella has taken shape and I am ready to write. The next post will talk a little more about the actual writing process. Until then, check out Scrivener and give it a try. You won't be disappointed!


  1. Hi Paul

    Thanks for this, I think you have finally converted me (I hope you are on commission - if not, ask!)

    I did download the free trial months ago and started to work my way through the built-in tutorial but abandoned it due to time constraints.

    However, it seems ideal for my problem- managing a large novel.

    So, I think I will buy it and use it to write my shorts with, to get used to it, then add my 50,000 word novel to it to reorganise that.

    Then I should be ready to tackle my 140,000 worder and its 5 sequels!!!

    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  2. I really think you'll get a great deal of benefit from Scrivener. I don't know how I managed without it all these years!

  3. During the past couple of weeks I have been preparing the characters and plot for an upcoming novella that I am writing totally in Scrivener. Writers Conference