How to Write a Book With Key Scrivener Tips and Tricks

How to Write a Book With Scrivener Tips and Tricks

Scrivener is one of the many writing tools I recommend in my Tools of the Trade section. We’ve learned about how and why you should put together an email list, how to market your works through RSS feeds and how you don’t need inspiration to write well, but what about the actual writing process? The Scrivener for Dummies book is a wonderful place to start, but I also wanted to share some unique Scrivener tips to help you along the way.

I can’t express how easy Scrivener is to use, especially when learning how to write a book. Even when I need to get rid of distractions and use a more minimal word processor, I still always copy and paste back into Scrivener because its compiling and formatting features are the best in the business. And that’s the thing; no writer is the same, and I can’t expect everyone to constantly use Scrivener, because I don’t use it for every step in my creative process. However, I notice that authors and bloggers and writers of all sorts start to use the software more frequently when they learn how to actually use it the way it’s meant to be used.

I always hated Excel, until I took a class and found that calculating financial projections is a heck of a lot easier with a few simple formulas in a spreadsheet. The same goes for Scrivener. Honestly, I originally thought it looked like another clunky writing program, but to my surprise there are a handful of neat tricks that allow any writer to expedite the creation and publication process, even if you don’t always use the software to develop your content. Let’s take a look at some key Scrivener tips that help you learn how to write a book or refine your process like the pros.

Copy and Paste Formatting

copy and paste formatting on scrivener

Since I tend to write in ZenWriter for distraction free writing, I often copy and paste content from there to Scrivener. I also occasionally copy and paste content from Google Docs since my stupid Chromebook only lets me use Google Docs while I’m on the go. This means that when I paste something into Scrivener it doesn’t always keep the formatting I have maintained throughout the document. Even when you paste and match style it always seems to require additional edits.

This is on of the key Scrivener tips because it allows you to select a piece of formatting you want on your screen, copy it, then select the text you want to change and paste the formatting to make everything look exactly the same throughout your book. It saves loads of time instead of reformatting everything right before publication.

Create a Synopsis and Never Click Back to Look at It

I often forget what’s happening next in the stories I write, so this feature works wonders. In order to create a synopsis for a scene simply click on the Chapter folder that scene resides in.

chapter folder

Go to the Green plus sign and select the New Text option. This brings up a a new card for you to fill in your synopsis for the scene.

new text

scene synopsis

Most authors know these previous Scrivener tips, but the cool part is where you don’t have to look back at the synopsis in order to refresh your memory. Simply scroll over the scene name on the left hand side to see the synopsis.

scroll over

Working on an iPad

This doesn’t seem to work for people with Windows Scrivener versions, but it’s a handy little tip for Mac users. If you want to work on your Scrivener project on your iPad you can sync your work with an app called Simplenote. Download the app on your iPad and create an account.


Then go to File > Sync > …with Simplenote and Scrivener sends a text copy of your work to the app. Once you are done working in Simplenote you actually have to import the file back into Scrivener. It’s not the best solution for working on the move, but it’s better than nothing.

Find and Replace

With Word and other text editors it’s quite simple to locate a certain word or phrase and replace it with something else. I tend to use filler words or names for characters, places or devices in my stories until I come up with solid names. Unfortunately, Scrivener makes it a bit tricky to find and replace, but the feature is there.

find and replace for scrivener

Go to Edit > Find > Project Replace. This allows you to type in a word that you want to replace throughout the entire document and then replace it with a new one. This is one of those Scrivener tips that had me slapping my head, but honestly, Scrivener should have made it easier in the first place.

project replace as scrivener tips

This is a great feature for learning how to write a book faster. Spending time researching on a first draft is tedious and inefficient. Once you get the first draft pumped out you can go and replace filler words.

Generate Names That Have Meaning

If you don’t already know, Scrivener provides a tool that helps you generate names for characters. You can find this by going to Tools > Writing Tools > Name Generator.

name generator for scrivener tips

Personally I find that it discounts character personalities when I just grab a random name. I want my names to have meanings that correlate to the character personalities and traits. In order to do this you have to navigate to the Name Generator, click on the First Name Meanings tab and type whatever you want in the search area. For example, if my one character is a fast runner I might want her name to reflect that. I type in “fast” in the search area, select “In name meaning” and click the Search key.

name generator search scrivener tips

This gives me options like Acira, which means swift, fast and brief. It also has an origin area which is cool for locating names that need to sound like they come from a certain geographical location.

Comments and Footnotes in Fullscreen Mode

scrivener tips comments and footnotes in fullscreen

Although I still think ZenWriter has a better fullscreen option, Scrivener comes in a close second. If you need to place a footnote or comment while in fullscreen mode you need to use shortcuts. Use Shift+f4 for comments and Shift+f5 for footnotes. This prevents having to exit out of fullscreen mode whenever you need to jot down a comment.

Label Colors for Better Organization

If you feel more organized with color coordination you can go to View >Use Label Color In, and select to put different colors on Binders, Icons, Index Cards and Outliner Rows. I’m not a fan of color coordination, but other experts agree that color use is great advice if you want to learn how to write a book faster.

label color navigation for scrivener tips

label colors in scrivener

Project Targets

srivener tips for project targets

I’m more likely to finish a story or article if I give myself a target to achieve. Scrivener includes a project target feature to keep you motivated. Click on the Project tab, then navigate to Project Targets to set a target for the entire project and for the day. If you want to learn how to write a book more efficiently you need to start with goals.

Print Out Character, Places, Vehicles and Other Needs

While I research a book and continue writing I like to put together folders in Scrivener to keep track of characters, places, vehicles, buildings and even new devices I make up. The problem is that when you start adding tons of these items it’s difficult to navigate from a scene to one of these folders, because you have to scroll down and click out of the scene you’re writing in. I solve this by printing out my research lists.

print out vehicle list in scrivener

Select the folder you placed all your vehicles, characters or whatever in and go to File > Print Current Document. This gives you a nice roundup of your research in hardcopy form.

print current document in scrivener

Typewriter Scrolling

typewriter scrolling in scrivener

It’s a simple feature, but it should really be activated from the start, since typewriter scrolling moves the page along as you hit Enter or a sentence spills onto another line. Go to Format > Options > Typewriter Scrolling so the page moves slightly higher whenever you move to a new line, similar to a piece of paper in a typewriter.

Share your thoughts on these Scrivener tips in the comments section below, and let me know if you plan on using them as you learn how to write a book more efficiently.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.