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Revisions in Scrivener

proofreader's marks

With my debut romantic suspense novel releasing next week, you can bet I’ve been spending a lot of time in revisions over the last few months. Everyone has their own process for handling edits in Scrivener, but since some of you have asked, here’s mine.

I make all of my changes directly in Scrivener. I prefer to work with two monitors when I’m referring to comments from an editor, beta reader, or proofreader. If you can beg, borrow, or buy a second monitor, I can’t recommend it enough (unless you have a mammoth one already, in which case you can probably just view both windows side by side).

There are three main tools I use when working on revisions: annotationssnapshots, and color-coded labels. (The links will take you to my posts with more detail on using each feature.)


Annotations are a pre-revision tool for me. I use them to make notes to myself about areas that need something (e.g. more research, a conversation I’m not ready to write), usually while I’m writing and don’t know what to put in a specific spot yet. I also use them to make notes where I’m not 100% happy with what I have, but haven’t figured out how to make better (e.g. catchier opening line, better chapter-ending hook, snappier dialogue).

When I’m ready to deal with all of my annotations, I can just go to Edit—>Find—>Find By Formatting and step through them. Or, I handle them as I'm doing a read-through of the manuscript.

Comments work in a similar way. If you prefer to be able to see your notes in the sidebar, and don’t want them embedded within the text, comments might be a better option for you.

Finding Annotations


Now, before I actually address an annotation—or a note from my beta reader or editor—I (try hard to remember to) take a snapshot of the document I’m about to edit.

A snapshot (Documents—>Snapshot—>Take Snapshot) is a record of the document as it is right now, that gets saved as part of the document’s meta-data. It’s a great way to keep track of different versions of a scene or section without muddying up your binder with versions. I rarely go back to an old version, but I like knowing I can find my original words, if necessary.

If you’re worried about forgetting, you can select all of the documents you expect to work on that day and use the Take Snapshot command to capture all of them. The snapshot for a document is viewable in the Inspector. Just click the camera icon at the bottom.

Snapshots in Scrivener

Color-coded Labels

When I’m in the early revision stages—essentially before sending to my editor—I don’t really bother to keep track of my editing passes, though you certainly can. If you’re very methodical about it, making one pass for emotion, one for setting, and so on, you might want to use my post-editor method for all of your revisions, using additional label values.

Once I have my editor’s comments in hand, I want to make sure I know which documents I’ve finished and which ones still need work. I accomplish this by changing the use of the Label field from POV (what I generally track when I’m writing fiction) to Edit Stage (I didn’t actually rename it or get rid of the POV values, but you could).

Then I create labels that apply to each of the rounds I intend to make. In the case of BLIND FURY, I had three values: one for each of the editorial rounds I went through, as well as one to show that I had completed the proofreader’s fixes.

Revision Labels

I always have icon colors turned on (View—>Use Label Color In—>Icons) so I can see the editing status of each chapter and document at a glance.

Colored Icons in Binder

Working in Full Screen Composition mode

I like to work in Full Screen Composition mode, so to start, I select my first document, enter full screen, and click the Inspector button to view it and moved it to the corner (in Windows it looks more like the standard inspector).

Full Screen Composition Mode

Then it goes something like this:

1. Make edits to the document.

2. Change the label value in the Inspector to show that the document has been edited.

3. Use the Go To button to navigate to the next document I want to edit.

4. Repeat.

This process means I don’t have to exit full screen composition mode every time I want to label the document and switch to a new one.

Any questions? Want to share your method?

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

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  1. Reply

    I’ve never used Scrivener but it seems complicated? What’s the main benefit of using it over Word, (which I’m just getting the hang of )

  2. Reply

    Gwen, thanks for such a helpful post. Especially for your tips on using Annotations & Comments.

    My DH is my first editor and uses Nisus to write his edits/comments. I was going a little nutty switching back and forth between the two. Then—after much longer than I will admit :-(—it dawned on me I could copy his comments and paste them into Notes. So now I have the editor open and, floating to the left of it, Notes. As I address each comment, I use strike-through to indicate I’ve finished. Works like a dream!

  3. John Yeoman


    Thanks for this, Gwen. I’m just working my way through your excellent Scrivener for Dummies. I’ve already discovered that Scrivener is essentially intuitive – once one has worked one’s way around the tabs – but the Compilation process is the killer. It’s fiddly and unforgiving. I’ve managed to produce one Kindle book that way perfectly, and one that persisted in losing its cover. Yet I followed the same process in each case. I guess I’ll be contacting you for one-to-one help before long 🙂

    • Reply

      Hi, John! I agree. It’s intuitive once you get a feel for how things work. 😉 Compile is definitely challenging. So powerful, but so much to think about. I do a lot of tweaking until I have it just right, then I save those settings as a preset so I don’t have to go through it again. 😉

  4. Reply

    Reblogged this on Angela's Hub On WordPress and commented:
    Wonderful advice, as always, Gwen. Thanks for the helpful reminder about snapshots. I tend to forget, and then gnash my teeth when I get too happy slashing and burning. I’m putting SNAPSHOTS on a sticky and pasting it to my monitor. 🙂

  5. Reply

    Good stuff, Gwen, but more than anything, I wanted to say how nice the blog looks! I love the clean header, background, fonts, and the colors you chose.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Ferd, I really appreciate it! I figured now that I’m going to have fiction and nonfiction out there I need to streamline things a bit. I might eventually change my theme, but I’m taking it slowly because it’s easy to get sucked into playing with it and I don’t have time for that right now! 🙂

  6. Reply

    Thanks for the info, Gwen. As always, it seems to fit right in with whatever I’m currently slogging through with my writing and Scrivener. And, as Ferd pointed out, your new blog look is very nice! Have a great weekend.

  7. Pingback: Revisions in Scrivener | Everything Scrivener

  8. Reply

    Hi Gwen,

    Thanks for all your posts on Scrivener. I’m finding them incredibly helpful in addition to your book on Scrivener, which has saved me immense frustration multiple times.

    I do have a question: is it possible to search all snapshots? I had the experience recently of needing to find something from an old version but not remembering which document it had been in. I couldn’t find a way to search all snapshots so I had to look through each individually. It was maddening so I’ve started duplicating my Draft folder before making big revisions, but as you mentioned it does make the binder a little cluttered.


    • Reply

      swalkerc: Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to search the snapshots, though I could see how that would be useful. Maybe you could add it to the wish list on the Scrivener forum. Glad you’re finding the posts helpful otherwise. Good luck with your writing!

  9. Reply

    That’s a great guide. I’m just finishing revisions on my first book. I did all of my revisions in Scrivener in a way very similar to what you’ve described. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Scrivener. Unfortunately, my editor insisted on working in MS Word for the revisions I did with him. I was reluctant but agreed.

    Wow… If there’s one thing that Word still has over Scrivener, it’s the Change Tracking features. My editor went in and made changes to my document and then sent it back to me. All I had to do was step through the changes one by one and approve, reject, or modify his alterations. The entire process saved me a ton of time and heavy-lifting. Otherwise, I would’ve had to go through his notes and make the changes to my file manually and I would still be working on it.

    I’ll continue to do all of my writing in Scrivener for dozens of reasons. But I’ve come to realize that, if there’s one feature that L&L needs to add to the application it’s Word like Change Tracking. I can do without M$ products as a whole, but they really nailed it when it comes to that particular feature set!

    • Reply

      Thanks, smanke! It would be nice if they could integrate the Track Changes functionality into Scrivener somehow. Right now it’ll bring in the comments, but not handle the changes well. I just can’t bring myself to write in Word if I can help it, so I suck it up and plug in the extra monitor. 😉

      • Reply

        I’m with on the 2nd monitor, one hundred percent! That makes life so much easier in so many situations. I think that some people find the 2nd screen intimidating. But for anyone who gives it a chance it quickly become a power-tool!

        • Reply

          Yep, can’t live without mine for revisions, working on class lessons, or anything where I need to flip back and forth a lot. I got hooked when I was doing a lot of software testing. Make changes to the code on one screen, run the new version on the other. So much faster! I’ll never go back.

          • Reply

            Once you try a three-monitor system…you’ll NEVER go back. Really.

            My desktop setup is: left and right ones are both 24 inch monitors set up in landscape mode (at 1920×1080 and 1920×1200 pixels respectively.) The center monitor is a portrait display (like a page of paper in a typewriter…Typewriter??? OK…so, I’m really OLD. Ha!) at 1080×1920 pixels resolution.

            The center monitor handles a full-page (at up to 130% size or so) for writing–even legal size, (8-1/2 x 14 inch) paper when I’m working in a residential appraisal form, for example. The monitors on the left and write handle research, references, music, multiple browser windows and tabs, directory windows for my Google Drive, SkyDrive, and DropBox folders…etc etc.

            A $150 Nvidia PCI video card (got it on Amazon) with one HDMI port and two digital ports–the white or black colored video cable connectors (the older, blue video cable connectors are VGA?) connects all three monitors to the back of my old i7-CPU, DELL desktop. I run Windows 7 Pro.

            Pretty sweet system. Very productive. Cheers.

            • Reply

              Awesome, Steve! I do occasionally set up my iPad as a kind of third monitor when I’m looking at my own revision notes on the EPUB version of my book. Thanks for sharing your setup. 😉

    • Reply

      I believe the Mac version of Scrivener has a track changes feature (Format > Revisions?), but yes, it would be really useful to have that feature in the Windows version as well.

      • Reply

        marinamichaels: The Mac version has Revision marking, but it’s not like Track Changes in Word. It just changes the text color so you can see which changes are new. It doesn’t preserve old and new versions of the text, or have a way to accept/reject changes. What should be coming to Windows is the ability to compare snapshot versions. That’s handy. 🙂

        • Reply

          Thanks for this post!
          How do you go about working with a proofreader? Do you copy and past what they proofread back into scrivener?

          • Reply

            jescopuluj: I handle proofreader’s comments just like I handle my editor’s comments. I review the suggestions on one screen and enter them in Scrivener on the other. If I’m worried about making a mistake, I’ll copy the proofreader’s changes and use Edit–>Paste & Match Style to paste them back into Scrivener. 🙂

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    • Reply

      Angela: I agree that would be useful. Snapshots provides a comparison option on the Mac version, which gives you something similar. I’ll be curious to see what Scrivener 3.0 has to offer for both platforms. 🙂

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