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Scrivener’s best for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is coming! Worried about how you can reach your 50K words? Scrivener can’t do the writing for you, but it can certainly make the job easier.

Here are some of Scrivener's best features to help keep you on track when you’re burning up the keyboard.

Stay on Track

Staying on track for NaNo is not easy, but keeping track of your progress is a cinch if you use Project Targets.

You know you need 50,000 words, 1667 per day if you write all 30 days. Set up your overall word count goal, and then a session goal for each time you sit down to write. The colorful progress bars will show you how you’re doing.

Mac users can use the Deadline setting under Options to calculate the session target automatically based on the days you plan to work. And when you're done, you can tweet your results right from the Project Targets window by clicking the blue bird!

For more on Project Targets, check out this post.

Enter Your Den of Zen

If you’re like me, you write better without distractions. Scrivener has you covered with Composition Mode (Mac)/Full Screen Mode (Windows).

You can change your background color to whatever gets your creative juices flowing and block out everything else. Mac users can even change the background to an image.

Learn more here.

Don’t Slow Down

Haven’t figured out that line of snappy dialogue? Need a fact, but don’t want to stop your momentum to research it? Insert an annotation and get back to work.

Annotations are colored bubbles of text that you insert directly into your writing. They’re easy-to-spot reminders that something needs fixed, but later, after NaNo. And when you’re ready to make the changes, they’re simple to find again.

Click here to learn more about annotations.

Also, consider creating a Change Log or Ideas Log document in the Binder to store ideas for earlier scenes, or those that might come later in the manuscript. You can jot down an idea when inspiration hits, and then get back to writing. When NaNo is over, your ideas will all be waiting.

Info at a Glance

Need quick access to your character’s names and/or basic info? Or your descriptions of locations? Or a reminder of what special power each character has?

Whatever it is, in addition to storing a complete document in the Binder, you can put an abbreviated list in the Project Notes section of the Inspector panel. Not only does this make it available without leaving the document you’re working on (or using split screen), but you can view the Project Notes pane from Composition/Full Screen view.

Easy Access

Don’t forget to import your must-have research, notes, references, and images before you get started. By storing key items within Scrivener, you won’t have to waste time hunting them down when you’re in a crunch.

Remember to breathe, relax, and have fun. Even if you don’t reach 50K, you’ll come out knowing you gave it your best shot, and you’ll likely have more words than you otherwise would have.

Good luck!

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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Tech Tuesday: Annotations in Scrivener

Do you ever wish you could scribble on your manuscript? Maybe you want to make notes about a particular paragraph you're struggling with, or mark a place that requires further research.

You guessed it. Scrivener has a function for that. It's called Annotations.

Add an Annotation

To activate the Annotation feature:

  1. Choose Format—>Inline Annotation.
  2. Type in your note or reminder. Make sure to set your spacing as if the annotation wasn't there, otherwise it'll be off when you print/export your manuscript.
  3. Click outside of annotation, or go to Format—>Inline Annotation to turn it off (or, even easier, use Shift+Cmd+A for Mac, Ctrl+Shift+A for Windows).

Change the Color

If the glaring red color is too distracting, you can change it.


All future annotations will be in the new color, but previously created annotations are not affected.

  1. Select the annotation text.
  2. From the Format bar, choose the desired text color (or go to Format—>Font—>Show Colors and select a color).


All current and future annotations will have the new color.

  1. Go to Tools—>Options—>Appearance.
  2. In the Colors section, click the expansion arrow next to Editor (or double-click Editor) and select Annotation Text in the list.
  3. Click the color box to the right and select the desired annotation color.Options window, Appearance tab with Annotation text selected
  4. Click OK to apply your changes and close the Options window.

Find Your Annotations

Here's the most important part of all. After you've gone through your manuscript and you want to find the notes you made to yourself, there's an easy search.

  1. Go to Edit—>Find—>Find by Formatting.
  2. When the box opens, choose Inline Annotations.
  3. To search for the next one, click Next.

If you code your Annotations (for revisions, research, etc.), you can search for only those annotations relating to what you're ready to work on. How cool is that?

  1. In the Containing Text: box, enter the search string you want to look for.
  2. Click Next. Scrivener will return the next annotation that meets your search criteria.

Dealing with Annotations During Compile

When you're ready to export/print your manuscript, you have a couple of options. In Compile Manuscript, under the Text Options tab, you can choose to Remove Annotations or Export Annotations as RTF.

The first option strips them out of your MS. This is where the spacing becomes important. The second option embeds the annotations in your MS (much as they look on your screen), in red and flanked by square brackets.

For all you contest judges, I could see importing the electronic entry into Scrivener, making your comments through annotations, and then exporting it with the Export Annotations as RTF feature selected. This gives you the commenting ease of Word's Track Changes function, but provides a contest-friendly RTF output.

What's your favorite way to use annotations?

Need more Scrivener 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.

Write on!

[Post updated 7/6/17]

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