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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: Full Screen (Composition Mode) in Scrivener 2.x

full screen composition mode with image

Sometimes you just need to block out all distractions and write. That’s where Scrivener’s Full Screen feature (called Composition Mode on the Mac) comes in.

Entering Full Screen/Composition Mode

When you’re ready to block out everything and write, don a pair of noise-canceling headphones, hide your phone, and enter Full Screen/Composition mode (hereafter called FS/C for short).

  • Mac: Go to View—>Enter Composition Mode.
  • Windows: Go to View—>Enter Full Screen.

Or, click the appropriate button on the toolbar.

Composition mode button


full screen button


By default, FS/C looks like this. Plain, but effective.

FS/C mode with black background

Making Changes with the Control Strip

Text too small? Paper too wide? When you first enter FS/C, or any time you point your mouse to the bottom of the screen, the control strip pops up.


It contains options for changing the text zoom, paper position, paper width, and background fade. It also displays the word and character count for the document(s) being viewed.

NOTE: Changes made here only affect the current project.

Changing the Background Color or Image for All Projects

Project-specific settings can be changed from the control strip, but global settings are available in the Scrivener Preferences/ Options menu.

1. Mac users go to Scrivener—>Preferences. Windows users go to Tools—>Options.

2. Choose Compose (Mac) or Appearance (Windows).

3. Mac users go to Customizable Colors at the bottom, and select Background. Windows users go to the Colors section, click the triangle next to Full Screen, then select Background.

Preferences, Compose Mac


Options, Appearance Windows


4. To change the color, click the colored square and choose a new color.

Selecting a Background Image for a Single Project

Rather than color, I often opt to use a background image. Sometimes it’s just a picture that puts me in the mood to write, like a calming ocean scene, and sometimes it’s an image that keeps me in the setting of my story.

Background images are set at the project level, and will override the global color choice you made in the last section. Here’s how to add an image.

1. Make sure the image you want is accessible from a drive on your computer (e.g. hard drive, flash drive, Dropbox), or is imported into your current Scrivener project (i.e. in the Binder).

2. Go to View—>Composition Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop (Windows).

3. If the image you want is saved within your project, choose it from the submenu. If not, click Choose and select the desired file from your computer.

4. Click Open.

Next time you enter FS/C mode, your background image is displayed.

FS/C with background image

Removing a Background Image

To remove the background image for a project, go to View—>Composition Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Windows).

Viewing the Inspector from Full Screen/Composition Mode

If you really need to take a peek at your Inspector—maybe to review the synopsis, or to change a Label or Status value—there’s no need to leave FS/C mode.

Simply click the Inspector button in the control strip.

inspector button

Mac users will see a modified version of the Inspector. Use the upper drop-down menu to choose which section of the Inspector you want to view.

Inspector in FS/C


inspector in FS/C mode


Switching Documents in Full Screen/Composition Mode

One of my favorite features—especially when I’m deep in revisions—is the ability to jump to another document without ever leaving FS/C mode and breaking your flow.

Just click the Go To button in the control strip to choose another document.

go to button in control panel

Exiting Full Screen/Composition Mode

When you're ready to exit Scrivener's den of zen, choose one of the following options.

  • Press the ESC key on your keyboard.
  • Pull up the control strip and click the Exit button at the far right.

Here's to distraction-free writing!

Want more? 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.

[Updated 12 October 2016]

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