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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.

It’s all in my head

My husband caught me standing in front of my computer staring off into space once. “What are you doing?” he asked.

Me: “Working.”

I’ve been doing a lot of that kind of work lately. Hours and hours of it.

It’s directly related to the revise-and-resubmit letter I got from an editor a couple weeks ago. At first I focused on the minor revisions to fix some less-than-heroic actions on my hero’s part.

That was the easy stuff.

But I’m sure if it were that simple she would have said, “Fix these and I’ll send you a contract.”

How’s that for wishful thinking?

Unfortunately, she also mentioned this pesky thing about the internal conflict getting in the way of them working together toward a common goal. But wait, I thought, what about them trying to stay alive? Find her friend? Stay alive? Hide from the police? Stay alive?

Okay, but I also see where she’s coming from. An agent made a similar point last year. I think the problem is that they don’t start really working together until the second half of the book. They’re stuck together, hiding out together, but totally at odds with each other over a secret the hero’s keeping.

It works for me. My critique partners and beta readers didn’t have a problem with it. But, the industry folks—the ones who rep authors or buy their books, the ones I need to impress—do.

‘Nuff said.

An R&R is hard because there’s no editorial relationship. I can’t ask follow-up questions or push back. I have to go with what I think she meant in her one or two sentences of feedback and hope I know what the hell I’m doing.

So, I’m back to staring off into space a lot, followed by flurries of scribbling in bright colors on too-small whiteboards, and almost no actual writing. There’s nothing to write or revise when I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the essence of the story I love so much, while making it better.

Read: publishable.

All this hard thinking is the reason I started tracking my hours—though I don’t count the time I ponder my MS while driving, running, trying to sleep—in addition to my word count. If I had to gauge my progress by word count right now I’d be looking for a day job again.

Instead, I’ll go back the hard work of staring off into space.

Photo credit: Hansjorn [Public domain, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tech Tuesday: Snapshots in Scrivener 2.x

Planning to edit a file, but don’t want to lose your current version? Try Snapshots. The Snapshots feature has been upgraded in Scrivener 2.x and is now infinitely more useful. Let’s take a look.

Create a Snapshot of Your Current File

Use these steps when your cursor is in the editor pane of the file you want (the file is highlighted in gray in the Binder instead of blue).

  1. From the Documents menu, choose Snapshots, Take Snapshot. (Or, my preference, use the shortcut cmd+5).
  2. Alternatively, you can click the Snapshots button (which looks like a camera) at the bottom of the Inspector pane, and click the + button to take a Snapshot.
  3. Note that the Snapshots button now has an asterisk in it. This tells you that the document has one or more snapshots associated with it. Another snapshots “tell” is the folded right corner of the document icon in the Binder.

Create a Snapshot of One or More Files by Selecting in the Binder

If you want to take a snapshot of a file you’re not yet editing, or of multiple files, use this method.

  1. Select the file(s) in the Binder. (Use shift+click for continuous selection, or cmd+click for non-contiguous.)
  2. From the Documents menu, choose Snapshots, Take Snapshots of Selected Documents (cmd+5 works here too).

Adding a Title to Your Snapshots

Snapshots are tracked by the date and time they were saved, but you can also give them a title. To save a Snapshot with a title from the very beginning, use one of the two methods above, but choose Take Titled Snapshots of Selected Documents (or shift+cmd+5). To add a title after the fact…

  1. In the Inspector pane, double-click in the Title box for the Snapshot you want to name.
  2. Enter a title.

Great, so you have a snapshot. Now what? Now you can go on your merry way, editing without fear of losing your original words. But let's say you think your earlier version might have a better opening paragraph and you want to go back and look. One of the great new features in 2.x is the ability to easily compare versions of a document.

Compare view in the Snapshots pane

Compare a Snapshot with the Current Version

  1. In the Binder, select the file you want to compare.
  2. In the Inspector, click on the Snapshots button.
  3. Choose the snapshot you’d like to compare to, and click the Compare button.
  4. Added text will be underlined in blue. Deleted text will be crossed out and red.
  5. To adjust the level of granularity, click the down arrow next to the Compare button. I suggest leaving all three checked unless all you've done is added and subtracted whole paragraphs. Play with it, but it can be confusing at paragraph level if you made a lot of small changes.
  6. Use the right and left arrow buttons to move among the flagged changes. Or just scroll in the pane.
  7. If you decide that you like the entire Snapshot better than the current version, you can easily reinstate the snapshot by clicking the Roll Back button. You will be prompted to take a snapshot of the current version before you roll back, just in case you have regrets.
  8. When you're done looking at snapshots, you can click the Original button to view the selected snapshot in the Snapshots pane without highlighted changes. (This is the default view when you first open the Snapshots pane.)

Did you notice something annoying about comparing the two versions? The Snapshots pane is kind of small, isn’t it? No problem. You can also compare versions using Split Screen.

Compare Using Split Screen Mode

  1. Click the Toggle Split button at the top right corner of the Editor pane.
  2. To see the snapshot without red/blue edits, drag the snapshot you want to view from the list in the Snapshots pane to the header of the split window you want to view it in.
  3. If you want the edits to show in the the text editor, hold down the Option key while dragging the desired snapshot to the editor pane. (Thanks to MM for sharing this capability!)

The snapshot is read-only and can’t be edited. However, you can copy and paste from the snapshot in the editor pane to your current file.

Comparing versions in Split Screen mode

Delete Snapshots

Got some old versions you know you don't want? Delete them. Here's how.

  1. In the Snapshots pane, select the version you want to delete.
  2. Click the – (minus) button in the top right corner of the pane.
  3. A warning dialog box will appear. If you're sure you want to delete it, click OK.

So, that's a quick snapshot of Snapshots. 😉 For another method for keeping old versions of your files, see Snapshots and Unused Scenes (written for 1.x). For more help, check out the insanely thorough Scrivener manual under the Help menu, or try Scrivener's online help.

Write on!

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: Snapshots and Unused Scenes in Scrivener

If you're planning to revise a scene (or whole section of your MS), it's smart to keep a backup of the old version in case you change your mind. Especially if you're making major changes.

Within Scrivener, one option for keeping the original version of a scene is through the Snapshots feature. It allows you to roll back to the old version of a document, and is a quick, painless way to save a document version before you edit.

You can even select multiple documents and take their snapshots all at once (Documents, Snapshots, Take Snapshots of Selected Documents).

Unfortunately, the only way to tell if a document has a Snapshot associated with it is by looking for a tabbed corner on the document icon. There's no list of Snapshots available.

For me, however, the biggest drawback to using Snapshots, is that you can't compare the earlier version side-by-side to the new version of your document, or to other snapshots of that file.

So what's a writer to do? I've created my own system.

Under the Research section in the Binder, I created a folder called Unused Scenes. This is where I store any scene that I've either taken out of the manuscript, or a copy of any scene I've drastically revised. I do this for several reasons.

  1. Sometimes I want to mine the scene for use elsewhere in the MS.
  2. I can compare the old and new scene side-by-side in the Editor pane using the Split Screen function.
  3. I can quickly see which scenes I have old versions of.
  4. Storing these scenes in the references section keeps them from being calculated in the word count, while leaving them easily accessible.

The Snapshots feature has its place, and I still use it frequently, however, for major revisions I prefer to copy the file and move the old version into my Unused Scenes folder.

I'm sure there are other ways to do this. Any ideas?

For great help on using Snapshots, choose Scrivener Help from the Help menu, or view the Snapshots video at the Scrivener Tutorial Videos page.

Happy editing!

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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Must read for writers

If you're a writer, I highly recommend Natalie Whipple's “Stages of Editing” post from her blog Between Fact & Fiction. You will not regret the time spent reading it. I plan to print and bookmark the page, and review her list when I start revisions at the beginning of February.

One thing that jumped out at me was that she does multiple plot revisions. I thought, “Wow, so I should just relax and get it on paper, and quit worrying about getting it perfect!” Well, duh, but I've been struggling with this all week. I'm in the middle of the book's climax and it doesn't feel big or drawn out enough, and I'm not 100% sure of the best way to get my characters out of it.

I need to go back to my Rule of Six lists and just keep writing.

My favorite Nora Roberts quote seems appropriate here: “You can fix a bad page. You can't fix a blank one.”

The Daily Squirrel: swim

Her breath echoed in her head, the water muffling the outside noise as if her ears were plugged. She kicked her legs and pushed through the water, free from the sounds of ringing phones, office chatter, and her boss's booming voice.


At the end of the lane, she flipped and pushed off the wall, weightless and swift as the water cradled and caressed her. Free of the pantyhose that left a red ring on her waist for hours after she removed them. Free from the fashionable heels that had her hobbling by the end of the day.


Oh, to be a fish and never have to come up for air.

Cleaning up

Whenever I have company coming, I notice things that have been invisible to me for weeks. Dust on the end table, a pair of socks in the corner that I've walked past 100 times, writing paraphernalia stacked on the table. When I look at my house through the eyes of a guest, I see all sorts of dirt and clutter.

My manuscript is the same way. When I look at it through a reader's eyes, problems pop out all over the place. If I know that someone else is going to read my work, the dirty socks and dust bunnies are suddenly visible. I still miss some spots, I'm sure, but just the act of getting my MS ready for my critique partner, or posting a sample scene from my work on this blog, changes my perspective.

The real challenge for me is maintaining that reader's perspective. How do you do it?

The Daily Squirrel: watchband

She tugged the watchband, pulling it tight to get it buckled, and the damn thing snapped. The watch bounced off the edge of the rug and slid under her dresser. She didn't have time for this. Snatching up her leather tote, she hustled out the door and walked briskly toward the metro.

If she weren't in heels, she'd be tempted to run. Why hadn't she set a backup alarm? She should have anticipated a power outage when the thunderstorm started. Now, she might miss her only chance to get Dave Arnault's business. They'd met several times, and he seemed interested in her graphic design work, but this was the formal meeting that would make or break the deal.

Just outside the station entrance a voice behind her said, “Excuse me, ma'am. Do you have the time? I think I'm running late for a meeting, but I forgot my watch.”

She glanced at her bare wrist. “Sorry.” She turned to look at him and had to laugh when she recognized his face. “Dave?”

The End is just the beginning

Most non-writers believe that once you type “The End”, you're done. Hah! Far from it. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've revised Counting on You (a.k.a. COY) since I “finished” it.

The first couple of revisions were based on things I'd learned (through workshops, books on writing, and experience) since starting the book. When I let a few trusted people read it, I got feedback about plot issues and unanswered questions. Back to the keyboard.

Later, I found a critique partner, entered a couple of contests…more (very helpful) feedback. Back to the…well you get the idea.

As much as I love my story, and mostly agree with the feedback I've received, the writer in me has moved on. I'm about halfway through Floater. That's where my brain is focused, and where I want to spend my time.

On the other hand, I'm hoping to get a request for the complete manuscript of COY from an agent or editor one of these days. If I do, I won't have time to go back and fix it then.

Should I be lucky enough to get a publication contract for COY (hey, one can dream), the editor will surely require more revisions. Truly, to be a writer, is to be a re-writer.

If I want to be a published author, I have to figure out how to deal with this now. The more experience and feedback I get, the better I am at avoiding the amateur mistakes from the beginning, but even the best writers–yes, even Nora Roberts and Ken Follett–have to revise their work before it's ready for publication.

I guess it's just a fact of writing life.

The End…for now.

The Daily Squirrel: composure

Standing behind the curtain, she cursed her shaky hands, the adrenaline flooding her veins, and the sweat trickling down her back. She should be used to this by now, but it never changed. Once on stage, she'd be fine, but the minutes leading up to her speech were pure torture. Finally, the emcee called her name. She took a deep breath, stood up straight, and smiled. Cool composure settled over her like a veil, and she walked onto the stage with her head held high. If only her parents could see her now.