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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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Tech Tuesday: Word frequency in Scrivener

Need to get rid of those echo words in your manuscript?

A while back, I wrote about a web site called Wordle that lets you create a word cloud showing your most commonly used words. Fun and highly distracting, but not very practical for regular use.

As it happens, Scrivener has a built-in feature that will display the frequency of every word in your document, or group of selected scenes. Here's how:

  1. Select the scene or scenes you wish to view.
    (As always, shift+click for contiguous selection, cmd+click for non-contiguous selection.)
  2. Click Edit Scrivenings.
  3. Click inside the editing window and press cmd+A (or Edit, Select All), to select all of the text in the window.
  4. From the View menu, choose Statistics, Text Statistics.
  5. If necessary, click the triangle next to Word frequency to display the chart.
  6. Click on either the Count or Frequency header to sort the words in descending order.

Voila! You'll want to scroll down to get past the, to, he, she, and so on, but it's worth it to have quick and easy access to your most frequently used words.

 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: Split and merge in Scrivener

Have you ever created a long scene and then decided it should really be two scenes? Maybe there's a great hook in the middle, or you missed a time change. Or maybe you imported your MS from Word, and now it's one long scene that you need to break up into 80!

No matter why you need to do it, splitting scenes is amazingly simple in Scrivener. Here's how:

  1. Place your cursor within the text where you want the split to occur.
  2. Go to Documents–>Split–>At Selection.
  3. Scrivener moves all of the text after your cursor into a new file with the same label as the original plus “-1”. For example, if my scene were called To Doctor, the section I split off would become To Doctor-1.

Voila! Scenes split. If you're splitting a large amount of text into many scenes, it's worth learning the shortcut for Split, which is Command+K (Mac) or Ctrl+K (Windows).

Okay, but let's say you wrote two scenes and they really should be one. Or you split a scene five months ago and you want to merge it back together. No sweat. Just use the Merge feature:

  1. Select the scenes you want to merge.
    – use Shift+click for contiguous scenes
    – use Command+click (Mac) or Ctrl+click (Windows) for non-contiguous scenes
  2. Go to Documents–>Merge.
  3. Scrivener merges all of the scenes into the top selection, in order from top to bottom. So, if you merged Scene 1, Scene 2, and Scene 14, all of the text would be moved to Scene 1 (in order).

That's it! If you like shortcuts, you'll find them on the menu. The one for Merge is Shift+Command+M (Mac) or Ctrl+M (Windows).

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.

[Edited 6/16/14]

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Tech Tuesday: Tracking progress in Scrivener

For the foreseeable future, I'm devoting Tuesdays to writing technology topics, usually related to Scrivener. Today's post shows you several ways to track your writing progress. If you have any requests relating to Scrivener, or other technical writing-related topics, let me know.

NOTE: Word counts in Scrivener are based on whatever you have selected in Compile Manuscript (under the File menu). So, if you've been printing synopses, you'll need to go back and select the Text checkbox, and make sure all files you want to count are selected.

My favorite tool for tracking my progress is the Project Targets box located under View, Statistics, Show Project Targets.

You can enter the overall target amount (in this case 80,000 words), and a target for each session. The session count is reset every time you close and reopen Scrivener, or when you press the reset button.

Until I found this, I was doing the math every day.

Another handy way to see how much you've written is the Project Statistics. This will show you total manuscript words, as well as the number of words in a selection of files. Use Shift+click to select a contiguous list of scenes or chapters (or Cmd+click for noncontiguous files), then click View, Statistics, Project Statistics.

What do I do with all of these numbers? Well, being the ANALyst that I am, I track my daily progress in a file called Productivity that I created under Resources section of the binder. It's just a text file where I include the date, final word count, net gain or loss, and any little notes to explain why I didn't hit 1000 words (revisions, etc). Maybe someday I'll even import it into Excel and make a pretty graph…

Happy tracking!

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.

UPDATE 9/20/10: If you just want to count the words in a selection of text (say several paragraphs out of a whole file), right-click (or ctrl-click) on the selected text to see the word count at the bottom of the pop-up menu.

UPDATE 2/3/11: For updates to Project Targets in Scrivener 2.x, see Project Targets in Scrivener 2.x.

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Full screen, label and status, printing synopses and notes

If you've been paying attention at all, you know I use–and adore–Scrivener for writing my MS. I use it for first draft, revisions, and pretty much until I'm ready to send it out. I export to Word only for the final formatting, read-through, super-fine polishing, and buffing.

Here are a few handy things to know. First of all, the Scrivener website has video tutorials that are very helpful. Also, if you're on Facebook, become a fan of Scrivener and you'll receive daily tips and tricks.

1. Working in full screen mode. Full screen mode is intended to take away the distraction of everything around what you're typing so you can focus. It offers the additional benefits of allowing you to change the background color to something you find pleasing, and keeping the line you're writing in the center of the page.

  • Click the Full Screen button on the toolbar.
  • Move mouse to bottom of the screen to get a disappearing tool bar where you can change some of the preferences, and exit.
  • You can also exit Full Screen by hitting the ESC key on your keyboard.
  • To change preferences such as background color, click Scrivener on the menu bar, choose Preferences, click the Full Screen button.
  • To work on more than one scene or chapter at a time, select them all using shift+click (for contiguous selection), or command+click (for non-contiguous files). Click Edit Scrivenings on the tool bar, then click Full Screen.

I've read that blue is a good background color for creative activities like writing, and red backgrounds are best for detail-oriented tasks like editing. Both are supposed to be good for boosting productivity.

2. Customize the Label and Status settings. It's easy to personalize the Label and Status drop-down menus in the Inspector window. You can change the name from Label to something else (I use POV, here), change the list items from things like “Chapter” and “Scene” to “Steve” and “Libby”, and change the colors used (I use pink for the heroine, blue for the hero, and other colors for any additional characters who get a POV scene).

  • If the Inspector window is not visible, click Inspector in the tool bar.
  • Expand the General pane, if needed, by clicking on the gray triangle.
  • Click the drop-down arrow next to Label (the box should have the words No Label in it if you're just getting started), and choose Edit…
  • In the Custom Title box, change the word Label to POV (or whatever you want to track).
  • You can then double-click the name of a specific label to change the text (say from Scene to Steve).
  • Double-click the color of the label to change its color.
  • Click the OK button, and you're ready to start assigning labels to your scenes.
  • You can repeat the above process with the Status drop-down menu, if desired.

Once you apply the label to a scene, the synopsis card, the file icon, and the index card will change to that color (if you have tinted icons or index cards turned on). If you're trying to determine quickly which character has the most scenes in their POV, color-coding can help.

UPDATE 3/23/10: I changed my Status menu to list the day and week to track my timeline. It's been very helpful to quickly see in the Corkboard where I am in the story (for example “Mon-1” for Monday of week 1). The options here are limited only by your imagination.

3. Print synopsis (or notes) only. Finally–for today, anyway–you can print your synopses. They will not come out looking like index cards, but instead like paragraphs.

  • Click File, Compile Manuscript.
  • On the Content tab, under the Document Elements section (bottom right), uncheck everything except the Synopses check box.
  • The default will include the # symbol between each scene (file). To change this, select the Text Options tab and change the separator under the Sections area (top left corner).
  • Choose Print…
  • UPDATE 1/15/10: This works for printing Notes, too. Just follow the steps above, but select Notes instead of Synopses.

Just like any software, you can learn a lot by exploring. Don't be afraid to check out a new button, or search Help.

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.

Happy Scrivening!

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Back stretch

It's only day six of 2010, and I'm already having to learn flexibility when it comes to my new goals. It seems that when I'm a bit stumped in my writing, and feel unable to add another word to the scene I'm working on, I play instead.

How will Steve and Libby get out of this one? I don't know. I'll check email. Maybe I'll get a good idea. Yeah, right. Usually the only good idea I get is to respond to comments on my web post, or update Facebook. Speaking of which, hang on, I'll be right back…

I've had to find a way to avoid temptation when I'm less than motivated to move forward in my book. So, yesterday, I moved backward instead. I made a list of fill-in scenes for earlier parts of the book that need to be written. Then I picked one and wrote it.

[NOTE: Here's where the beauty of Scrivener comes in. I can easily move scenes, add in placeholder scenes with synopses, etc. See this link for my post on Scrivener. If you're writing on a Mac, click the link at the right and get it NOW. No, I don't get paid to say that, I just LOVE the program.]

I was still adding to the story, just out of order. My mind re-engaged. Beautiful prose abounded. Well, prose of some sort anyway.

Another trick I used was to start revising already written scenes from earlier in the MS. Now that I know my characters better, and understand how their story will unfold, I could fill in missing pieces of characterization, deepen the emotion of certain events, and just notice areas where there needed to be more…something.

This works for me because I tend to write concise scenes with the minimum to get the job done (and sometimes not even enough for that). My scenes feel very bare bones at times. For those who tend to puke all over the page for 200,000 words and then cut like crazy, I guess it might not be as helpful, unless they're trying to work their way down to a certain word count.

The last thing I've decided to do is give myself small rewards. Realistically, if I can't do any fun stuff until I've finished my 1000 words, I'll probably cheat. Especially on those days when putting in 1000 words is like shoveling snow. It looks easy but takes four times longer than you expect. I will not be able to wait ten hours to check my email or read a few blogs.

My new plan is to allow 30 minutes of “play” for every 3-400 words I write. I'm starting tomorrow. We'll see how it goes. This too may need to be flexed.

Do you flex your goals at all?

The Daily Squirrel: Robert's view

If he married the widow, he'd never have to rob another bank. No more unreliable getaway drivers, run-ins with the cops, or weeping tellers. No more running. He could live the good life and it would be legal. It almost seemed unfair.

Mary Weatherly was in decent shape for a forty-something. And with her cash, he could overlook a few wrinkles and gray hairs. He could get it up for her, no problem. If she kept him happy, he might not even have to keep a girl on the side.

“What about Rita?” John raised an eyebrow at him.

“What about Rita?” Robert asked, picturing the hot woman he'd shared a bed with for over a year. “She doesn't have any money.”

The written word…without Word

You're probably intimately familiar with some sort of word processing software, especially if you're a writer. But, while Microsoft Word and similar programs are great for formatting a finished manuscript, business letters, and other documents, they may not be the best software for writing a story.

There are several programs out there for writers, and there's a good reason for it. Traditional word processors force you to write linearly, or cobble together multiple documents if you don't.  Good writing software can free you to write in the way that works best for you.

At a friend's suggestion, I tried Scrivener (UPDATE 1/13/11: Which now has a Windows version in the works) and ended up buying it well before the free trial ended. Each writing project is organized as a collection of files, all accessible from the same screen, much like being in Finder (or Windows Explorer).

I can write a scene–or an outline of a scene–when inspiration strikes, and save it for later (see Unused Scenes below). I can easily move scenes around, create scene cards for them, search for terms across all scenes, search by keywords, keep project and scene notes, import research documents and web sites, and so much more. I don't know how I ever lived without it!

I use the Resources section to hold links to research web sites, a file where I keep track of my daily productivity, a character list, photos of places or character inspirations, character questionnaires, and most important of all, a folder called Unused Scenes, where I store cut scenes to scavenge for useful bits, and potential future scenes.

For those who are easily distracted, Scrivener even offers a full screen mode. And, in the end, you can export the whole project to Word, or another program, either fully formatted, or ready to format.

If you're serious about writing, consider switching to software that works with your writing style, not against it.

The main writing screen…

Resources Section…

Happy Writing! (No Daily Squirrel today, this post is already long enough…)

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.