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Writing a series in Scrivener

books on a shelfBook series are king in the world of genre fiction. So popular, in fact, that it’s rare to see a standalone book these days. But how to handle writing a series in Scrivener? One book per project or one series per project?

My personal preference has always been to keep one manuscript per project and drag overlapping research/supporting materials from one Binder to the other as needed. I like a clean Binder, and multiple manuscripts sounds messy and possibly confusing.

I also worry about the overall file size for a multi-book project—especially if I have a lot of images and PDFs—because large files can make for slow backups, transfers, and auto-saves.

(If you need a single place for all research, images, and so on, but still want separate projects for each book, I recommend a single project file as a “series bible” that you can keep open while writing in another project.)

But some recent conversations with writers who use one project for an entire series—like Mindy Klasky with her Diamond Brides books—has me rethinking the multiple-book file.

Here are some of the benefits to keeping a connected series of books in one Scrivener project.

  • Need to change a name/word throughout the series? You only have to run Project Replace once.
  • You can search for overused words and phrases across the entire series, and verify consistency of things like company names and descriptions of places or people.
  • When you need to add a new character, you can do a quick search to ensure you haven’t used that name already. It’s easy to forget minor characters’ names by book five.
  • Tracking a story arc, timeline, or a character’s voice over several books in a series is much easier if the books are in the same project. Label, Status, and/or keywords are your friend here. Save a project search as a collection for a quick way to view all of the related documents or compile them into one file.
  • Having all of your research, notes, character information, setting details, and other supporting materials in one place has always been a clear benefit.
  • It’s a cinch to refer back to previous story lines or characters without opening a separate file.
  • If you’re self-publishing and want to put a sample chapter into the back of a book, you’ll have easy access to the content without opening another project. Plus, you can re-use some of the same front and back matter items across the entire series.

When I started writing Blind Fury, I wasn’t sure it was going to turn into a series, but now that I’m working on books two and three, I can see the value of having quick access to the other stories. That need will only grow as I write more.

I think at some point there is probably a practical limit to the number of manuscripts you should keep in one file—Six? Ten? Twelve?—but depending on your needs, the pros may far outweigh the cons.

Wondering what a multi-book Binder might look like? Here's an example of how might approach it (based on a conversation in the comments with Gail and Gary). I changed the icon for each book folder to make it easier to pick them out in the Binder. {Added 10/17/14}

Multi-book Binder example

If you’re working on a series, what’s your preference? Any other benefits or disadvantages I didn’t mention?

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.

Photo credit: HarryPotterBooks by Pastorius (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons