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Choosing a Scrivener Project Template

windows project template screen

Windows Project Template screen

Which Scrivener template should you choose? That depends on what you’re trying to do and how you plan to set up your project. Here are some hints on picking a template for your next project.

(If you’re not sure how to create a new project, check out this post.)

What is a Project Template, Anyway?

A template is a framework on which something is based. A copy is made and then you can add your own elements. Most software works with templates. Even the blank document in Word or Pages is a template with properties like margins, font, font size, and spacing already set up.

All Scrivener project templates are based on the Blank template—which is nothing but the basics—and have additional files and folders, and different settings baked in.

The Blank Template

The Blank template is the most basic option for your project. Contrary to my examples in Scrivener For Dummies, I now think Blank is the best place to start for new users because there aren’t so many distractions and confusing files to figure out.

Blank comes loaded with the three core folders that can’t be deleted: Draft, Research, and Trash.

Blank project binder

To get you started, there’s an empty Document in the Draft folder. That’s it. Just click in the blank document and start typing.

The Compile format is initially set to “Original,” meaning that it will print everything as you have it formatted in the Editor.

I love starting here because it’s uncluttered, and I can add only what I need. (I’ve found that when people—especially less experienced users—choose other templates, they’re afraid to delete extraneous files which leads to a confusing mess.)

Other Templates

So, every other template is a Blank template with extra stuff in it. Like what? Things the developers thought might be handy for the type of work you’re doing.

For example, a renamed Draft folder (e.g. Manuscript, Screenplay, Short Story), additional folders like Characters and Front Matter and Notes and Template Sheets, each with their own special icon.

Scrivener project screen

A project based on the Novel template

Each template also comes with a format note, explaining how the project is set up, which compile preset is chosen by default, and how to make some key changes. There’s good stuff in here—worth the read—but when you’re done with it, you can delete it. Or move it somewhere else.

You can also delete the Sample Output documents in Research, if desired. They’re there to show you what you can create using the instructions in the format note.

Scrivener project screen

A project based on the Nonfiction template

Basically, you can move or rename anything you want, and you can delete anything except the three core folders.

The templates geared toward long-form writing are set up with the assumption that you’ll organize your work into chapter folders that contain scene/section subdocuments.

With or Without Parts

I see a lot of confusion around the templates that include “(with Parts)” in their name. Writers think, “My book has parts, I’ll choose this one.”

The only time I recommend choosing a template with parts is if you plan to organize your chapter folders into part folders (as shown below). It comes pre-loaded with that layout, and this often has writers thinking that they must work this way in Scrivener or they’re doing it wrong.

Binder

Project binder based on Novel with Parts

If you have Part folders, but every chapter is a single document (see below), don’t pick this template. Instead, choose the Novel or Nonfiction format and rename the Chapter folder to Part n, or use the Blank template.

Binder

What If You Pick the Wrong One?

There’s no way to change the template of a project once you’ve created it, so if you start writing and realize you’re unhappy, you can simply create a new project based on the template you want, and import your working project into it (File—>Import—>Scrivener Project).

Ultimately, It Doesn’t Matter

Once you get comfortable adding, moving, and deleting documents and folders, it doesn’t much matter which template you select. If you like the document templates in the Novel template but don’t use folders, simply delete the Chapter folder and start with a new document in Manuscript.

Or make your own document templates and Template Sheets folder.

If you want the project settings to be different, change them.

And when you have a better idea of what you like in a project template, you can create your own.

So, what’s your burning template question?

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


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Tech Tuesday: Project templates revisited for Scrivener 2.x

A Scrivener project template is a framework on which to base a new project. Whether you’re penning a book, article, screenplay, or research paper, there's a template for you. (For more on how to choose the best template for your project, check out Choosing a Scrivener Project Template.)

For example, the Novel template comes prepopulated with certain folders, such as Manuscript, Characters, Places, Research, and Templates (the latter is for document templates, which are similar but are for documents within a project). The Novel template also includes Compile settings that are tweaked to export your file in standard novel format. For a minimalist approach, start with the Blank template.

Here's how to use project templates, and create your own.

Creating a New Project from a Built-in Template

  1. Click on the File menu, choose New Project.
  2. Click on the appropriate category icon along the left side, and choose a template from the list.
  3. Click Choose.
  4. Give the new project a name and location, and click Create.

Template window

Project based on the built-in Novel template

Even if an existing template doesn’t have quite the set up you’re looking for, chances are it’s a good place to start. For example, I based my book project on the Novel template, then added folders for the four parts of my novel, changed the Label and Status fields, added an Unused Scenes folder, a saved search, and more.

Creating a Custom Template Based on Your Project

Once you have your project put together the way you like to work, you can create your own template for future projects. If you make changes down the road, just save the improved version with the same name to replace the old version.

  1. Unless you’re using a blank project to create your template, click on File, Save As and give the project a new name to distinguish it from your working project. You’ll be able to delete this once you’ve created your new template, so you may want to save it to the Desktop for easy access.
  2. Strip out all of the manuscript-specific items (unless you want those scenes in all of your future work ;-)).
    NOTE: Not only can you save the structure and layout, you can even incorporate reference files (like a story structure cheat sheet or a reminder of how to write a synopsis) into your template. In fact, anything in the file when you save it as a template will remain, so be sure to strip it of anything you don’t want (including project-specific settings, keywords, and meta-data values) before saving.
  3. Click on the File menu, choose Save As Template.
  4. Enter a name.
  5. Choose a category (where it will be listed in the Template window).
  6. Enter a description, if desired.
  7. Choose an icon, if desired.
  8. Click OK.

Saving a stripped out project as a template

Filling in the information for a custom template

Creating a New Project Based on a Custom Template

Follow the instructions from Create a New Project from a Built-in Template above, but choose the custom template you created.

Template Options

Notice that the Options button in the Project Templates (Mac)/New Project (Windows) window provides four choices.

  1. Set Selected Template as Default: Will highlight that template in the Template window every time you open it.
  2. Import Template: Allows you to import a template you’ve downloaded from the web or a friend, or transfer templates from another computer.
  3. Export Template: Allows you to export a template to be moved to another computer, or to share with others.
  4. Delete Selected Template: Lets you delete a template you no longer want (custom templates only).

Got any questions? Ask away.

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.

[Updated 1/27/17]


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Tech Tuesday: Templates in Scrivener

UPDATE: For the Scrivener 2.x templates post, click here.

If you've been working in Scrivener for a while, you probably have it set up exactly the way you like it. You've modified the labels, opened the Inspector, created your own extra folders and files for things like unused scenes, research, productivity tracking, character sketches, and saved searches. Maybe you like to have twenty chapter folders all formatted correctly, ready and waiting to fill.

However you like to set it up, you'd probably prefer not to have to do it again every time you start a new project. As always, there's a fix for that. Scrivener allows you to save templates. If you use Scrivener to write both novels and screenplays, you can create a template for each.

To get started, you can open a new project and set it up, or take an existing project that's set up the way you like it, make a copy in Finder, and then open it in Scrivener. If you use an existing one, strip out everything that's specific to the existing project (labels, text documents, research documents, etc.) and then save it.

Once you have your blank shell you're ready to proceed.

  1. From the File menu, choose Save As Template…
  2. Enter the Template Name and a Description



Now, you're ready to create a new project using your template.

  1. From the File menu, choose New Project (or choose New Project next time you open Scrivener)
  2. Select the template you want to use and click Next.
    – Note: The Templates… drop down box at the bottom will allow you to import templates from other people, export your templates to share with others, delete existing templates, and choose to make the selected template the default.
  3. Enter your Project Name and you're done.



Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. And, I'd love to hear suggestions for future Tech Tuesday posts. Write on!


Like this article?

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Donation Total: $3