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Using Scrivener for nonfiction

Over the years, I’ve talked a lot about how I use Scrivener to work on my manuscripts–the genesis of my Scrivener Tips page–but that was all fiction work. It’s been interesting working on the Scrivener For Dummies (SFD) book and finding that I use the software a bit differently for nonfiction.

Here’s a brief rundown of how I’m using Scrivener to write the book on it.

Document Targets. For romantic suspense, I’m more likely to have a session goal than a target word count for a specific scene. However, with SFD, I’ve been working from my detailed outline, which included estimated page counts. I converted those estimates to word counts and set a document target for each chapter.

I didn’t always meet my goal, and sometimes I overshot, but it was a useful gauge.

QuickReference Panels (Mac only). I have to admit, I hadn’t really found a use for these before. A QR panel is a window in which you can view any item in your binder. The beauty is that you can make it float above your workspace to reference the contents. When you don’t want to split the screen, QR panels are a good choice.

Despite having a second monitor, there were a few times when I needed to set up the screen shot in one monitor, type in the other, and reference a previous screen shot in a third. The QR panel became my third monitor with a window that I could resize and move around as needed, then close when done.

Label and Status. Normally I change Label and Status to POV and Day to track a scene’s point of view and place in the timeline. For SFD, I’m using Label to track where in the process a chapter is: Not Started, WIP, Needs Polish, Submitted (Pre AR), Author Review WIP, Submitted (Post AR), All Phases Done. [Note: AR in this case stands for author review, which I’m in the thick of now.]

Since I had first draft deadlines for each 25% of the book, I changed the Status field to track which portion of the book a chapter or part intro falls into: 1st 25%, 2nd 50%, 3rd 75%, 4th 100%. The batches of chapters I’m getting for author review (revisions) are in the same groupings.

File Groups. My smallest writing chunks in SFD are chapters. I organized the chapters into their respective book parts, which are containers that also hold the part introduction text. To remind myself that the parts were more than just organizational placeholders, I left them as text files rather than changing the icon to a folder. Since they have subdocuments, they became file groups, which are designated with a paper stack icon.

Project Search. I use project search fairly regularly regardless of the type of writing I’m doing. For SFD, it’s particularly helpful when I can’t remember whether I’d mentioned a topic or tip, or can’t remember which chapter I put it in.

Research. I almost always have reference files in the Research folder–often renamed to my liking–and SFD is no exception. I imported my author guidelines documents so I could reference them easily without leaving Scrivener or opening a new program. This also made them easy to search.

Snapshots. I create a snapshot before every major revision, and make sure I take one before making changes during the author review process. I’m making the edits in Word, but copying the final version back into Scrivener so I have an easily accessible, searchable, trackable version of it.

Synopsis. Instead of scene goal or purpose, the synopsis is serving as a place to jot notes for revisions of upcoming chapters. I don’t have a lot of them, but I found myself submitting a chapter and then having a “Hey, wait, I just thought of something!” moment. Document Notes would work for this purpose just as well, but I tend to keep the Project Notes pane visible and forget that I have document notes.

Have you found yourself using different features–or using them differently–depending on the type of work you’re doing? Please share!

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