Creating a handy quick info window with Scrivener

Character names. Don’t you love them? Sometimes they’re memorable. Sometimes, especially for minor characters, they’re not. Scrivener lets you create detailed character profiles in a separate folder within your document if you want to.

But here’s the problem. You’re part way through a scene and you just need to remember the correct spelling of the name. It’s a lot of faffing to switch windows just for that. Especially for me since a lot of the names are foreign. Scrivener doesn’t do conventional new windows really but it has a great trick for putting up what it calls a Quick Reference Window. This is a trimmed down but fully functioning window on an individual document in your project — be it a scene, research or, in this case, a handy reference to your characters.

First, create a single document and put a brief description of all your characters in there. This only works with a single document so you must have them all together.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 11.57.16

Select the document in the Binder and hit the space bar (on the Mac at least — I think it’s the same on Windows but you may need to check). You get this…

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 11.57.08

A handy little window that floats above the rest of your project. You can move it around, hide it, do whatever you like. And if you look at the View Menu you’ll see you can open anything in your project this way directly from there too.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 11.07.46
Web/Tech, Writing

A neat alternative to split screen in Scrivener

Here’s a familiar challenge: you want to work on one scene but know that what you’re going to write is dependent upon a scene, several stages back in the book, which is already done. The standard response to this situation, depending on the software you’re using, is either to split the screen between the two documents or open two windows, one for each bit of the book.

Perhaps it’s me but I’m no great fan of either. All those scroll bars and different bits of window get in the way. This is a book — one long story composed of different bits. I want to see it that way. Continue reading


How to read your manuscript like a paperback book

I’m a big fan of reading a draft manuscript in different formats. An A4 printout is good. So is a printout in paperback format — small pages, the same kind of pagination the reader will one day see.

Scrivener comes with a number of pre-formatted options for the latter. Even better you can use them to produce a pdf which will let you read your MS — and possibly mark it up depending on the software — on a smaller tablet such as an iPad mini or an Android or Windows equivalent.

Here’s how to do it. I’m using Scrivener on the Mac for this. I think you can achieve the same on Windows but you’ll need to play around to check. You can export the same way with Word, on Mac and Windows, by juggling page setup. But Scrivener does away with a lot of the faffing.

Continue reading


Quick Scrivener tip: going back and forth

One of the things I love about Scrivener is the fine attention to detail. The app never goes the way of the obvious unless it makes sense. It’s put together in a fashion that understands the way writers — at least this one — thinks.

Let me give you a simple example. It’s the forward and back button you find at the top of the document window.


I never used to use this much because it’s very easy to navigate a Scrivener project through the Binder. You just click on the document you want to deal with. I also assumed that this was a simple navigation tool. Forward took you one scene ahead; back went in reverse one.


These work a bit like browser buttons. They ignore sequence; instead they work on a ‘last used’ basis.

So imagine you’re in scene 137 of a 200-document project. You realise you need to make some changes to scene 42 before continuing. So you go back and do a quick edit.

Problem: if you’re me you can’t quite remember which of all those many scenes in front of you was the one you were working on before. Which is annoying because that’s where you want to go next.

Ah… but the arrow button knows. Hit back and you’re there. This works continuously in both directions through your editing history.

One last tip too. Try right clicking on one of the arrows. You then see the actual document history. Like this.


This is one more demonstration of the fine detail that’s gone into creating Scrivener over the years. It doesn’t just think about what you might need for writing; it actually understands the non-linear and occasionally erratic way writers work.

Which is more than I do a lot of the time.