Pacing With Scrivener

Last month I explained how I plot out a story using three disasters and a climax. (Check it out here if you want a refresher.) This month I want to delve a little bit into the writing program from Literature & Latte — Scrivener. (Only the most awesome writing tool ever created!)

Scrivener Layout

First let me show you what Scrivener looks like with some information in it. We’ll assume you’ve downloaded the program, opened it up and started your first project. (Feel free to click on the images to see the “bigger picture.”)


The first column is the Binder. Think of it as literally that — a three-ring binder that has dividers in it for your manuscript and your research. The larger section is the word processer that acts like all others in the world. No surprises there. The third column is the Inspector which I’ll explain in a minute.

Most of your novel writing will occur in the central space, the word processor. You can choose to leave it as is or create a split screen either horizontally or vertically. I work with this area divided in half vertically. The first is the current scene on which I’m working. The second becomes a reference section that I can access at any time without having to leave the day’s work. Like this:



Our initial goal is to transfer your fifty scene descriptions to the Binder, using a new untitled document for each scene in your manuscript. I go into the Binder, click the manuscript folder at the top and hit the “Add” button in the icon bar. After throwing out ten or twenty “Untitled” documents, I begin at the top to edit them.



The information regarding each untitled document shows up in the far right column, the Inspector.


Change “Untitled” to a two or three word description regarding the scene. Hit enter and you’ll drop down to the lined section beneath it. There you can add a sentence or two for clarification.

If you have more detailed notes regarding the scene, go down to the “Document Notes” section and put them there. Here’s one of the first scenes from Beloved Lady Mistress:


When you run out of documents, go back to the “Add” button and throw out a few more until you’ve transferred all the scenes from your plotting session paperwork onto the program. Eventually your Binder will look something like this:



There’s one difference between my results and yours — the colors. First let’s make an adjustment in the program…

Go to View -> Use Label Color In — you can choose a couple of things, but I always have icons and index cards active.

Next, go to the Inspector on the right side. The center “General” box has a “Label” drop down menu. Click on it and you’ll see something like this:


As you can see by the example, I’ve assigned a color to each character and the disaster. Using the Inspector, I edit each scene and assign it a color depending on that scene’s point of view.

We’re Not Finished Yet

Seems like a lot to do just to make things more colorful, yeah? I swear there’s a good reason to do it.

One of the first projects I ever used Scrivener for was Broken Trails. I’d decided to take a shot at editing it for publication. Once I plugged all the scenes into the Binder and edited each scene with the appropriate character/disaster color I was shocked! It was like Scotch Fuller hardly existed! Three quarters of the novel was from Lainey’s POV, which is ridiculous when it’s a romance novel. Either the entire book should be from one character’s POV or it should be equally shared between them.

I promise you. Make the label changes, see what happens in your Binder. If there’s a paucity of one character over another, now’s the time to scroll through your scenes and either change who’s eyes the reader is seeing through or adding new scenes to flesh the manuscript out better.

Trust me. It works!

What Say You?

Did any of this help? Keep in mind that this sort of plotting doesn’t necessarily have to be all on a computer. Colored index cards can be used. Different hues of Post-It Notes on a wall. Multicolored markers on a whiteboard. Any of them may make a difference when getting that final plot point into place before beginning the task of writing your novel.

Drop down below and chime in! Let’s get a conversation going. What has worked for you in the past and what sort of guidance can you give others? Help a sistah out!


  1. I just downloaded this app last week and have been trying to figure out the best way to use it. This is very helpful to me. I would love to see more blogs & dialogue on best practices for us newbies. Thanks!

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  2. […] A recent blog by Jordan Redhawk gave some very useful advice on using a colour-code to easily identify scenes. I think that’s a great idea that I may employ in future manuscripts but so far just using the character’s names has worked. […]


  3. I just started trying to use Scrivener. I got it a while back and tried to load an already almost finished novel into it. Really wasn’t worth it at that stage for just editing.

    I just started book two, a mystery, this time and finding your information quite helpful! I also found an educational program called Learn Scrivener Fast. It was free the day I got it. I’m trying to get to that before I get too far into this new book, because I think Scrivener would be very helpful organizing everything in a mystery novel.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!


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