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How to Get Started With Scrivener Right Now (without losing a second of writing time)

Recently I made a post detailing why I thought Scrivener was for everyone. I received a huge response from that video as well as some additional questions.

Today I wanted to answer one of those in particular:

How do I get started in Scrivener?

Watch the video below for a detailed tutorial! I walk you through exactly what to do to start writing today.

Upon opening this program, you may be taken aback by everything that's going on. You've got sectioned off areas with drop-down bars and text and buttons galore. Scrivener is very user friendly, but like any new piece of technology, you have to take the time to get accustomed to it.

Today's topic will be how to get started using Scrivener without spending too much time learning about it.

Most of us purchase this software to increase our productivity in novel writing. So you probably don't want to waste too much time figuring out the basics and looking at all the bells and whistles.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If you're like me, you purchased Scrivener in the days leading up to the start of NaNo and then you worried it would take too long to get back to writing.

So I'm going to show you how to immediately start writing with Scrivener! Let's go!

First up, this post is probably not going to be too word-heavy as the below video will be a better visual representation of what I'm talking about.

I know, most of you won't have any problems actually opening the program, but it's an important step that I don't want to breeze over.

There's quite a few options available for you depending on the type of writing you're doing. Since I'm a novel-writer, I'll be choosing the basic novel-writing template. In your spare time you can open a few of these up just to see what they offer.

So after naming your file, a big screen pops up with a lot going on.

For those of you that haven't seen my recent Scrivener post, let's break down what each of these sections is and what they do.

On the left hand side we have the binder. This is where all of our research tabs, character profiles and manuscript will be when we get to writing it. This part fills up fast, but it's a wonderful little tree where you can quickly see all your information.

The middle section is the editor. All of your actual novel writing will take place in this section. But you can also switch to the flashcard view to see a bigger picture of your scenes. Depending on what you've selected in your binder, this can be all of your scenes or just the scenes in a particular chapter. This part is awesome for rearranging your content or outlining in a very detailed way.

The section on the right is called the inspector. You can change the labels, status, make quick notes, or add a synopsis. You can even add pictures to this section! This area helps you keep track of the nitty gritty details of your scene and can be hidden if you don't find it useful.

At the very tippy top is your toolbar and below that is your format bar. Those are pretty self explanatory but we'll go into some detail on certain buttons in a moment.

That is, save your stuff everywhere so you won't lose it. If you haven't already, I would strongly suggest downloading the Dropbox app to your computer. That way you can set your Scrivener backups to automatically save to your Dropbox folder so your novel is accessible if your computer/hard drive are stolen (like moi).

Once you sign up for Dropbox, just click on the arrow button at the top right of your home screen, then "install" to set up a folder on your computer for remote access. Since it syncs with your computer any time you're online, all of your Dropbox folders will be accessible if you find yourself offline.

You can save to your Dropbox folder when you're offline and it'll sync once you come back online. I've used this when I'm on a flight or when I unfortunately find myself without internet.

Back to Scrivener, you change where you want your backups to be stored by going to Tools > Options > Backup. Choose your Dropbox folder and then select when you want it to save backups. I always have mine save upon closing Scrivener. When you do close, a little box will pop up with a status bar on your backup. This way, you and your writing will be safe and sound!

When I first started with Scrivener, I just created a new scene, quickly named it, and got to writing. So let me go over some basics with the binder and how you can go from being the biggest slob (me, pre-Scrivener) to being super organized!

You can organize your stuff anyway that you find most effective for you. There's countless ways to do this, but I'll go over my own method. Your big folders are typically your chapters, but I don't worry about this in the beginning.

I just worry about the scenes. The top folder in your binder is for your Manuscript. This is where you'll put all of your chapters and then all of your scenes.

Since I like to jump right in, I just start with scenes and way, way later down the road I section those scenes off into chapters. This depends on how well you like to outline your novel before writing.

Basically, all you have to do is click the folder/scene you want a new scene right under and click the plus button. Boom, new scene. Name it whatever you want and you're good to go!

But what about all the other extra stuff in the binder?

Character profiles are one thing I absolutely love about Scrivener, because it was something I was neglecting a lot before. I would think that I "knew" my characters well enough when I actually didn't. Especially if you end up tweaking something about them or can't remember what their Grandma's name was while writing. You can quickly refer to your character profile and then click the back button to resume what you were writing.

If you right-click the Character tab > Add > From Template, you can add a blank character sheet. Do this for each one of your characters (eventually) and you'll have a nice, neat place to find all the dirty deets on each of your characters.

One of the "extra" things in the binder is your research tab. This is obviously where you keep your research, but what makes it cool is that you can keep it all in one beautiful place. No more opening a bunch of folders on your computer trying to find that one picture you need to describe your setting.

And when you go about describing that setting, there's a nifty and helpful feature called horizontal split or vertical split. Click this button and you can view some of your research (or character profiles, setting profiles, another scene) while you're writing another scene. So you never have to leave your writing just to look something up within Scrivener.

Perhaps my favorite part of Scrivener is the full screen mode. My video goes over in detail how to go about setting a background image to full screen, so I highly recommend watching that tutorial. Full screen allows you to escape the distractions while you're writing, with the ability to access quick information on a hidden bar at the bottom. How is this different than using word? It looks clean. It's just you and your words - no buttons, no word counts, no notifications from a pulsing internet icon that someone messaged you. It's easier to avoid the distractions because you can't see them. It's like tunnel vision for your inner writer!

I hope that was helpful to all of you Scrivener lovers and Scrivener newbies alike! Let me know if there's any questions you might have along the way, and if there's anything you'd like me to clarify!

If you're one of those seasoned Scrivener professionals, feel free to share any helpful tips you might have on jumping into this program feet first!

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