NaNo Tips for Writing with Scrivener

The intention here is to share some tips that I have found useful when working with Scrivener during my excursions into the realm of National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” for short, or even shorter, just “NaNo”. If you have any ideas for this series, please feel free to drop me a line.

When writing your book this month, it is widely considered acceptable to write as much as you can, even if the quality of what you write may not be what you would consider “up to snuff” for the story you are writing. Since the daily word count is the main goal of the project for most people, this is okay. However, if you are also working toward the goal of producing something worthy of publishing—or at the very least, something you can be proud of—you might wish to somehow mark passages of text that you do not feel happy with, without completely deleting them or excluding them from the total counted work. There are a few ways of doing this in Scrivener.

Inline Annotations: The first and most direct method is through the use of inline annotations. Annotations can be used to mark blocks of text as a “comment”, and it works a bit like a toggle, much like a bold or italic range of text might—but this is merely the default way in which Scrivener treats them when you compile. In the “Footnotes/Comments” compile option pane, you can elect to leave annotations in the text, right where they are in your editor. You can even remove the enclosing brackets that Scrivener would normally insert around them, causing them to appear as normal text. For NaNo, all you need to do is submit raw words. You don’t need a formatted document, and so compiling as a .TXT file is perfect as it will strip out markings such as annotation colour. The advantage of this method is that it is as easy to “delete” a poorly phrased sentence as it is to italicise it, and it even looks a bit like you took a red pen to a printout, which is always satisfying.

A “Dust Bin” File: Another way of approaching this is to indeed fully remove the offending text from the section you are working on, but in such a way that it remains counted. An easy way of doing this is to select the text and then right-click on it, choosing to “Append Selection to Document”. What I like to do is create a single “Dust Bin” document at the bottom of my draft for the collection of all these bits of text. On the Mac, you can set that as a favourite document by right-clicking on the “Dust Bin” item in the Binder and selecting “Add to Favorites”. This will bump the item up to the top of the append sub-menu for easy access in the future. While this method takes a bit more work, the advantage is that it leaves inline annotations free to use for their intended purpose, as comments to yourself while writing, as well as keeping your text clean and easy to read. So long as the “Dust Bin” text item is located somewhere in the draft, they will be counted by the various statistics tools available to you, and included in the draft when you compile. Once November has expired, you can simply move this file elsewhere or delete it entirely.

Inspector Comments: Similar to the above, this technique moves the text to the Inspector sidebar instead of a secondary document. Inspector comments, like inline, can be included in the final output, with the advantage of being pinned to the precise location where they came from. That may come in handy if you change your mind later on. One downside to using these is that text moved to comments will not be counted in the program’s statistics while you work. (If you are a Windows user and cannot find this feature, try downloading the NaNoWriMo demo version. It has a sneak preview of the feature, which will be included in the next stable release.)

Overstrike: A natural way of marking text to be deleted is to draw a line through it. It’s easy to mark text with an overstrike in Scrivener, and on the Mac you can even set the compiler to automatically delete any text that has been overstruck. For NaNoWriMo, that won’t matter much, because as we’ve already noted, you want all of this to be in your word count anyway. For Windows users, while there isn’t a way to strip out overstruck text automatically, you can however search for overstruck text with the Edit/Find/Find by Formatting tool. An alternative to overstrike, if you find it causes too much visual clutter, are highlighters. A number of preset highlighter colours are available. Like overstrike they can be searched for with “Find by Formatting”, even by colour.

There are many other ways to sequester text to the loony bin without fully getting rid of it. Stashing them into the Document Notes sidebar is a good choice, as this pane is readily accessible even from Composition Mode (called Full Screen on Windows). You can turn on Notes export in the compile Formatting option pane to include them in the overall count (though do note that Scrivener’s internal statistics features will no longer pick up on them if you do this).

I have found the ability to set aside text I don’t much care for to be liberating in an endeavour like this. It is all too easy to just throw up your hands and tell yourself that quality shouldn’t matter. And to a degree, when you have 50,000 words to write in 30 days, that is not an unfair assessment. But being able to physically shove text aside that you know you’re not happy with, and forging on without it toward a better core of text that you are happy with can help keep your spirits up throughout the month.

As always, remember that we have a coupon available for 20% off to all participants of NaNoWriMo, and those that qualify as winners by November 30 will receive a 50% off coupon toward Scrivener on the platform of your choosing (Windows or Mac OS X). Good luck, and keep writing!

2 thoughts on “NaNo Tips for Writing with Scrivener”

Comments are closed.