The L&L Blog  /  Scrivener

Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel

While Camp NaNoWriMo is in progress, Rebeca shows how to revise your novel with several of Scrivener's features.

The last time we visited with Joanna, she was scribbling away to reach her NaNoWriMo goal. Unlike other participants, who stopped at 50,000 words, Joanna, during her university's winter break, continued to write. The end result was a whopping 150,000 word manuscript. In early January, she put it away to let the draft marinate for three months. Happy with the results of her first NaNoWriMo experience, Joanna decided to give the April Camp NaNoWriMo a shot to revise her novel. 

In late March, she called for help. "I'm ready to revise and edit this monster, but I have no idea where to start in Scrivener." 

I believe the revision process isn't simply, delete, cut, paste, and rewrite. Each writer has their own personal plan of attack when it comes to revising their work just as they have their own distinctive style in structuring their manuscript as I noted in my first blog post Developing Your Structure with Scrivener. So I went ahead and showed Joanna my process using several of Scrivener's revision/editing tools. 

"Before I arrive, the first thing I want you to do is to take a snapshot of every single chapter and label it with the date. If you're not sure how snapshots work go to the Literature and Latte blog. Read through 'Say Cheese or Not Ready for Instagram'. Then back up the entire project on your computer. Also back it up as a zip file to your Dropbox account. To be on the safer side, compile the entire project. Don't worry about formatting for the time being just do a simple compile."

"Why so many backups and how do I compile?" she asked, her voice rising a shaky octave. 

"I like to err on the side of caution." I said. "You're going to do an easy-peasy compile. Now listen up...because you used the NaNoWriMo template, compile is all set up for you." 

"Wait, wait, I want to do this while I have you on the phone,"

I could hear shuffling and then some typing in the background.  "Okay, ready."

"First, edit the title page document in the Front Matter folder. You can find it in the Manuscript folder. Second, go to File->Compile (Shortcut: Option-Cmd-E. Scrivener for Windows: Ctrl+Shft+E). Once you're there, select Print. Choose PDF or RTF or Word, whichever you prefer. 

Now go over to the pane on the left; select Manuscript (Times) from the list. Make sure the add front matter button is ticked. You can find that under the contents list. Next check that the manuscript format  folder is already selected from the drop down menu. Last step, click on Compile, and there you have it." 

"Wow that was fast. Oh, dear, I have over 500 pages," she said.

"Suffice it to say, you better say so long to those darlings."

After I arrived, I noticed Joanna had placed a more comfortable chair next to hers. On the desk were two mugs filled with coffee beside it a plate with pain au chocolat and other pastries. "I reckon because I dragged you away from your writing and because this might be a long session, I should offer treats."

And thus we set off on the right foot for this tutorial....

[Note: This post centers on both Scrivener 3.1.2  and the Beta version of Scrivener for Windows featuring: Scrivenings Mode, Revision Mode, Inline Annotations, Inspector Comments, Focus and Linguistic Focus. Please note the latter two features are currently not available at the moment in the beta version of Scrivener for Windows.]

Scrivenings Mode

Right away, Joanna had a question. "I don't want to edit chapter-by-chapter, but I want to revise it all in one document. How can I do that?"

"You can use Scrivenings mode," I said. 

"Oh, God, is that something that will turn everything topsy-turvy? Forget I asked. I'll revise it chapter-by-chapter."

I understood Joanna's hesitation. I confess when I first started using Scrivener almost 10 years ago, I was a bit unsure of the purpose behind Scrivenings mode, but I discovered during a long editing session, Scrivenings mode simplifies the process by allowing you to work with multiple selections of scenes. 

To use Scrivenings mode, select the container that holds all the parts of the manuscript. In Joanna's case it's Manuscript, which consists of chapter folders with one scene per folder. To view it in page layout view go to View->Text Editing->Show Page View (Shortcut: Option-Shift-Cmd-P).

Revision Mode and Strikethrough

"Before you start would you please show me where track changes are located? I wanted to get a head start after I backed up and couldn't find it," Joanna said as she slowly peeled off the layers of flaky dough of her pain au chocolat.

Unlike Microsoft Word and other word processing applications, Scrivener doesn't have--what I consider--the cumbersome, messy, and confusing track changes feature. Instead, it has the colorful and easy-to-use Revision Mode. 

To use Revision Mode, go to Format->Revision Mode. From the submenu, select First Revision. 


A dialogue box will open alerting that you have entered revision mode and that any text typed will be in that color. 

"Can the colors be changed?" Joanna asked. 

To change the color, go to Preferences-> Editing->Revisions (in the Scrivener for Windows beta: File->Options->Editing->Revisions). Click on the color pane of any of the revisions and select a new color from the color wheel. Note that changes to the color will not override the previous revision, but only apply to new typed text. 

However, before you change colors note that the revision feature solely uses text color to establish the revision level of text (as shown in the illustration above).  Once changed from previous colors, Scrivener will no longer associate existing colored text as being a part of a revision level, even if the feature was used to key in that text in the past. It would be wise to choose a set of colors you prefer early on and then stick with those colors, at least until you transition to a new project. This also means that if you intend to collaborate with others and use this feature, you will all need to be using the same set of colors.

"Aha, that makes a lot of sense. So maybe it's best not to fiddle with the colors and use the default ones," Joanna said. "Next question, what if I don't want to delete text, but cross it out?"  

To strike through text, select the word, sentence, or paragraph go to Format-> Font->Strikethrough (Shortcut: Shift+Cmd+_. Scrivener for Windows beta: Ctrl+Shift+-). The strikethough will appear in the selected revision color. 

"That seems simple enough. And it isn't so messy with with all those boxes and lines all over the page," she said. "But I tend to write a lot of notes while I revise. I don't want to be going back and forth to document notes. Is there anyway I can annotate the text?" 

Inline Annotations

Inline annotations are notes that you can insert anywhere within your text. Place the cursor wherever you want to include your note. To activate the feature go to Insert->Inline Annotation (Shortcut: Shift+Cmd+A; Scrivener for Windows: Ctrl+Shift+A) and then type in the text, which will appear in colored text with a bubble around it. 

You can change the color of the inline annotation by going to Format->Show Fonts, click on the color tile, and select your preferred color that will result a change in both the bubble and text. Changing the color of inline annotations might be useful if you want to color code your revisions that are specifically targeted to characters, plot, questions, location, and so forth. 


What if you end up with a document filled with a rainbow of inline annotations? Is it neater to use Comments? To use the Comments feature, select the questionable segment you want to add a comment, open the inspector, and click on the tab with the dialogue box. A yellow highlighted box will appear with your name, the date, and time. This information can be deleted. Personally, I like to have a record of my revisions. 

In the box, type in your comment, which will result in highlighted and hyperlinked text. If you have a number of comments throughout the text, the comments in the Inspector will be displayed in one stack. 

Clicking on the text will select the comment in the inspector, opening it if necessary. Clicking on the text in the Inspector will cause the highlighted text to "pop up" so that you can easily see the referenced text. Hovering over the highlighted word, sentence, or paragraph will also show the comment in a tooltip.  Comments can also be viewed in Quick Reference Panels, where they are located into a split view below the main text editor within the panel. 

Now suppose you have a document that's littered with inline annotations and you realize that it just will be easier to navigate the revision process with comments instead. Is it possible to convert those annotations into comments? Yes, just place your cursor in front of the inline annotation and then go to Edit->Transformations->Convert Inline Annotations into Inspector Comments. The comment will appear in the inspector, and will retain the color used. Inspector comments can also be converted to inline annotations by going to Edit->Transformations->Convert Inspector Comments into Inline Annotations.

Note there are pros and cons between inline annotations and comments. Below are a few examples:

— Inline notes are always visible in your text; there is no way to diminish their prominence. This can be an advantage in that they're hard to ignore. Furthermore, it's easier to see your notes and your book at the same reading speed—there is no need to look off to the side to get a feel for the “meta” book.

— Linked notes do not disturb the flow of text, no matter how large they may be. This means even the lengthiest of notes can be placed into your text without having to scan from word to word in order to read the underlying book text.

— Inline notes, being within the text itself, do not require any additional interface to use and never require the mouse to read. They thus work well with a slim workflow, or in situations where screen space is at a premium.

— Linked notes can act like bookmarks. Clicking on them in the inspector will whisk you right to the spot in the text where they are anchored.

For more pros and cons see  Section 18.1, "Inline vs. Linked" in the Scrivener user manual for the Mac version (see Chapter 17 "Annotations and Footnotes in the Scrivener for Windows user manual). 

"That's pretty nifty, but is there a way I can hide some of the text so I can focus on a specific passage that needs a tight edit. When I print it out, I typically block out the other paragraphs with sheets of paper so that I can concentrate on that section?" Joanna asked.


In November 2018, an  exciting new feature was added to Scrivener 3: Focus. 

Focus allows you to fade out the current line, sentence, or paragraph as you write or revise your document. The mode can be set independently for the main window and in Composition Mode. 

To enable Focus, place your cursor into the editor. Go to View->Text Editing->Focus. The submenu will appear with the following options: 

  • None: the feature is disabled. 
  • Line: the current line will remain visible.
  • Sentence: the current sentence will remain visible.
  • Paragraph: the current paragraph will remain visible. 

A couple of perks to mention about Focus, if you're inclined to use it often:

  1. It can be added to the main tool bar as a button. Go to View->Customize Toolbar to add it from there. 
  2. In Composition Mode, the focus icon can be found in the Control strip. 

Settings for Focus mode are project specific and will be remembered in the main editor, copyholders,  and Composition Mode. The only time Focus mode will be temporarily disabled is when you use your mouse and keyboard to scroll. 

Linguistic Focus

We all have certain verbal quirks. When I first fiddled with  Linguistic Focus, I discovered I overuse conjunctions. My text was littered with "but", "and",  and "or".  Although dismayed by this discovery, I immediately saw the value of this tool. 

To activate Linguistic Focus go to Edit->Writing Tools->Linguistic Focus. A popover window will appear with a selection of the parts of speech you'd like focus on. Say, for example, you want to isolate, conjunctions. Click on the conjunctions button, slide the fade bar to the far right which will completely dim the surrounding text, allowing the user to only focus on the direct speech. An added perk: it will tell you the total number of conjunctions you have in your text. 

"Pretty impressive. I'm a little afraid to use Linguistic Focus and see what it unearths," Joanna said.

"You'll see all your verbal foibles in black and white."

She clapped her hands. "This entire session was illuminating. I can't wait to dig into the manuscript and try all these tools. But I do have one question...," her voice trailed off.

"Go ahead hit me with it."

"A colleague and I plan to collaborate on a book about Hungarian nationalism. He saw me using Scrivener and became so intrigued with the application that he bought it. So is there a way we can collaborate and what other tools can we use when it comes time to edit and rewrite it together?"

"Yes, you can collaborate. There are some tools you can use where you can work on the manuscript together in real time."

"No kidding?" 

"Have I ever steered you wrong?"

~To be continued~



Compurev  /  21 APRIL 2019

Rebeca, thank you for such an excellent blog post! Usually my eyes glaze over when reading software manuals and I give up about two sentences in and just go play with the application. Your engaging writing style keep me reading, and learning more about how to use Scrivener!

Well done. More please . . .


BenEzard  /  17 MAY 2019

Thanks... all this does is make me want Scrivener 3.0 for Windows even more. It is my most anticipated 2019 event this year!


Phil  /  08 JUNE 2019

Thanks for this insightful and informative post. Easy to read and process for newer users....


Spiffy  /  12 NOVEMBER 2019

Hello! I currently have Scrivener 3 for Windows. I'm trying for the life of me to find Revision Mode as well as Threaded Cork Board, but I'm unable to find it and it isn't in the tutorial. I thought these two features would be included with this version, or did they decide to take it out? I'd love to use these features if they're available. Thanks!

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