Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Outlining with Scrivener

        Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If you are, there’s only one week left to prepare yourself. Whether that means detailed outlines or getting out the toothbrushes to deep clean your coffee-mate depends upon your choice as plotter or pantser. For those who plot loosely AND have just acquired Scrivener (go here to download the PC [beta] version and here to get the MAC [gotta buy it but it’s a good price] version) I am going to help you get an idea of how to use the program for your NaNo book.


First, when you open Scrivener for the first time, you are presented with this:

Click on pictures for larger view


You can see on the left hand side a list of options. For the sake of this post, let’s choose Fiction. That will change what’s in the box on the right. You have the option of Novel, Novel (with Parts), and Short Stories. Click on Novel.

Before you go any further, you must choose a name for this project. It can be the name of your book or, if you haven’t settled on a name yet, whatever comes to your mind at the time. Here’s mine:


Once you have gotten your title in place, click the Create button and you are taken here:



This gives you the basic run-down of how to use the Novel Template to write your book.

From here, let’s click on the Chapter folder. You will see a cork board with a small “index card” labeled Scene. For those of you that use note cards for plotting, this will be useful. You can put your scene synopsis on this and be able to see it when you move to writing the document. (We’ll get to that part in a bit) Here’s a screen shot of the cork board:



From here, you can click the green button with the plus sign in it to start new scenes and enter the synopsis for each scene of the chapter:



If you are ready to start a new chapter, just click on the down arrow next to the green button and you are given the option of new text or new folder. Click new folder and label it Chapter (you don’t have to include the chapter number as mentioned in opening screen):



It’s easy to go through and get your scenes set up where you want them from there. Just fill in the index cards on your cork board until your outline is complete. Then, once November 1st comes around, you can go to the text and start typing!



(Note the index card in the upper right corner. It has the synopsis you created for this scene.)


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If you don’t like using note cards, there is an outline option available too. If you look at the top of your screen you will see three boxes:



The boxes represent the main text that your working on, the cork board, and the outline. Click on Manuscript in the binder. If you see the cork board, that’s okay. Just click on the right box and you will see the available outline. Since we’ve already discussed using the note cards, this is what the outline will look like:



Just click on the arrow next to what chapter you want to outline and start putting your synopsis in the scene you want to work on.


Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year! 


About Katie Doyle

Katie Doyle is an avid reader, writer of NA and Adult fiction, a mom to two tornadoes that resemble an eight and six year old, and pet to a tuxedo cat named Oz and a German Shepherd/Boxer rescue named Charlie. If she's not reading, writing, or getting Oz out of a tree, she's screaming at characters on TV and trying not to curse around her kids.
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7 Responses to Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Outlining with Scrivener

  1. I keep hearing about this. One day i will take the time to check it out 🙂

  2. This is excellent stuff! Thanks for sharing it! 🙂

  3. Laura Barnes says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I looked at the Scrivner trial and it scared me a little even though it looks SUPER AWESOME. As someone who uses Scrivner, would you suggest importing to it when you are already halfway through a WIP or just wait until your next novel?

  4. Kathleen says:

    @Laura BarnesI would suggest doing what ever is easier for you. I was in the middle of my WiP when I downloaded it and I hadn't figured out how to import yet so I just copied and pasted, lol=)

  5. I love Scrivener. I've used it for two projects now, and it is keeping me so organized.

  6. I'm psyched that there is a windows version. I can't wait to get home and download it. I feel like a kid with a new video game to play!Thanks for this quick tutorial.

  7. jonyangorg says:

    I totally use Scrivener all the time and I'm gonna try NaNoWriMo this year so this was the perfect post, thank you!

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