Awesome Scrivener for Windows Hacks for Pantsers

I’ll tell you, when I started the revision for Miasma in Microsoft Word, it was a complete disaster.  As a result of being a pantser, I shuffle chapters.  A lot.  I have so much movement of scenes in my story I ought to have a sign that says, “Story is geologically unstable.  May shift at any time.”

Woman seated on sofa and holding laptop throws up her hand in frustration.

Enter Scrivener for Windows.  It’s a great tool to help pantsers write.  These are a few of the hacks I’ve discovered:


Each text file contains a section for document notes, and there’s one for project notes.  You can jot down ideas, make a memory dump of a part you will be working on, or add a character name you’re having trouble with.

Move Text Files

It’s easy to drag files around in Scrivener.  Hold the shift key down and use the arrow key to move the file to a new location.  Drag and drop works, too.

Color Coding

Scrivener has color coding for everyone.  I personally like color coding the text labels.  Go to View>Use Label Color In … >Binder.  The color coding picks up from what you’ve used in the labels for the “index cards.”

Screen shot showing color coding of yellow, blue, and pink in Scrivener's binder view.

Backup Files

Not every program allows you to back up your novel.  For example, with Word, I have to resave the file and give it a new name.  But Scrivener has a simple tool to make backups seamless.  Go to File>Backup.  Click Backup Now.

Pasting Text

I sometimes will use my netbook to work on one document in WordPad, then paste it into Scrivener.  There’s a nice feature duplicating Word’s Paste Special.  It pastes your text back in the format of the Scrivener document.  Select Edit and then click Paste and Match Style.

Use it the Way You Want

I think this is one of the most powerful aspects of Scrivener.  If you’re a pantser or an outliner, it doesn’t matter.  You can use what you need and ignore what will get in the way.

For you: What kind of hacks have you been using with Scrivener?  Post in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Awesome Scrivener for Windows Hacks for Pantsers

  1. Nik Bramblett June 8, 2012 / 7:43 am

    I think maybe I don’t understand your use of the word “hack.” These seem to be “tips” to me.

    I just started using Scrivener last month, and BOY is it better than the other writing software I’ve used! The “inspector,” I think, is the most useful (to me) feature of the whole thing: for each text file, you’re allowed to create (and color-code!) labels, tags, and so forth, in addition to making notes. Two tags that it has built in are “document type” (like, “scene” or “sequel” or however you want to use it– I am currently working on a non-fiction project (yes, you can use this great tool for a lot more than just novels!) that involves a lot of discussion of fruits, other common ingredients, and recipes (for pies, cobblers, jams, etc.) and a file might contain an “ingredient desciption” or “process” or “recipe” or something like that. Then there’s a tag called “status,” which might be “to do” or “in progress” or “draft” or “revised” or whatever.

    For fiction, tags can help you track characters, themes, particular artifacts or plot points, or any other information that will help you build coherent, rich writing. You can search for a particular tag, color-code them, filter by them, customize them, and so forth. Truly a heavy lifter for me.


    • corajramos June 9, 2012 / 12:12 pm

      Thanks for the additional tips. I have not used Scrivener because when I opened it I gagged-what do I do with all these ‘gadgets’ and looked around then quietly closed it and forgot about it. I will give it another look.

      Thanks Linda for this post–I need all the help I can get to get acquainted properly with that program. I will try a re-start.


  2. Julie Glover June 10, 2012 / 11:08 pm

    I love Scrivener too. I’m half plotter/half pantser really. I plotted my last novel with the index card function on Scrivener, but then I moved stuff around, changed cards, etc. as I went. And I could still see the full picture at any time. It took a while to get acclimated, but now I can’t imagine going back to Microsoft Word to write.


    • Linda Adams June 11, 2012 / 5:52 am

      Trying move things around in Word was crazy! But I still have to go back to it during some of the edits. Scrivener doesn’t have macros, and I use one to check for unnecessary words.


  3. rachelmrooney July 5, 2012 / 9:24 am

    Hi Linda,

    You see above where you have the colour coding section, how do you get scrivener to use more than 2 colours. I have seen this alot but have no idea how to do in. In my inspector I have a choice of Concept or Chapter with a choice of colours for each but my binder as a result always ends up with 2 colours max. One for concept and one for chapter. I would love to be able to use multiple colours, one for characters, one for finished chapters, one for research etc but I feel limited at the moment. Am I missing something on how to do this?

    Kind regards and great post,


    • Linda Adams July 8, 2012 / 7:39 am

      Rachel, have you assigned color categories to the index cards? The folder colors are taken from how you categorize the index cards.


    • Bettye Griffin October 24, 2012 / 3:30 am

      Rachel, go into Edit on the general meta-data, click on the color, and you can change it then to any desired color.


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