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Using Scrivener To Store Your Research & Notes

If you enjoy writing, it’s quite possible that you’ve heard of Scrivener. The writing software, available for both Mac and PC, is a firm favourite for both published and unpublished writers alike. However, many are unaware of its numerous features and how it is much more than just yet-another-word-processor. It’s only when they learn that it can assist with the whole article or novel writing process – from research to compilation into an ebook format – that users get to see the true value to any writer, no matter where they are on their career path.

One of Scrivener’s big areas that many users do not make full use of is the research folders. Whether you are writing a novel or piece of non-fiction there are many bits of information you might want to keep. These can be dates and timelines, character profiles or even reference pictures you’ve found on the internet.

Scrivener (screenshot 1)

Even if your information is entirely fictional it can be useful to have your worldbuilding notes easy to hand. Many users make the mistake of storing this information in other files or with online services like Evernote, but in actual fact you can store all this information inside your project file in Scrivener, ensuring that your words and research never get parted.

Your research folder can be found within your binder below your main manuscript folder. Depending on the template that you are using, you may have additional folders specifically for characters and places. It’s easy to add or move folders to match your workflow. These can even be given custom icons to better match their content. Once you’ve sorted out your folders it’s even possible to then save this as a custom template that you can use time and time again for later projects.

What you add to the folder is entirely up to you, but you are not just limited to text documents. If you want to import a web page or even image files it’s easy to do this from the main menu.

Scrivener (screenshot 2)

You might well ask why go to all the effort to import all your research into Scrivener? The simple answer is that having everything in one location makes things so much easier. There’s no need to go online to fetch a file from Evernote; there’s no need to remember which files and folders to transfer to a USB stick if you want to work on another computer.

Scrivener’s split screen ability allows you to have two windows open, either side by side or one above the other, meaning that you don’t have to constantly alt-tab between research and your manuscript. It might sound like a minor thing, but distractions like this can make it difficult to get into a good flow with your writing.

Scrivener (screenshot 3)

Of course, having everything in one file means that portability becomes so much easier. Even if you use a service like Dropbox to sync your manuscript between computers, having your research go with it, means you’ll have not only the most up to date version of your manuscript always to hand, but of your reference as well.

And with Scrivener’s snapshotting feature and backup tools, your research notes will benefit from the same rollback ability that your main manuscript does.

But you can take the reference folder, much, much further. You could make your own wiki for your world and then when you come to write the sequel, just copy and paste the entire folder from one project to the other, transferring all your notes with just a few key presses. You can then keep expanding it as you write more and more books in the series.

You could keep copies of all your beta reader feedback, allowing you to quickly check if your rewrites are addressing points made without ever having to leave the software. You could even keep a record of your progress on a draft and the work that still has to be done.

And even if you insist on using Evernote, you could still drag and drop links to your various files into Scrivener so that they can be launched from within the software.

Making use of the research section in Scrivener is one of the most useful advanced features. It allows you to stop using Scrivener as purely a word processor and start using it as a total writing tool. Next time you open a new document or other piece of software to aid you in the creation of your next piece of fiction or non-fiction, consider whether you could store it inside Scrivener instead.


One Comment

  1. I love Scrivener. I’ve been using it exclusively for about 3 years now and just last year did I move all my scattered research and writing notes into a research folder — so much easier!
    Honestly? I can say that I’d never go back to any other sort of writing. Now if only I could get my editors to edit in Scrivener somehow so I never had to deal with Word.

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