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As part of my ongoing Scrivener Tutorial series, we’ve reached number 4. Previously I’ve discussed how to Create a New Document and Work with Scenes, Making Document Goals, and Cool Tools in Scrivener.

Today in continuing with our Revision theme for January, I’m going to discuss how I use Scrivener when it’s time to revise, and why Scrivener is my go-to writing software for revision.

If you’re not sure of where to start with revising your WIP, check out the article I wrote on it back at the beginning of January: A Revision Checklist.

1. Compile/Export

At some point in your story’s process, you’ll want to put it in a program like Word or else convert the file into an ebook format. Scrivener makes this easy. Look for the “compile” button, or else click on “File” and go all the way to the bottom to find “compile.”

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This gives you pretty much any option you could need. I’ve not used most of them, but I have used the conversion to Word, epub, mobi, and PDF.

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I use this feature quite often when it’s time for rereading my story after I’ve finished a draft. It allows me to change platforms and reread my story with new eyes, thus allowing me to engage in a different reading experience.

2. Notes

This feature is also something you find in Word and Pages and other word processing software these days. It’s incredibly convenient though to have them available in Scrivener as well.

To use, simply select the text you wish to the comment to refer to (if you select nothing, the word nearest your cursor will be associated with the note), and hit the “comment” button. Alternatively, shift-Control-* or else under “Format” menu, select “comment.”

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One of the nice things in Scrivener is that if you don’t wish to write something in the comment, which I don’t always do, it automatically inserts your name, the date, and time you created the note. Sometimes, it’s too much effort to write a note when I’ll know why I highlighted it by the time I return to it.

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A comment will create a yellow highlight over your text, and then appear in your Inspector to the right of your document/scene–only when the speech bubble icon is pressed. However, if you’re looking at tags or snapshots or something else in that section of your screen, you won’t be able to view your comments, a possible down side.

Another nice feature of comments here in Scrivener is that if you have made a comment in the scene or document you are looking at, an asterisk will appear next to that speech bubble icon whether or not you have comments visible in your inspector section. So with just a glance over, you’ll be able to see if you have any comments you need to address in that scene.

3. Snapshots

This is one of my favorite features of Scrivener, and one that I miss the most whenever I cheat on it.

In a nutshell, snapshots prevents you from losing your original wording once you make changes.

I’m one of those paranoid writers who hates to delete anything I wrote–maybe one day I’ll realize the changes I made were awful and I want to go back to the original story. But if I wrote my story in Word and when I edited it, I simply deleted that scene without backing up my entire Word document, I won’t have it to go back to.

In Scrivener, if you took a snapshot, you’ll have it and will hardly have to go looking for it at all. Just like your comments, you’ll find the snapshots in the Inspector section in the right hand portion of your screen. When you click on it, you can cycle through all the snapshots you’ve taken and find the copy you want to return to.

You have the option to “compare” your versions like I did in the picture below.

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But you can also “roll back” if you find a version that you wish to revert back to. So if I liked my previous version better, and want to start over from that point, I can revert back to it–but I also have the chance to take a snapshot of the current version before doing so.

It’s a wonderful tool to use, and can allow you to revise without worry, as well as without juggling multiple files.

As a side note, under your “Scrivener” menu, select “Preferences” and under “General” make sure that “Take snapshots of changed text document on manual save” is highlighted. Now whenever you manually save your document (Command-S), any scene or documented you changed prior to that save will have a snapshot taken of it. (I LOVE this feature.)

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4. Revision mode

Did you know that there’s a “revision mode” in Scrivener? Yeah. It’s another pretty sweet tool I use while I revise.

There are five revision modes, which basically consist of five different colors for revisions you make. In other words, if I enter revision mode and select “first revision,” any text I write after that will be red. It’s a quick and easy way to keep track of what changes you make, rather like “track changes” in Word. However, this revision mode won’t show you what you delete, but only what you add or change (if you change fonts, for example, the entire text you changed the font for will become red).

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5. One scene at a time 

Something that is incredibly useful in editing for me is the ability to look at one scene at a time. Sometimes–okay a lot of the time–it’s overwhelming to look at the entire story or novel as a whole work. It’s easier to pick one scene at a time, maybe the first, maybe the last, maybe the midpoint, and start there.

Pluses of selecting only one scene at a time is that you can see exactly how many words make up that scene or chapter, you can look at your word usage stats for just that scene and perhaps realize you’ve used “glanced” or “gazed” too many times in that scene. Or maybe you simply need to fact check that scene and you can use the split screen feature to make sure the details in scene 1 correspond with scene 45.

6. Split screen

There is a nifty feature of “split screen” in Scrivener that allows you to have two scenes or documents open at once. This could be a character card and a scene which that character features in, or else two scenes that take place in the same setting and need to have the right details in, or a setting card and a scene, etc. The options are endless.

I often use this feature in revision, for that’s when I’m more worried about details being correct than in a first draft. First drafts are all about getting the words down. And for that, I’ll more often use the next feature…

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7. Full screen

Yes, Scrivener has a distraction-free full screen mode. It’s awesome, as is most things in Scrivener. But this is easy to access, and still allows you to have a few “distractions” up if you really need them, like your Inspector box and your word count box, etc.

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But it’s also personalize-able. You can use a favorite image for the backdrop, make the paper more or less opaque, zoom in or out, narrow or widen the paper width, put the page on the left, right, or center it; view the inspector, the keywords, how many words and characters are in your document, as well as use the “go-to” in order to enter a new scene without exiting full screen mode.

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It’s really quite useful, and can up your productivity when you need to forget that your computer has other applications on it. (Well, it works sometimes…but I don’t forget about the Internet all that often, unfortunately.)

Bonus 8. Word usage stats

See my earlier Scrivener Tutorial #3, link below, for information on this as well as using goals in Scrivener.

But a short version is that it will tell you every word you use and how many times you use it in your scene, chapter, or manuscript, whichever you have selected.

It’s well worth using to discover any “crutch” words or over usage of a character’s name or emotion, etc.

Previous Scrivener Tutorials:

Scrivener Tutorial #1: Creating a New Document & Working with Scenes

Scrivener Tutorial #2: Making Document Goals in Scrivener

Scrivener Tutorial #3: Cool Tools in Scrivener