How to Start a New Novel Project in Scrivener

How to Start a New Novel Project in Scrivener via

Last week I gave you My Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Novel in Scrivener.

In this week’s Story Writing with Scrivener post, I’m guiding you through your first foray into the program. If you haven’t purchased Scrivener already, you can click here for Mac and here for PC, or you can download the free trial.

Go ahead, I won’t start without you!

All set? If you have successfully installed Scrivener, you should see the Scrivener icon (a black and white ‘S’) on your desktop or in your task bar. If not, you need to search through your computer’s programs and then drag it into one of those two locations. Now that you’ve got the program in front of you, let’s get started.

Here’s the step by step guide to starting a new novel project in Scrivener:

1) Click on the Scrivener icon. Okay, this might be a ‘duh’ kind of statement, but I wanted to be comprehensive. So go, click that icon, and conquer!

Starting a New Novel Project

2) A New Project window will appear. In the left hand column, you have a series of writing categories (i.e. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Scriptwriting, etc.). You’ll also notice that there is a Getting Started category that contains an Interactive Tutorial.

You can go ahead and take this tutorial if you’d like, but much of that information I will be teaching you over the weeks to come, specifically with novel-writing in mind.

3) Click on the Fiction category. To the right of the category column, you will notice a large block that contains three pages: Novel, Novel (with parts), and Short Story. These are Scrivener templates. When you create a new project using a certain template, Scrivener will automatically make a few alterations to the project to best suit your needs.

If you want to start with a completely blank project, you can click the Blank category in the left-hand column. But for the sake of example, I am going to be demonstrating the use of Scrivener with the Novel template, so go ahead and click on Novel.

Starting a New Novel Project

4) Time to name your project file and choose where you will house it on your computer. Your project name doesn’t have to be the title of your book, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have a title ready to go. Any name that will indicate the contents of your project file will do.

For this example, I will be calling this project file ‘My Novel’. Enter your own project file name in the Save As space.

Once you’ve named your project file, locate the Where action just underneath. By clicking the arrow or the Browse button, you can choose where you will save your new Scrivener project.

Pro Tip: I highly recommend downloading the free Dropbox software and housing your files there. Dropbox is a cloud service, meaning that anything you save in the Dropbox folder of your computer will automatically be saved to a Dropbox server.
If your computer should crash and burn, all of your files can still be accessed in your online Dropbox account. You can also sync Dropbox with all of your devices so that you can access your files on your phone or tablet to boot. Three cheers for efficiency!
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to save my example project to my computer’s desktop.

5) Go ahead and click create! Your Scrivener project should open momentarily. You are now looking at the wonderful world of Scrivener. It may seem a little (okay, a lot!) overwhelming at first, but breathe easy. I shall be your guide!

Starting a New Novel Project

6) The majority of your screen should feature a Novel Format instruction guide. It offers a bit of insight into using this specific Novel template (remember how we selected this template in step 3?).

I do recommend reading this guide since it is relatively quick and will give you a good overview of Scrivener. Don’t stress out if there’s anything you don’t understand. We’ll get there together.

If you accidentally click out of this guide, or if it doesn’t pop up in the first place, you can access it by clicking on the blue triangle in the binder. The binder (which we will talk about in detail next week) is in the left hand column of your screen.

You should find the blue triangle at the top of that column, next to the words ‘Novel Format’.

Also note that the title you gave your project file will appear in the blue bar at the very top of your screen. This is a helpful feature when you are working on several projects at once.

7) You have officially created your first Scrivener project. Hurray! That's all that we are going to review for today, but let me close out this post by explaining how to save and exit your project successfully.

First of all, one of the greatest things about Scrivener is that it automatically saves your project every time you stop typing for two or more seconds, which means that it totally has your back. Thanks Scrivener!

However, before I close a project I like to manually save the file, just in case. You can do this by clicking on File in the top task bar just under the blue banner at the top of your screen. From there, scroll down and click Save.

You can also use the keyboard shortcut, which is control-S on a PC and command-S on a Mac.

You can then close your Scrivener project by clicking on the red box in the blue banner at the top of your screen or by going to File>>Close Project.


Let's Chat!

Look at you with your bad self, mastering the basics of starting a new Scrivener project. Give yourself a round of applause! Now go read over the Novel Format instruction guide and try fiddling around with a few Scrivener features.  

In next week's post, I'll be teaching you how to organize all your novel files in the Scrivener binder so be sure to stop by. Have a great week!

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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!

Kristen is the author of the upcoming The Books of Maveryn series and The Astral Series, as well as several non-fiction books for writers.