Using the Scrivener Binder to Organize Your Novel

How to Use the Scrivener Binder to Organize Your Novel Project via

Welcome to week three of the Story Writing With Scrivener mini-series! 

Thus far, we've talked about my top 10 reasons to start working with Scrivener and how to start a new novel project. This week, I'm taking you inside Scrivener for the first time by introducing you to the Scrivener Binder.

The Binder is one of my favorite features in Scrivener. Found in the left-hand column of your screen, the Binder allows you to create and organize as many folders, sub-folders, and documents as your little heart desires.

Not only does this make it super easy for you to map out the contents of your novel, but it makes organizing your notes and research a cinch.

The Binder is also super awesome because you can create as many separate documents as you wish without having to open up any new windows to view them. Simply click on anything in the Binder and it will show up in the main window of your screen.

Switching between scenes and utilizing your notes as you write has never been easier!

binder basics

If you created your project using the Novel template, then the Binder already contains a few pre-made folders and documents to get you started. Allow me to walk you through exactly what each of them are for.

Manuscript - Manuscript is the Scrivener folder where all of your novel's content with be written. This means that you can add sub-folders and documents within the Manuscript to organize your chapters and scenes. You may notice that you can't delete the Manuscript.

That is because Scrivener needs to know what documents to merge into one long text file during compilation, so keep in mind that all scenes must find their way to this folder before you can compile and export your final draft.


Chapter - Chapter is a sub-folder in your Manuscript. Sub-folders are meant to organize related information within a folder, meaning that you can write individual scene documents and then group them into chapter sub-folders to keep your writing neat and organized.

Scene - Scene is a Scrivener document. Consider it equal to one Google Docs or Microsoft Word file. You can create documents for anything you'd like, but the Novel template automatically give you a Scene document to start out with.

Characters - When you create a new project using the Novel template, Scrivener automatically creates a Character folder so that you have a place to store notes about your precious fictional friends.

Places - Ditto with the Places folder. The Novel template automatically provides you with a folder to store notes about your story's settings.

Front Matter - Essentially, your front matter is anything that comes before the story in your book. In Scrivener, Front Matter appears in the Binder as a folder.

It contains three sub-folders, one for manuscript format, one for a paperback novel, and one for an e-book. Inside each of these sub-folders, you will find documents like Cover, Title Page, Dedication, etc. Before you compile your work, fill out the appropriate front matter for your novel.

Research - Just like Manuscript, Research is a permanent folder in your Scrivener Binder. You can't trash Research because Scrivener uses it to house your imported files. 

If you are having trouble importing in the future, it's probably because you're trying to import files directly into Manuscript, which is a Scrivener no-go. You must first import into Research before you can drag the files into Manuscript.

Template Sheets - Template Sheets is a folder that contains two pre-made documents for your note-taking use. The first document is a character sketch that helps you flesh out the details of your characters.

The second document is a setting sketch which helps you do the same for your setting. If you choose to utilize these template sheets, you will need to duplicate them for multiple characters and settings. You can do this by right clicking on the document in your Binder and clicking duplicate.

Trash - Pretty self-explanatory, right? Trash is where your deleted documents end up. You can delete a file by selecting it and clicking the red circle in your top toolbar or by right clicking and selecting Move to Trash.

You can still access any files you delete by clicking on the Trash folder, so don't fret if you accidentally delete something.

Now that you've got the basics down, let's take a look at what you can actually do with the Scrivener Binder.

working with the scrivener binder

Here are a few ways that I like to manipulate the Scrivener Binder for my personal use.

1) Create a Notes Folder I like to keep my research notes and my personal thoughts and ideas separated. Thus, I created a Notes folder in my Binder. You can create your own folder by clicking on the folder icon with the plus sign at the bottom left hand corner or by holding down the control/command > shift > 'N' keys.

2) Move Characters and Places into Notes I like to make Characters and Places into Notes sub-folders. You can do this by simply clicking and dragging each folder into Notes.


3) Change the Notes Icon. I like to change the Notes icon from the ambiguous blue folder to something that can help me more easily identify its contents.

You can change any icon in Scrivener by right clicking on the current icon, selecting change icon, and choosing whatever new icon strikes your fancy. I like to choose the Thought Bubble for my Notes folder.

4) Move Front Matter above Manuscript. I don't deal much with my novel's front matter, but I don't want to forget that it's there. Therefore, I like to move Front Matter above Manuscript. You can do this by clicking on the Front Matter icon and dragging it above the Manuscript icon.

things to note

Here are a few final tips for mastering your Scrivener Binder.

1) You don't need to name your sub-folders or documents according to their chapter number (i.e. Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc.). Scrivener will automatically take care of this when it compiles your work, so feel free to name your chapter sub-folders or documents whatever will help you identify the contents.

2) Feel free to create as many folders, sub-folders, and documents as you'd like, for whatever you'd like. Some of the files I created include an Old Drafts folder (for work I've written but no longer want to include), an Ideas sub-folder, a Marketing Plans folder, and a Title Brainstorming document, among many others.

The glory of Scrivener is that you can personalize it exactly to your tastes (which we'll get into even more as this series continues), so don't hesitate to spend some time fooling around with your Binder. Tailor it until it perfectly suits your needs.


Let's Chat!

Do you have any other fun tips and tricks for utilizing the Scrivener Binder? Do have any questions or need clarification on a certain topic?

Let me know and I'll do my best to answer with lightning speed. And don't forget to stop by next week; we'll be talking about how to outline your novel in the Scrivener Corkboard View, which is another one of my favorite Scrivener features.

P.S. Still need to purchase Scrivener? Would you consider making your purchase through ones of my links? I make a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you. You can click here for Mac and here for PC. Thank you so much for your support!

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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.