Editing Fiction with Scrivener

Editing Fiction with Scrivener Editing fiction? Scrivener makes editing easy.

Let’s see how it works. I’m editing a novella. Unfortunately I got carried away, and wrote several thousand words more than I need. The novella’s rapidly rushing into novel territory. Not to worry.

By the way, this is my process, so if you’re new to Scrivener, please don’t think it’s the only way to edit. Scrivener’s endlessly fluid. You can use as many, or as few of the tools as you please. So if talk about Collections or Snapshots puts you off, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to use them.

Edit with Scrivener

1. Compile and read the project

Your project’s done. It’s time to take it out of Scrivener, to see what you have. I like to compile projects for MOBI (Amazon Kindle format) for a first read, but you can compile into PDF, or other formats. Your choice.

Why compile? So you can read without distractions, and can get a sense of your fiction or nonfiction as a whole. Stuff that needs to be cut will stand out.

2. Back to Scrivener: slash and prune

You’ve done your read-through. Now it’s time to clear away the undergrowth and prune. What needs to go? Go through it your novel or short story and slash everything you don’t need. Remember to take a Snapshot of each document before you wade in. You can take as many Snaphots as you like. Scrivener guru Gwen Hernandez on Snapshots:

A snapshot (Documents—>Snapshot—>Take Snapshot) is a record of the document as it is right now, that gets saved as part of the document’s meta-data. It’s a great way to keep track of different versions of a scene or section without muddying up your binder with versions. I rarely go back to an old version, but I like knowing I can find my original words, if necessary.

3. Oh, how sad… it’s a mess 🙂

You’ll have a messy manuscript now. 🙂 Go through and add material as needed.  At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammar errors, or any fine tuning.

Fix holes in character development, and in your plot. Remember that you can split documents, to make it easier. I like to both split documents, and add new documents, so that I can add them to Collections.

I have a Collection for each main character, and for the plot. Here’s an article on Collections.

With Collections, you can focus on specific elements. You can create “automatic” Collections with searches, as well as your own Collections. Done deleting and adding? Check your character and plot arcs, in their Collections. You’ll need to add more material.

4. You’ve patched it all together

Final pass. Smooth out sentences, paragraphs and scenes.

If you’re sending your novel off to an editor, give it a final read-through. At this stage, fix egregious errors in grammar, but don’t go over-board.

There’s no need to get clever with word choices and phrasing — you may yet need to slash entire scenes, if not chapters.

You may not have an editor. If you don’t, and you’re doing the editing, go through the process above AGAIN.

This will be your second draft. Remember to take lots of Snapshots.

Whether you have an outside editor, or do all the editing yourself, you’ll know when the novel’s ready for your beta readers.

Forget about the novel for now — it’s time to start on your next novel, or write a short story.

Update: April 29, 2019

Five years have passed I wrote this article. My editing process today remains much the same as it was then. The only difference is that I added proofing into the editing process.

I proof using ProWritingAid, and it’s simple. I copy the text from Scrivener document into ProWritingAid, correct it there, then paste into Scrivener again. There may be an easier way to do this, but this process works for me, and it’s simple.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.