Organizing Scrivener’s Binder Part 1

I’m splitting this tutorial in two parts because there is much to cover. Part I will focus on everything below the draft icon until the Research section, which will be Part II.

The binder is Scrivener’s project management system with three root folders: The Draft Folder for the actual written work, the Research Folder for all the research files and templates that are relevant to your WIP, and the Trash bin for everything you decide to delete. These three root folders cannot be deleted or moved, but you can add your own folders at this level.

Let’s first take a look at the Draft part of the Binder.  You can rename the Draft icon by double clicking it, and type in whatever you’re calling your writing project. To create folders with in the Draft folder, you have several options:

1. Go to the menubar and click on Project->New Folder

Creating a Folder via the Project Menu

Creating a Folder via the Project Menu

2. Go to the footer of the Binder and click on the Folder+ icon.

Folder icon in footer bar of Binder

Folder icon in footer bar of Binder

3. Next to Folder+ icon at the footer, click on the gear wheel or action menu. Go to Add-> New Folder.

Creating a New Folder from the Action Menu

Creating a New Folder from the Action Menu

4. On the toolbar click and hold the green icon with the plus sign and select New Folder.

Creating a New Folder Using the Green Plus Icon in the Toolbar

Creating a New Folder Using the Green Plus Icon in the Toolbar

Because this is a new story, I’m adding a total of three folders. For folder number one, I’m labeling it as Part One and I follow the same process with folders two and three. The next step is to add text files. You follow the same exact steps as above, but this time select New Text (with the exception of the footer bar, click on  + icon for New Text). Once I have all my text files, I drag and drop them into their respective folders. This is how my binder looks:

Binder with Folders and Text Files

Binder with Folders and Text Files

To move a text file into the folders. I select it and drag  and drop it into the folder. To select several files, I hold down my shift key, select the files I want, drag and drop them into the folder. But, let’s say have some scenes/chapters that I may not want to use, yet still want to keep. I can create another folder at the root level by right clicking the empty area of the Binder below the Trash can. The action menu appears, select new folder, label it, and hit Enter.

Now I have this new folder for unused scenes and I have several scenes in each of the folders that I want to group and move to Unused Scenes. To select these files, hit Cmd-click (Ctrl-click in Windows). You can drag them to the folder, or go to the action menu and select Move To. A submenu will open that lists the Unused Scenes folder. Click on that and the files will be moved to that folder.

Grouping and Moving Files

Grouping and Moving Files

But what if you have a couple of scenes written in a Word document? Can the document be imported? Yes! You can either drag the document from the directory directly to your folder or you can go to File->Import->Files.

Importing Files into the Binder

Importing Files into the Binder

A couple of things to note: if you have a document with footnotes and images in the document, save it as an RTF file so that it imports the document with all the preserved footnotes and images. If the document is saved as a .docx and imported as such it will import the text, but won’t properly import the footnotes, comments or images. Keep in mind that if you have complex files, save them first as RTFs and then you can import them into Scrivener without losing those elements.

Next time, I’ll go through the Research folder of the Binder.

  17 comments for “Organizing Scrivener’s Binder Part 1

  1. rmgbi
    January 2, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I was following you until you got to “Because this is a new story, I’m adding a total of three folders.” What do three folders have to do with the fact that the story is new? Does your story have three parts? Does a story require three folders? Then we get to adding new text. It sounds as if you have already written this text. Where are you finding the files and dragging them in from? All the steps involved in getting started have me confused. My kids gave me the money to purchase a license for Scrivener (I have been using the trial version), but I am still wondering if it is more complicated than I need. Could you please help me understand the “adding new texts” step? Am I adding dummy files to be filled with text when I start writing my story? Am I supposed to know already how many sections, pages, chapters, or whatever my story is going to have? I like the idea of Scrivener, but I guess I need help! Thank you very much!

  2. January 2, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    rmgbi rmgbi  My story is divided into three parts. I was just trying to show you how I set up my story from scratch instead of showing one that is in the works, I figured you can follow my process as I write the story. So you learn and you get a sneak peek of a soon to be working draft. 
    So let’s start from the beginning. Let’s say, I’m creating a new story. Nothing is written so far so you’ll be seeing how I set it up from start to finish.  To create a folder, go to the menubar and click on Project->New Folder. You can label it whatever you want, I’m labeling it as Part One. Because that folder is already selected, again go to the menu bar click on Project->New Text. 
    I think what’s throwing you off is the label “Text File” there is no written text, these are just blank pages or dummy pages as you call them. 
    You can add as many text files (blank pages) as you want. Think of them as different scenes or chapters. I like to have at least 10 to 12 scenes/chapter per part. So I add these blank text files (blank pages). Remember how we were taught how to outline in school as kids? Here’s a visual analogy:
    I. Part One (folder) 
    A. Chapter 1 (Another Folder) (I actually skip this and go straight to my scenes)
           1. Scene 1 (text file)
           2. Scene 2 (text file)
           3. Scene 3 (text file)
       B. Chapter 2 (another folder)
           1. Scene 1 (text file)
           2. Scene 2 (text file)
           3. Scene 3 (text file)
    II Part Two (folder)
       Same format as above.
    III Part Three
        Same format as Part 1
    As for the dragging part. Let’s say I have all these scenes written in Word saved in my directory on hard disk. I can import them into the selected Folder by going to the menu bar go to File->Import->Files. From there a window will open to where you have the files saved in your directory, and just select them and hit Import. Or open your directory, find the files you want and drag them into the folder where you them in.

    Regarding parts: You don’t need to know how many parts, chapters, pages or even words you need for your novel. I was  showing how I set it all up because I have my own method that some people might find helpful. The beauty of Scrivener is that you can make it work for you in any way you want. 
    I hope this helped and feel free to ask more questions. Don’t give up on it because once you learn how to use it, you will love it.

  3. rmgbi
    January 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    RebecaSchiller rmgbi Thank you so much, Rebeca! That’s so helpful. I get it now! I will be referring back to your explanation when I get to my novel manuscript. Right now I’m working on organizing the poetry chapbook I put together 10 years ago and haven’t done anything with since. 🙂 Time for action!

  4. January 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    rmgbi I’m so pleased that helped! And please don’t be shy about asking questions. They help me as much as the help you!

  5. rmgbi
    January 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Hi, Rebeca, I’m back with another question. I wanted to slap my project into a format that I could email to a friend for comments. Wasn’t sure whether to export, compile, or save as. Actually, I tried them all–first compile for preview, but I couldn’t find where the compile version resides, and didn’t know how to find and email it. Then I tried export by highlighting all the relevant files and hitting export, but I was interrupted and had to cancel the export. Now Scrivener won’t let me export *any* files, either one at a time or as a group, nor will it let me delete (in File Explorer and NOT in the .scriv file) the ones that did export before I cancelled. The error message says it was unable to open the files to write them. Did I screw something up? I also tried saving as a pdf, but it does not break the pages in the right places, and besides, I would prefer Word so my friend can write comments. Any suggestions? TIA!

  6. January 8, 2014 at 6:43 am

    rmgbi Eek. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Okay…this is what I would do: save the project, close it and close Scrivener. Then reboot Scrivener and open the project file. The easiest thing to do Is to create a folder within the binder and drag all the files into that folder. Select the Folder, Go to File->Export->Files. Make sure that it exports to your desktop and that they’re in docx or doc format. If that doesn’t work. I’d ask the folks at Literature&Latte how to fix it. You may have corrupted the files somehow. 
    To find the compiled version, it must be soewhere in your directory. Have you done a complete search in your hard drive under the name it was saved?

  7. nickshaxson
    September 25, 2014 at 9:45 am

    This is a problem with dragging and dropping folders already in Scrivener. I’ve written a document from scratch inside scrivener, without importing anything from Word or whatnot. This document has got lots of folders – and many of those folders have sub-folders. So far so good.

    The problem happens when I try to move a folder into another position in the Binder. If the folder above where I want to drag it to has subfolders in it, then scrivener will turn the folder that I’m dragging into a subfolder when I drop it there. I can’t find a way to drag it so that it stays as a higher-level folder. Can anyone help?

  8. RedDiceDiaries
    November 12, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Very interesting tutorial Rebeca, I was wondering, when using Scrivener in this manner is it possible to only compile certain parts of it, also how does it affect daily targets/word totals? At the moment i’m writing my NaNoWriMo novel using Scrivener and like the idea of having all my writing in a single file, but is it going to mess up my word targets?

  9. November 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    RedDiceDiaries You can compile certain parts of the project. In terms of word count total word count would be for the entire project, but what you can do is select all the docs in your NANO project in the binder and in Project Statistics you can see how many words you have for that selection of writing.

  10. RedDiceDiaries
    November 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    That’s great, thanks 🙂

  11. Ann_Advocate
    April 16, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    nickshaxson, not sure if you’ll ever see this; but if not, it might help someone else: 

    When you hover the folder at the place you want it to end up, a bar with a knob (or circle, or whatever?) will form. If the knob is to the right of the line of folders, the dropped folder will become a sub-folder of the one above. If the knob is to the left, the dropped folder will be the same level as the one above.

  12. nickshaxson
    April 17, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Ann_Advocate nickshaxson thanks Ann – and it works. How simple.

  13. Lislann
    December 15, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    This may seem like a really dumb question, but when I add a new folder there is a dashed line near the top. Do i put my work under it or above it?  Thanks

  14. December 15, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Lislann  Select the folder and then add a document and it should go to the right and below the folder. It should look like this

  15. MarmEbberman
    June 1, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Hi, Quick question. I’m writing a novel that has chapters subdivided into scenes. I noticed that some of my scenes are labeled as text chunks and some are actually folders. I don’t know how I did this originally, but I’m wondering if I should convert each of the text chunk scenes into individual folders? Does this give me some type of advantage? Thanks

  16. June 1, 2016 at 10:40 am

    MarmEbberman  You can try it. There’s really no right or wrong way to organize your work. I have mine as  set up as sequences. You can see how I organized it in this tutorial: It took a lot of experimentation of how I wanted to break it down and because I actually think more like a screenwriter this method worked better for me.

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