Creating a Readable Outline with Scrivener 3’s Centered Outliner

If you stop by my other blog, you’ll see that I write a lot about the trials and tribulations of my work-in-progress. This has been a ten year project. There’s been much stumbling around, many revisions, revelations, and long periods of not working on it because of plain old ennui.

I’m happy to write that I’ve been consistenly working on the novel since July and I am making progress. If all goes well, I might finish it by the end of the year.

For this tutorial, I’ll be showing how to use the Centered Outliner, but also my process. Typically I am a plontser. A combination pantser and plotter. As I pointed out in a previous post, I use Alexandra Sokoloff’s structure for my WIP: three acts and broken down into eight sequences. Each sequence holds x number of scenes or chapters.

Once I have my structure set up in my binder, I typically create a document and give it a title and write a short blurb of what it’s about in the synopsis. I do this until the end of the sequence and then start writing.

For this exercise, I want to try to think more as an outliner and get down all the major details of each scene so I could easily flesh it out while I write the chapter. To achieve this I use the synopsis pane found in the Inspector.

If you’ve been using older versions of Scrivener, you already know that text in your synopsis will appear in either the Corkboard or the Outliner. In this new version of Scrivener, users have more room to write longer synopsis. I used a modified outline structure that was taught when I was in elementary school.

After I completed each of the synopses, this what my Centered Outline looked on the screen.

But what if I wanted to print it out? Simply go to File->Print Current Document. You’ll get this window:

Open the PDF in Preview and this is what it will look like when you print it out:

I like this new feature to the Outliner a lot. I don’t like printing out spread sheet because it never prints out in one cohesive and neat document. This way, I can write it out in my modified manner and comes out in a readable format that can be popped into a three-ring binder.


  3 comments for “Creating a Readable Outline with Scrivener 3’s Centered Outliner

  1. Michael Weinstock
    November 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Hi RS,

    Your situation with the manuscript sounds eerily familiar. I too have been “working” on a project for far too long and am also re-inspired to get it finished this year.
    I’ve earned my MFA in Creative Writing but still am unable to devise a solid 3-Act story arc. I’m a pantser all the way, but do not state this with pride, for I believe every writer needs a mixture of both plot and passion. I hope this new layout gets me into the outlining format of doing things. I like your revamping of the old-school outline form. That makes more sense to me. Question: Do you formulate this outline in the synopsis panel before you arrange things in the binder? or is the binder a reflection of what you’ve outlined? The binder doesn’t work for me as outliner tool, for some reason. I think I’m overwhelmed with the size of my project.
    Perhaps I too should check out Alexandra Sokoloff’s work.

    • RS
      November 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      Hi Michael,

      Good question re the binder. I typically formulate my scenes in my head in chronological order. So when I start I usually have about four or five chapters in my head. I create the docs and give them a one liner description and then I go and write my one or two sentence blurb in the synopsis that describes the events of the chapter. What I’ve shown is one document, not several subdocuments. I tend to flesh out the chapter as I revise and I also merge chapters into one. What’s difficult for me is to sketch out the goal, motivation and conflict for each scene right at the start because I don’t really know until numerous pass throughs the story.

      If you go to my other blog, I have a post about having accountability partner/beta reader in your genre that might help you develop a 3 act story arc. My beta reader asks very pointed questions which has helped me develop the arc.

      • Michael Weinstock
        November 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm

        Hi RS,

        Thank you for this. I will definitely check out your other blog’s post about beta-reader accountability.

        Keep up the great work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *