I’ve long been a holdout on the Scrivener front. I tried a free demo over a year ago, and I immediately bounced off the steep learning curve. Then in 2016 I bought a license when it was on sale during NaNoWriMo. I tried to use it–this time trying the introductory/training materials–but again I just couldn’t do it. I was too in love with my personal wiki for worldbuilding and Microsoft Word for writing my drafts.

It took a few tweets–with screenshots–from author John Hornor Jacobs for me to see how Scrivener could combine my worldbuilding and drafting documents into one program.

Armed with this knowledge, I dove back into the UI monster that is Scrivener. The program comes with some pre-made templates, but with a little bit of Google-Fu, I found out that you can import templates into Scrivener.

I found a few templates that were organized and had folders for worldbuilding, for outlines, and for rough drafts. As soon as I saw that, I had a faint inkling of hope–that this could work. That maybe this time I could at least get into Scrivener long enough to give it a fair shake.

So here’s what I did in case anybody’s in a similar situation.

Import Template

With Scrivener, you can create templates that can be used across different projects. So with some quick Google Fu, I found some templates I wanted to try.

Once you’ve downloaded a template you want to use (save it to somewhere easy to find like your desktop), go ahead and import it into Scrivener. Start a new project and then import that template under the options menu.

import template in scrivener

Import Word Docs

Once you have a template you like, there’s another crucial thing you need to do. If you’ve worked with Word documents in the past, copying and pasting into Scrivener is going to be a pain in the ass. You’ll definitely want to get accustomed to “paste without formatting” which on Windows is CTRL + SHIFT + V. (Mac I think is just APPLE + SHIFT + V).

But also Scrivener lets you import documents so you have them as part of your “collection.” Go ahead and import any Word docs you’ve used as your worldbuilding documents, outlines, or drafts. Once they’re in Scrivener, it’ll be a lot easier to copy and paste their stuff into your Scrivener files based on the template you’ve imported.

Go to Town

Once you have everything set up, all that’s left to do is to go to town! Personally I love working with the “vertical split” option enabled.

Split Vertically in Scrivener

That way I can have my current chapter open in one half of the window with my applicable worldbuilding or outline files open on the right half of my screen. Yes you can do this with multiple Word files, but what I’ve come to enjoy with Scrivener is that all of this is accessible within the same program.