(I’m using the Mac version of Scrivener, v 2.2)

I had someone ping me on Twitter about issues with Scrivener.  I jumped onto a Google Hangout, invited em over, and did a quick Q&A.  The first question was one I hear all the time, and if you come from Microsoft Word, it’s not a question that surprises at all.

“I’m trying to format my text so I can print it out and submit it or have people read it, and it’s not working.  How do you format and do tabs and indents and line spacing?”  (paraphrasing)

Looking back through my Quick Tips, I don’t think I’ve covered this – not fully, anyway.

Microsoft Word does a lot of stuff well in that it makes it easy for people in offices to type up letters, faxes, little signs and fliers.  Digging deeper, you can do even more, but you have to dig deeper.  Line spacing, indents, tabs, so on and etc.  When I used Word for writing, I kept lots of different files for the same story.  If it was a book, I had a different document for every chapter, plus an ‘all together now’ document with, you guessed it, all my chapters and text laid out.  Next, I’d have one formatted with double space, plain font, manuscript submission format.  This included removing ‘curly q’ quotes.  And, me being me, I had one laid out in ‘paperback’ format to see how many pages in a normal paperback book the story would take up. 😛

As I ‘grew up’ with Word, I started changing things and creating templates.  I had a template for short stories, a template for novel chapters, that sort of thing.  When I was starting something new, I’d just open up the template and go.  So I get the thinking behind the question above.

One of the selling points, for me, of Scrivener was the idea of taking the hassle away from writing.  No more formatting or digging into sub menus to find stuff – just write.  Do your bolds, italics, underlines and such – that’s all fine.  But don’t worry about indents and line spacing.  When you’re ready to submit, you can have everything formatted correctly.



To access Compile, click on File > Compile

This brings up the Compile Screen:


Now – depending on the type of Project you created, your options will be different.  What I’m talking about is this screen:

New Scrivener Project

If you’re writing a Novel, your Compile menu will have options for that.  Same if you choose Short Story. The file you create will comply with standard formatting for your choice.

Example.  Here is a shot of my short story ‘Consumption’ in Scrivener:

Scrivener Short Story Consumption

I didn’t do anything with the formatting.  I’m just using the default preferences.  The font is Optima, Regular, 13 point.  I changed the zoom to 150%.  That’s it.  Notice there’s no title page.  That’s all handed through Compile.  If I want to submit this short story to a market, or to my writer’s group, or even create a PDF to send out to beta readers, Compile will take care of that.

Here’s the same short story exported as an RTF (and opened in Word):

Formatted with Courier size 12 point, double spaced.  You also get header elements with your name, the name of the story and page number.  The title is generated, as is your personal information in the upper left corner (which I made generic for this demonstration) and word count in the upper right corner.  You don’t have to do anything to get this, it’s automatic.

If you like to control things, you certainly can.  Either through the Compile interface, or through Word once you Compile. In Compile, you can control each level of text on the Formatting SubMenu:

Scrivener Compile Levels Edit

Top levels are Folders.  If you have Scenes inside a folder, that’s the next level, so on and so on.  Fonts, sizes, spacing, indents, even text color can be controlled here.

Scrivener Compile Font

A shot of the Scrivener / MAC OS Font Chooser

Any changes you make can be saved as a custom Compile Format.  This means you can use it later for other projects.  Just make your changes, and when the Format As menu changes to display ‘Custom’, click it and choose ‘Manage Compile Format Presets’.  Click the + and you can name your new Preset:

As a last tip, if you have an editor or agent partial to a particular font, you can do a Quick Font Override:

Just pick the font from the menu and you’re good to go.

Oh – and if you’re just wanting to print your manuscript, you can choose ‘Compile For Print’ from the menu on the bottom of the Compile window:

Compile For Print

Okay, that’s it for this ‘Quick’ Tip…

More Scrivener Tips coming!

Don’t have Scrivener?  You can try it free here (no, I don’t get paid for pointing you at them!).

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1 Comment

  • Paul (@princejvstin) Posted July 2, 2012 11:24 am

    Slick. Very slick. That font override is important, since lots of markets do like their particular fonts and woe betide those who do not respect it.

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