Revising in Scrivener

As you probably well know, there is a lot of drafting, editing and revision involved in churning out a good piece of writing. Scrivener has a few features that are useful for keeping track of different "versions" of a project, so you can watch the evolution of your work while keeping old drafts and ideas handy. The § symbol next to the features listed below marks their section number in the user manual (available under Scrivener's Help menu), in case you'd like more guidance on how to use them.

Snapshots (§15.8)

Snapshots allows you to take a picture of your work in its current state, so that you can refer to it later no matter how drastically the document has changed. You can use the Compare feature to see what additions and deletions were made to the document from when the snapshot was taken, or the Roll Back feature to restore a previous version of the document if your changes aren't quite working. You can even title your snapshots so they are easily identifiable (e.g., if you take a snapshot of a document written in 1st person point of view because you wish to rewrite it in 3rd person, naming that snapshot "1st Person" will distinguish it from a general pre-revision snapshot). Additionally, you might wish to make an inline annotation at the top of a document which contains a note about what edits need to be done before taking the snapshot. The annotation can be removed immediately after taking the screenshot to avoid muddling your word count, but now whenever you view this snapshot in the inspector, it will be prefixed with your notes.

The Snapshot feature works at the level of the document rather than the project, so you'll find this tool in the Inspector for that document under the camera icon. You can also take snapshots of multiple documents at once by selecting them in the Binder and using Documents ▸ Snapshots ▸ Take Snapshots of Selected Documents. To view all of the snapshots you've taken in your project, you can open up the Snapshots Manager via Documents ▸ Snapshots ▸ Show Snapshots Manager.

Revision Mode (§18.6)

If you're a fan of colour coding, this feature is for you. Whenever you transition from drafting to first revision, or from first revision to second revision and so on, you can change the colour of the text you're using so that your additions and deletions (marked by strikethroughs) are clearly visible. You can turn this on via Format ▸ Revision Mode, where you will see 5 different revision colours available for use. This feature also works well with Snapshots, in that you can take a snapshot of your colour coded revisions to preserve them before stripping them out of the document.

Metadata (§10.4)

If you look at the bottom of the inspector, you'll see the option to select a Label and a Status for a document. The Status (§10.4.3) tag can be useful for more linear editing sessions. Most of our project templates are pre-populated with status options including To Do, In Progress, First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, and Done. You can edit these however you'd like, or add your own status options to suit your editing needs.

If you want a way to colour code your Binder, Label (§10.4.3) is another metadata tag that you can customize to suit your project. You might choose to use labels to indicate the stage of your document, or create a more complex system of labels such as indicating what documents contain pivotal scenes in your story, which are new additions you're not sure about yet, which need more texture and description, which are important for foreshadowing, and so on. The possibilities really are endless. Whatever you choose to do with your labels, if you navigate to View ▸ Use Label Color In, you can choose to display label colour in the Binder in various ways so documents are visually distinct based on their assigned label.

While you can only apply one status or label to a document at any given time, you can add as many Keywords (§10.4.5) as you'd like to your documents. They can be useful for tracking more complex editing sessions. For example, say you need to do four or five big things in a revision - you might come up with five keywords to track them all, and assign these keywords to every item in your draft. As you complete that task in a given document, you remove the keyword assignment in the inspector.

Finally, you can even create your own metadata, as described in §C.4 and §10.4.4. If you do find that you're a fan of metadata, you may want to get to know the Outliner (§8.3), which will give you a nice overview of (and allow you to sort by) the metadata you've applied to your documents.

The Binder (§6.3)

The Binder is an extremely flexible tool which allows you to create files and folders for any purpose you can imagine. For the purpose of revision, you might create an "Outtakes" folder to act as a filing cabinet for scenes you no longer intend to use but don't want to trash entirely (we even have a filing cabinet icon you can apply to the folder, to keep it visually distinct). Or you may wish to duplicate your draft folder (Documents ▸ Duplicate) at certain stages so you can keep drafts separate for revision purposes, with each current draft being kept in the root Draft folder, and previous drafts elsewhere in their according folders. Another neat thing about this option is that if you split the Editor (§8.1.4), you can open up one draft folder in the left editor, and the duplicate one in the right. That way you can scroll through your whole manuscript and make line-by-line changes in your second draft without affecting your first draft.

"Save As..."/"Back Up To..."

If you feel your manuscript is too large to use the Binder method outlined above, or you just want to keep your Binder as clutter and distraction-free as possible, you may prefer to create copies of your project at different stages. For example, when you've finished your first draft in your project, you can use File ▸ Save As... to create a duplicate of the project called "My Project - First Draft", then continue editing the current copy and save it under the name "My Project - Second Draft". This way, you'll have a full backup of your first draft, so you can go wild with revision mode in the current copy knowing that you can always roll back if needed. You can achieve the same effect with File ▸ Back Up ▸ Back Up To... if you'd prefer to save the project as a ZIP file.

This method is also a good way to go if you're a fan of editing by hand, as you'll be able to compile your manuscript at various stages. Just make sure to stay organized when using this approach, as you don't want to end up with multiple copies of your project and become uncertain of which has the latest changes. It's a good idea to name each copy accordingly, whether that be with date stamps, an appendage to the filename (-first draft, -second draft, -final draft, etc.), or both. We also have some tips on storing and organizing your projects which may be useful.

For further inspiration, check out our forums where you're sure to find plenty of examples of revision workflows from other users.