Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

How to use Scrivener to Organize a Serial Novel

I envisioned Ten Thousand Gods, originally, as a single novel, but I also realize how much consumers love a series, as evidenced by the current spate of superhero movies, if not John Sandford’s oeuvre. I thought: hey, I can do that … probably!

Having just finished Hearts Racing, though, and having experienced a taste of life with a traditional publisher, I thought I might also like to go back to self publishing. I don’t mean to say that one is better than the other, there just a nice king-in-the-castle feeling to having 100% control.

I’m more excited by the idea of a serial novel, meant from the beginning to be a serial, than I am by the prospect of writing novels in a series with no planned conclusion. Remember the end of Happy Days? No? There’s a phrase about it.


Okay, great. But how to organize a serial project? I’m a great fan of Scrivener, writing software from Literature and Latte. At first, I downloaded it as a reaction to how truly terrible MS Word is, but now I love Scrivener on its own inestimable merit.


I’m a forgetful person, so Scrivener’s character sheets and other organizational whatnots are a great help to me. I also like the project targets window. I hold myself to a 2,000 words-per-day requirement when I have a fiction project in progress. To be clear, that doesn’t count magazine writing, blogging, etc. which I typically do in the afternoon.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.29.52 AMAs you can see, the project targets pane shows me the overall project target, plus the session target. It’s just the best. Managing this kind of thing in Word was a tremendous pain in the butt.

As you can see here, I haven’t done any writing on Ten Thousand Gods today, because it’s already off to Garrett for editing. Here it shows that I’m over the target word count I set for each episode of Ten Thousand Gods: 20,000 words.

The problem I had, though, was when I started the second episode, the tracker kept counting the words in the project. So, I started a second Scrivener project for the second episode. That’s not ideal, though, because it means any character or setting sheets I make in any episode are not available across all episodes.

I mean, if I’m going to have a mess of confusing files, I might as well just stick with Word, right? I’d sooner fornicate a bag of hot snakes.

But lo, I discovered that by moving folders with completed episodes in them outside the “compile group,” designated by the sheaf of papers there next to the “10K Gods,” I could have one file for all six episodes, working word count pane, plus all my research and character stuff in one place. Heaven!

Here’s what my Scrivener project looks like now, with episodes 1-5 still in the Binder, but dragged outside the compile group.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.42.34 AM

If you’re writing anything seriously, I highly recommend Scrivener. I’ve purchased two versions, for Mac and PC, which I have synced using Dropbox and backed up nightly also. I’m a little paranoid about lost work. Scrivener also does some automatic backup making, which I haven’t had to use yet.