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Using Scrivener with Story Genius

notebook w/SG cover and Scrivener logo [1]I recently started working through Story Genius [2] by Lisa Cron to help me write the fourth story in my romantic suspense series, and long before she started talking about organization (Chapter 11), I was—shocking, I know—thinking about how to set things up in Scrivener.

The writing software is perfect for keeping all of the elements together, from “What If?” through to “The End.”

Here’s how I’m using Scrivener to support the Story Genius process. I’ve even included a Lisa Cron-approved Scrivener template in case you want to skip setting it up yourself. ;-)

Choosing a Project Template

When you create a new project in Scrivener, your first decision is which project template [3] (predefined framework) to select. If you’re going to use a document template (like a form you can fill out repeatedly without ruining the original) as a basis for your Story Genius-style scene cards or character bios, I recommend choosing the Novel project template—which already has a Templates folder built in—and then deleting everything you don’t need.

NOTE: You cannot delete the Draft, Research, or Trash folders, though you can rename them and change their icons.

If you don’t care about having a document template for the scene cards or character bios, I’d choose the Blank project template. Then, delete the Chapter folder and Untitled document (select an item to delete and go to Documents—>Move to Trash).

Creating Your Folders

In Story Genius, Lisa recommends that you have six folders to keep track of your story’s facets: Key Characters, The Rules of the World, Idea List, Random Scene Cards, Scene Cards in Development, and Scenes.

6 key folders circled [4]

I created new folders for the first five (Project—>New Folder), and then renamed the Draft folder to Scenes. I did it that way because, with a few exceptions, Scrivener will only compile (export) items that are located inside the Draft folder. Draft, or whatever you decide to name it, is also where Scrivener looks when calculating your word count in Project Targets [5].

To give each folder a unique icon, select the folder and go to Documents—>Change Icon.

Additional Folders and Documents

In addition to the six prescribed folders—which I ordered according to my own preference—I also added a Supporting Materials folder to store some of the preliminary exercises, a Productivity document where I track my daily work on the story, and a Templates folder to store Scene Card and Character Bio document templates that I created.

supporting materials folder [6]

Within the Key Characters folder, I have a folder for each important character, and within that, I store documents for the preliminary character work, like the character sketch and backstory scenes.

characters folder expanded [7]

You can add any other folders or documents you find helpful while working on your story. For example, I almost always end up with a Settings folder to keep track of images and descriptions of buildings and places in my story world, as well as maps.

Installing the Story Genius Template

In case you find the setup a little overwhelming, I created a project template—complete with tips—to help you get started. Lisa was nice enough to look it over to make sure I didn’t lead you astray, and give it her stamp of approval.

SG template showing Scene Card [8]

Simply click the link below to download the template. If it downloads as a .zip file, right-click and choose Extract All (Windows) or double-click the file (Mac) to unzip it.

Story Genius.scrivtemplate [9]

Installing for Mac or Windows

Do the following to install the template in Scrivener. You must repeat this process for each computer on which you want to have access to the template.

  1. In Scrivener, go to File—>New Project to get the Project Templates (Mac) or New Project (Windows) window.
  2. Click the Options button at the bottom, and choose Import Templates.
  3. Navigate to the template file, called StoryGenius.scrivtemplate (most likely in your Downloads folder) and click Import. The template now appears under the Fiction tab.

template in new project window [10]

Creating a New Project from the Story Genius Template

To use the template to create a new Scrivener project, follow the steps below.

Mac

  1. If you’re not still in the Project Templates window, go to File—>New Project.
  2. Select the Fiction tab.
  3. Select the Story Genius template, and click Choose.
  4. In the Save As text box, type the name for your file (usually your working book title).
  5. Choose the location to save your project from the Where dropdown menu, or click the expansion (down arrow) button for more location options.
  6. Click Create.

Windows

  1. If you’re not still in the New Project window, go to File—>New Project.
  2. Select the Fiction tab.
  3. Select the Story Genius template.
  4. In the Save As text box, type the name for your file (usually your working book title).
  5. Choose the location to save your project from the Where dropdown menu, or click the Browse button for more location options.
  6. Click Create.

Your new project based on the Story Genius template opens, and you’re ready to work.

iOS

In order to use the template for a project on iOS, you must first create a project based on the template on your Mac or PC, then move it to the Dropbox folder that you have synced with your iOS device. For more iOS help, see The Tricks and Treats of Scrivener for iOS [11].

What questions do you have for me about setting this up in Scrivener? Or anything else pertaining to Scrivener. (Sorry, Lisa’s not here to answer Story Genius [2] questions.) Happy writing!

About Gwen Hernandez [12]

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [13], Productivity Tools for Writers, and the “Men of Steele” series (military romantic suspense). She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [14], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [15].