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Storyboarding with Scrivener (or, A Love Affair with Virtual Index Cards)

Scrivener Corkboard with title text [1]Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser—or neither—at some point in your writing process, you can probably benefit from a visual overview of your story. Scrivener’s Corkboard feature is here to help.

Pack up your paper index cards and colored sticky notes, and let’s go virtual.

Understanding Index Cards in Scrivener

Every file in Scrivener has an associated index card. That index card shows up in the Synopsis section of the Inspector (visible in all but the Snapshots and Comments panes), and on the Corkboard. You can use the index card to make note of anything you want—for example, the timeline, setting, characters—but for storyboarding purposes, it makes sense to include a brief synopsis of the scene.

index card in the Inspector (mac) [2]
index card in the inspector (win) [3]

Viewing the Corkboard

To view the Corkboard in a Scrivener project, select any folder (or a selection of multiple files). If you don’t see index cards representing the documents in that folder, go to View—>Corkboard.

Corkboard [4]
Corkboard [5]

The Corkboard view only displays the top level within each folder, so if you have your scenes organized into chapter folders, all you’ll see when you select Draft is index cards for the chapter folders. There is a way around it, but this is one reason you might want to delay organizing your scenes into chapter folders until you are done with your first draft. For more on that, see this post [6] about organizing your files.

Building Your Story in the Corkboard

Rather than adding new documents in the Binder, you can add them directly in the Corkboard. This allows you to create placeholder cards for each scene, add a synopsis, and then create another until you have your story plotted out.

You can even move cards around in the Corkboard to play with the order of your scenes. Here’s how to add additional cards.

1. Select any card in the Corkboard. (If you don’t have any index cards/documents in the selected folder yet, this will still work. Selecting an existing index card just lets you control placement of the new card.)

2. In the Corkboard footer, click the Add New Text button (see image below), or click the Add button (green + symbol) in the toolbar. A new card appears after the selected card.

A corresponding new document also appears in the Binder.

3. Type the name of the new scene and press Return.

TIP: You can also select a card (single click) and press Return to add a new card after/below it. (This works the same as selecting a document in the Binder and pressing Return.)

Corkboard annotated for adding a new card (mac) [7]
Corkboard annotated for adding a new card (win) [8]

Renaming a Document in the Corkboard

Double-click an index card’s title to change it. This changes the document title in the Binder too.

Adding Text to an Index Card

Double-click in the synopsis text area to add text. While the synopsis text section is active, you can use Tab to move through the cards.

TIP: Mac users, to force a new line within the text of the card, use Option+Return. Windows users can just press Enter.

Viewing the Associated Document

To view the document associated with a card, simply double-click the card’s icon (to the left of the title). Scrivener switches to the Editor to view the selected document.

index card with icon annotated [9]

Viewing the Corkboard in Split Screen

Let’s say you’ve created index cards for your next few scenes, but haven’t actually written the scenes. While writing, you want to be able to refer to the synopses on multiple index cards. The answer is Split Screen.

1. While viewing the Corkboard for the desired folder, click the Toggle Split button (Mac) or Horizontal or Vertical Split button (Windows) at the far right of the header (see image below).

(Mac users: You can change the horizontal split to vertical—or vice versa—by holding the Option key.)

Toggle split button annotated (mac) [10]
split buttons annotated (win) [11]

Initially, both panes will display the Corkboard.

split corkboards [12]
split corkboards [13]

2. Click in the lower pane (or the one where you want to write). The header should turn blue to show it’s the active pane.

3. In the Binder, select the document you want to work on. The document appears in the active pane.

split with corkboard and editor panes (win) [14]To exit the split, click the Toggle Split button (Mac), or the No Split button (Windows), located in the same place as the split button(s).

Navigating Documents in Split Screen

If you like working in split screen with the Corkboard, you can use the Corkboard as a navigating tool to open each document as you’re ready to work with it.

1. In the pane that’s displaying the Corkboard, click the “Automatically open selection in other editor” button (see image below).

open in other editor button annotated (mac) [15]
open in other editor button annotated (win) [16]

2. Select (single-click) the desired document in the Corkboard.

The document opens in the other pane.

To make this work sort of like a dashboard, you could adjust the size of the index cards so the desired number of them fit in the upper pane, and adjust the size of each pane to your liking. Then, if desired, hide the Binder and/or Inspector.

Dashboard style split with corkboard and editor (mac) [17]
Dashboard style split with corkboard and editor (win) [18]

Viewing Label Colors in the Corkboard

If you have labels applied to your documents, you can color your index cards by going to View—>Use Label Color In—>Index Cards. The colors will show in the Corkboard and the Inspector (see image in the Viewing the Status on Index Cards section below).

Repeat the above to turn the colors off.

Viewing the Status on Index Cards

If you have statuses applied to your documents, you can view the Status value as a “watermark” across each index card. To turn this on, ensure you’re in Corkboard view and then go to View—>Corkboard Options—>Show Status Stamps (Mac)/Status Stamps (Windows).

Repeat to hide the status stamps.

Status stamps on index cards in corkboard (mac) [19]Happy storyboarding!

Questions? What else do you want to know about the Corkboard or Scrivener in general? Fire away.

About Gwen Hernandez [20]

Gwen Hernandez (she/her) is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [21], Productivity Tools for Writers, and romantic suspense. She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [22], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [23].