Step-by-step creating a project in Scrivener – nailing that outline

So how is my Scrivener project going?

scrivener-512Going to be honest here, I’ve switched my project. I was going to use Scrivener to write a memoir manuscript on clearing my heart of clutter in order to clear my house of clutter. I’m still going to do that one, but the writing part is going to take longer.

And I want to get a project done.

So I decided to use Scrivener to write a series of lessons learned, tips, and advice on dealing with Lyme disease. This is tick season and, because I have written so much on Lyme disease in the past, people are constantly asking me for advice. As you may know five of my kids and I have Lyme disease, trust me I have a lot of lessons and tips to share on taking care of others, as well as yourself when Lyme is in the house.

I’ve wanted to consolidate this information for a long time. This project allows me the perfect opportunity.

Our Lyme doc always gives us the same advice when we trying to heal from Lyme, along with taking our medication he also reminds us to include “diet, exercise, water, and God (and God is a general faith in something outside of yourself)” in our healing regimen. When I looked at all I have written over the years, I discovered that those topics are really the big buckets of what I want to write about.

  • Intro
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Water
  • God
  • Conclusion

Using Scrivener, these are the major topics in my outline. I’ve identified sub-topics under each “bucket.” Right now I have 53 sub-topics (and I’m sure more will come as I think of them), if I write 5 pages on each topic (some will have more, some less) my piece would clock in at 265 pages – a respectable manuscript. I added topics and then I moved them around until it felt right (it’s easy to move things around in your outline, just click and drag.) The beauty of this is that under outline view, I can see the structure of my entire piece, I can see exactly where to put a new topic and I can also figure out where something might need to be moved to.

It’s the big picture view of my work and I love it.

I’ve probably spent a total of 7 hours working on my outline. I know that to some writers that sounds icky – what about the spontaneity of writing and all? Oh, the spontaneity will come, I promise you. I’m just figuring out where it belongs first.

Now that I have a working outline, the next step is to collect what I’ve already written on the subjects and drop them into their corresponding space. Although this is an advice/lessons learned piece, I still need to have a larger story and a theme running through the entire manuscript. That will be something I’ll be working on as I finesse the outline *while* adding pre-written work *and* new work.

This is where being a good juggler comes in handy.

It’s a very mechanical and structured way to write, but it’s also a way that shows how to eat that writing elephant – one bite at a time.

Telling myself I need to sit down and write a chapter on Diet today is too overwhelming, I’d rather turn on the TV and watch a rerun of Criminal Minds.

But telling myself that I need to write (or collect) information (approximately 5 pages worth) on 3 specific topics (ex, my experiences with a Keto diet), is something I can do, even with my busy schedule. It’s a manageable bite.

Bottom line – after working the outline (and working and working it) I’m now at the writing and collection stage. My Fridays are open and those are going to become my “Scrivener days.” Just think of how much progress I’ll be able to make when I know exactly what my daily targets looks like.


As always, I appreciate comments and questions. I know that some of you are working with Scrivener, I’d love to hear how it’s going.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). ( She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

7 thoughts on “Step-by-step creating a project in Scrivener – nailing that outline

  1. I posted my first blog post using Scrivener last week and am currently in the editing stage for my 2nd post. You are definately correct–the writing part does go much faster after having the outline. I can also concentrate on sections when I edit and re-write my post to be more concise.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am deciding whether to begin using scrivener – I’m currently using word, and notes, and a spreadsheet, and speech to text applications. I feel like I’m back in time when someone said “There’s gotta be a better way!!” and then created scrivener. Sounds like my perfect helper – thanks again

  3. I have just started using scrivener myself and love all the features I am learning about. The outline is great for moving things around and viewing your work as a whole. I also love that your writing a book in Lyme disease lessons. I think many of us take for granted how lucky we are to not have contracted Lyme with all of the ticks around. My mother has Lyme and she has difficulties with her vision ad especially her hearing because of it. I hope your book is bale to reach out to others and educate them about this serious disease.

  4. Pingback: Learning to Use Scrivener | Live to Write – Write to Live

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