Using Scrivener to Collect/Store Research for Writing Projects

Using Scrivener

No matter what kind of writing you do, chances are you need to do some research for your writing project somewhere along the line. Unfortunately, although research and formatting are very needed in almost every writing project, they’re two of the functions that quite frankly can suck up a lot of potential writing time. One way that some writers have found to get around the time-suck of necessary elements like research and formatting is to use Scrivener for Mac or Scrivener for Windows.

Scrivener Writing Software Is Worth It for Writers Who:

Spend more time trying to organize research in files and folders than actually writing
Aren’t being as productive as possible due to lost files or misplaced research
Feel their creativity is constantly disrupted by the research and formatting that is required to get the words onto the page

Writing is such an individual process that there is really no way that all writers will conduct and store their research in the same way. If you ask just about any writer who doesn’t already use Scrivener software, where they store their research for their writing projects, and how they collect their research, you’ll get a very wide range of responses. Below are just a few ways that writers might collect and then store research for their writing projects:

  • Bookmark websites in a favorites folder of an Internet browser
  • Copy and paste from webpages or other places into word processing documents
  • Print out information from web pages or make copies of printed research material
  • Hand copy needed information into spiral bound notebooks or three-ring binders.
  • Scribble inspirational dialog on napkins or the backs of envelopes.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you probably have established a routine that you go through when doing your research for your writing project.

If you’re like most writers, the process probably works for you more because you are familiar with it than because it is an efficient way of collecting and storing research.

In fact, many writers are not technologically savvy and even more of them have self-taught computer skills. When a writer wants to write, they will go to great lengths to figure things out. If you are one of these self-taught, or learned from necessity computer users, you probably use very few of the features available to you in your word processing software.

Word processing software includes:

If your research process is anything like mine, you end up with multiple files floating around in folders on your desktop along with printed pages with notes scribbled on them. Sometimes I even stuck handwritten post-it notes to my desk or screen as a reminder of something I wanted to make sure to cover in my writing. Finding what I took notes on often became a frantic search through multiple documents.

And when the muse does finally show up, it’s not the best idea to tell her to hang on while you go try to find the name of that inventor from the 1900’s or that hat design from the 1920’s. The goal of a writer is to get the words down on the page while they are flowing.

Research collection and storage is just one area where Scrivener shines. One of the huge time-saving features of Scrivener is the ability to import all that research information that you have stored in separate files and folders into one central location. The Scrivener Research folder is designed to hold all your notes, text, images, PDF documents, videos, or web page links or text notes together until you need them. Organize your research files in the folder with subfolders in whatever way works best for your writing process.

How to Import a Word Processing file into Scrivener Research folder:

  1. Click the Research folder icon on the left side of the Scrivener project screen
  2. Right click and then click Add and choose Files
  3. Navigate to the file you want to pull in and click Open or Okay

In a matter of minutes the file you chose will show up in your Scrivener research folder as a text document. Now let’s say you are one of those people who conduct your research entirely online.

Pull the text of web pages or even the URL links into your Scrivener research folder. Simply follow the steps below:

  1. Click the Research folder icon on the left side of the Scrivener project screen
  2. Right click and then click Add and Choose Web page
  3. Copy and paste or type in the full web address of the web page you want to pull in.
  4. Title your research page so you can identify it quickly later
  5. Choose how you want to import the web page from the choices given
  6. Click Okay
  7. Your instructions may differ slightly if you are using a Mac but you will find plenty of step by step tutorials for Mac users on the Literature and Latte website.

One of the coolest features I discovered about Scrivener writing software is the ScratchPad. When activated it looks like a post-it note on your computer screen. The best part about ScratchPad is that it’s designed to help you get research into your Scrivener project rather than just serve as a static reminder to include something.

Here’s How to Use ScratchPad to Collect Internet Research

  1. Open your Scrivener project in Windows.
  2. Activate your ScratchPad by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+0.
  3. The post-it note will pop up floating over your Scrivener project screen.
  4. Minimize your Scrivener project screen or drag it to your second monitor.
  5. Navigate to your web browser to do your research.
  6. Send selected research to your Scrivener Project.

Three Ways to Send Research Straight to Your Scrivener Project:

Copy and paste selected text onto your ScratchPad by topic and name the Note by topic. Send it automatically to whatever Scrivener Project you like and even indicate which folder to store the research or note. You can even create several notes in one session and send them all at once before you close the ScratchPad.

Use the Hand Icon to grab a section of the screen to insert into the ScratchPad. Name the Note. Send to Scrivener as above.

Type your notes directly into the Scratchpad and name it. Send to your Scrivener research folder.

All your research in one central location, in the same project where you are writing your novel, screenplay, or nonfiction document. Scrivener helps you break your writing into chapters or even scenes that are easily re-ordered. No more cutting and pasting whole chapters!

Scrivener includes quick and easy templates you can use to add front matter to your novel, including cover art, dedication and title pages. With Scrivener’s compile process, you can convert your finished story to any file format, even an E-book with .mobi or an .epub format with just the click of a button.

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