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  • Writer's pictureSofiya Pasternack

TUTORIAL | Scrivener 3 Sections, Labels, and Status

Woohoo! Let’s talk about Scrivener!

Hey friends! I'm so excited to bring my Scrivener tips and tricks to you! Scrivener can be pretty daunting, but it's such a great program with so many features!


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This video today is all about the Sections, Labels, and Status features. These are all pretty great, so pay attention!

In this post, we'll go through the following topics:


Sections and Compile

Section Layouts



The Outliner View



To toggle around with Sections, head on over to the Inspector pane. That's the panel on the far right of your Scrivener program! If you don't see it, hit the blue "i" in the upper right corner, and it will pop up.

Once the Inspector is open, navigate to the Metadata tab. Inside that, check out the Section types dropdown menu.

Okay, this menu!

The Structure-Based option is checked, and I recommend leaving it checked! Letting Scrivener organize your sections for you is a smart move, because Scrivener is pretty smart in this area.

You know how in my Quick Start tutorial, I said to pick the Novel With Parts Template? Well, this is one of the reasons why! All those section types -- Part Heading, Chapter Heading, etc -- are included in that template, but not in some of the others.

If you didn't pick Novel With Parts, that's okay! I'll show you how to add more section types in a little bit. It's more work, but it's not especially hard to add them.

So for now, leave Structure-Based checked. How does Scrivener determine what structure to follow, though? I'm so glad you asked! Hit that Edit... option down at the bottom of the menu.


Sections and Compile

You should see this box pop up. This is a heckin useful box, and you'll be spending a bit of time in here! The Section Types menu on the left should be already selected. At the top of the box, there are two options: Section Types and Default Types by Structure. Click on that second one!

Okie dokie. The box will change to what you see in the image above. Notice that whatever level is selected in that box is reflected in yellow highlight to the left. It shows you what outline levels you have displayed in your novel, and also what the default section type will be!

If you want to change these, toggle the dropdown arrows within each level and change them. This will affect everything previously assigned the different section types, so do this with caution!

How does this tie in with the Compile feature? Let's take a look!

To get to Compile, go to the File Menu and go down to the Compile option at the bottom.

And below is what will come up: the mystical Compiler!

Okay, it's not actually mystical. But it's a LOT! So let's just focus on Section Layouts in the middle there for now.


Section Layouts

In the middle there, you can see the different section types laid out with how they'll be displayed when you compile. This particular view is the Microsoft Word (.docx) layout, and to keep things simple, I'll leave it at that for now.

If you select each separate section layout (like I've done below with the Front Matter), it will highlight in yellow all the chapters and folders that are assigned that particular type.

These section types show you what your document will look like when you compile. Like up above, we can see that the Front Matter will compile at the top of the page, left-justified, 1/2 inch indent, and will be Times New Roman font.

Below, I have the Scene layout selected. This one begins at the top of the page, left-justified, and the first paragraph will have no indent, but subsequent paragraphs will have a 1/2 inch indent, and will be Times New Roman font. When you have many scenes in a row, they'll be separated by that pound sign, #.

But what if we don't want it to be that way?

Just go down to the bottom and select Assign Section Layouts...

And the below box will pop up! On the left, we see the section types we're using in the manuscript. If you want all of them displayed, even the ones you're not using, select Show Unused Section Types at the bottom of the box on the left.

On the left, select one of the types, and then in the middle pane you can scroll up and down to see what other layouts are available.

Up above, I'm scrolling through the different options for scenes. It starts with what was already selected, and then we go up to be able to select one with the Section Title included. Then we can go up further, and there's and option with Chapter Number plus Section Title. I picked that one, so now when I compile my manuscript, all my scenes will begin with the first one starting 1/3 down the page with Chapter One and then whatever that scene is titled. In the Binder, if I title that scene Scene, when I compile, that will be the title of that scene!

On the left is the Scrivener document, and on the right I've pulled up my compiled MS Word document. You can see how the compile worked from Scrivener over to Word just like I instructed it in the Compiler!



Okay, let's move on from section types and get into labels! These are super handy-dandy, and I use them to keep track of my 7 Point Plot outlining method.

To get to your labels, go down to the bottom right of your Scrivener screen and find the menu that probably says No Label for you right now.

Now, the default labels look a little different from this, because I set my Scrivener up a long time ago to default to my plot points. The default says the name of the color it's assigned, so Red, Orange, Yellow, etc.

Click on the Edit... option at the bottom of that menu, and you'll be taken to this pop-up.

Hey! This looks familiar! We were just here for Section Types. I told you this was a useful screen!

In here, you can change the names and colors of the labels, plus add more or delete some.

To change the names and colors, just double click on the name or color circle, respectively.

To add more, click on the plus sign at the bottom (indicated in the image above).

To delete some, select the label you want to delete, and then click that minus sign that's next to the plus sign.

Okay, why are these colors and stuff important? What makes labels special? Well, you can only have one set of labels, so whatever you use them for should be unique. Their colors are also able to be displayed in the binder like you can see below. The parts designated as Hook are shaded red, for example. This allows me to watch the pacing of my novel to make sure my hook isn't too long, or ensure my midpoint happens approximately in the middle, and so on. I like bird's eye views of as much as possible!

To shade the Binder, go to the View Menu and select Use Labels Color In. Another menu will come up, and in here you check Show as Background Color in Binder.

This will change your Binder to look like I have it below, with the background shaded!

Do you have to use this for plotting points? Heck no! Some writers who have a lot of POVs will use this to designate which chapter is in whose POV. Time travel stories could use labels to indicate time periods. Labels are versatile and can be made specific to whatever you need them for!



The Status is similar to Labels in that they're super helpful for keeping track of your novel's moving parts. Status, in particular, tracks how far you've gotten in that particular scene, chapter, section etc.

To get to your status, go down to the bottom of the Scrivener screen, right next to where you found your labels. Your status menu probably says No Status right now, so click on the arrows and expand that menu!

As you're going along, you can tag your novel parts with what their level of done-ness is. Are you in the middle of writing the zero draft? Select In Progress. Are you coming back through and revising the first time? First Draft or maybe Revised Draft depending on your progress. Have you completely finished it and you can't think of any other way to improve it? Select Done!

What if none of these statuses work? Well, click on the Edit... option at the bottom.

Here's this box again!!

In here, just like with labels, you can change the name of your statuses. There are no colors this time around, though.

So once we've set up our Labels and Statuses, what do we do with them? How are they functional? What would you say they do here?


The Outliner View

Behold! My favorite view in Scrivener!

The Outliner is the ultimate bird's eye view of your manuscript, allowing you to take inventory of the entire thing in a single screen. NICE!

To get there go up to the top of your Scrivener window and locate the three views just to the right of your title. I've circled the Outliner below so you can find it easily!

The Labels and Status enter in here because in the Outliner, you can see the designations for everything. What do you have to do? What parts aren't assigned a plot location? What section types do you have? You can see--and change--everything right here in one place!

I'm going to talk a LOT more about the Outliner in a later post. I stinkin love this view! It's what sold me on Scrivener in the first place, and being able to use it well will change your writing life!

Okay! That's all for now! See you later!


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meet sofiya!

Sofiya Pasternack is a mental health professional, the highly-distractible author of Jewish MG and YA fantasy, and prone to oversharing gross medical stories.

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