Using Scrivener Collections to Organize Your Novel Project

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Have you ever heard of Scrivener Collections?

In Scrivener, Collections is a feature that allows you to keep an array of related documents from within your Project in one place. At first glance, a collection may seem like the same thing as a folder, but there is a difference between the two.

Let's say that you are writing a multi-POV novel. You would like to read through all of POV character #1's chapters, but they are dispersed throughout the other chapters in the novel. Wouldn't it be nice to have all of #1's chapters in one place?

You could do that by finding each of those chapters, copying them, and dragging them into a new folder labelled with your character's name, but that is a lot of work. Thankfully, Scrivener makes life ten times easier by allowing you to create a Collection that will call up and maintain any specified documents without affecting their placement in the project.

This may sound a bit confusing or tricky at first, but let me break it down for you. You'll have your project organized for maximum efficiency in no time.


Scrivener Collection Basics

First things first, you need to know where Collections can be found. On the left side of the header toolbar, you should see a blue manila folder icon. This is the Collections icon. Click on it, and you will notice that a new section drops down above your Binder on the left-hand column of your screen.

If your Binder is not open, click on the blue binder icon in your header toolbar.


There are two types of Collections in Scrivener, and both are equally useful. A Standard Collection allows you to click and drag documents from your Binder into a new collection, while a Search Collection allows you to compile documents into a collection from a search result.

Let's break down Standard Collections first...


Exploring Standard Collections

With Collections open, create a new collection by clicking the plus (+) icon. You will notice that the collection is automatically named "New Collection", but you can change the name by double-clicking on it. If we were using our example above, you may want to name your collection after the POV character in question.


If you previously had a document open in your Editor, you will notice that the new collection automatically contains that document. If you did not want that document in the collection, you can delete the document by highlighting it and selecting the minus (-) icon.

Make sure to click on the minus that is in the collection itself. If you click on the minus icon next to "Collections" in the grey header, you will be deleting the entire collection.

To add more documents to the collection, you'll need to head back to your Binder. You can do this by clicking on the Binder tab beneath Collections and Search Results. There, you can click and drag any document into your new collection. This will automatically add them to the collection without deleting them from their current folders.


Utilizing Search Collections

Now on to Search Collections. Let's say that you want to compile a collection of every document that mentions your villain. You could go through each document manually, adding them to your collection, or you could head up to the search bar in your header toolbar and run a search on your villain's name.


You should see a list of every document that contains your villain's name in the Search Results section of the Binder column. There are two ways that you can add these documents to a collection. First, you can create your collection and then highlight and drag the search results into your new collection.


But to make things simpler, head back up to the search bar and click on the tiny magnifying glass icon. This will open up a dropdown menu. From here, you can scroll all the way to the bottom of the dropdown menu and click on "Save Search As Collection".

A small window will appear that asks you to name your new collection. It automatically uses your search, but you can change the name to whatever works best for you. Press "Okay" and you'll notice your new collection appear in the Binder column.


If it doesn't appear, you probably don't have Collections open. Remember to click on the blue folder icon to make it appear.


Mastering Your Scrivener Search Options

Allow me to give you a few more tips on mastering Search Collections. By clicking on the dropdown menu in the search bar, you can greatly narrow down your collection options, which actually gives you more flexibility in organizing your work. Here are some of your options:


First, you'll notice a section called "Search In".

This section allows you to search more specifically within your project. Click on Title, Text, Notes, Synopsis, Keyword, Label, Status, or Custom Meta-Data before running your search to identify words or phrases specifically within those confines.

Next, you'll see a section called Operator. By clicking on Exact Phrase, All Words, Any Word, Whole Word, or RegEx, you can narrow or expand your search to include exactly what you are looking for.

Finally, you'll notice a section called Options. Here you can choose which types of documents will be included in your search. You can use Search Manuscript Only, Search Binder Selection Only, Exclude Trash Items, Search "Included" Documents, Search "Excluded" Documents, and Case Sensitive to narrow down your search.

By taking the time to explore these options, you're ensuring that you search for only what you truly want to include in your collection.


Let's Chat!

As you can see, once you've put your collections together, you can then use them to easily revise your novel. I find them especially helpful when searching for plot holes or reading through only one character's POV.

Do you have any further tips for using Scrivener's Collections feature? What do you like to use Collections for?


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