5 Tips for Editors Using Scrivener to Collaborate With Authors
Whether they’re crafting lavishly illustrated picture books, or rounding out the eighth volume of a fantasy series, writers who make the switch to Scrivener tend not to go back. Their conversion may well help their own careers flourish, but it can also pose a challenge for the editors tasked with refining their work.
For Binder-toting, Corkboard-pinning authors, Word is passé. But it’s still the default tool for publishing professionals working together. If you’ve ever taken on a memoir as a ghostwriting job or line edited a novel, you’ve probably leaned on Track Changes to communicate with your collaborators.
If you’re an editor working with a Scrivener enthusiast, you might be leery of forcing the author to turn their whole project into a .doc just for Track Changes. Luckily, you don’t have to! Scrivener is flexible enough to replicate Word’s collaboration tools — and it has a few extra features that make it uniquely powerful for editing. Without further ado, here are five tips for working with your authors right on Scrivener.
1. Treat Revision Mode as a more colorful Track Changes
In some circles, Scrivener has a reputation as a first draft program: perfect for churning out a hasty NaNoWriMo novel, but less suited to the fiddly business of rewriting. But that myth is easily debunked as soon as you enter Revision Mode.
Think of this feature, accessible right from the Format menu, as Scrivener’s rainbow-hued answer to Track Changes. Using Revision Mode, an editor can leave suggestions right on the draft, for the author to accept or reject at will. Best of all, these suggestions are color-coded, with first, second, and subsequent revisions appearing in different hues.
This color-coding is especially useful if you’re working with other editors on the same manuscript. Say you’re a copy editor, examining a novel on the sentence level after a developmental editor has already given it a pass. The developmental editor can pass the draft directly over to you, with her structural edits in red. You’ll add your own, stylistic suggestions in blue, allowing the author to see immediately who made which edits — and why.
2. Use internal Scrivener links to substantiate structural edits
Scrivener makes it easy to link internally, allowing anyone perusing a project to jump between sections with a single click. These links can be incredibly useful for ebook authors who want to make their texts hyper-navigable, but they can be a boon for editors as well.
If you’re developmentally editing a manuscript, you might find yourself leaving comments that refer back to earlier portions of the text, such as if a scene contradicts a previous chapter. Internal Scrivener links can lend support to these notes, allowing the author to make sense of them — and fix them — without endless searching and scrolling.
3. Keep track of progress with snapshots
Every author knows that the editing process might send their favorite lines — and scenes — right to the graveyard of murdered darlings. But that doesn’t mean they have to like it.
With Scrivener’s snapshot feature, you can set a skittish author’s mind at ease. Use it to preserve each document in its unedited state before you subject it to your (metaphorical) red pen. Send these snapshots to the author, and they might be able to salvage something from a pet passage that ends up on the cutting room floor.
But snapshots aren’t just for the author: they can also help you gauge your own editorial progress as you work through a draft. Use them for a before-and-after, and you’ll get a sense of exactly how far you’ve come — and whether you need to backtrack. Have you streamlined a chapter so thoroughly that you’ve sloughed off all the hallmarks of the author’s voice? Your snapshots will let you know and allow you to add a bit of that idiosyncrasy back in.
4. Front-load your stylistic editing with Linguistic Focus
Scrivener isn’t Hemingway: it’s not designed to shave all the flab off a manuscript, until you’re left with something as taut and sinewy The Old Man and the Sea. That said, if you’re working with an author whose prose tends to run purple, Scrivener can save you time as you help them trim.
The program’s Linguistic Focus feature, accessible in the Edit menu under “Writing Tools,” lets you filter a document by part of speech (and separate out direct dialogue from the surrounding narration). It’s most obvious use? Shining a light on the adjectives overstuffing sentences and the adverbs doing the heavy lifting for milquetoast verbs.
Of course you shouldn’t go through and strike out every adverb indiscriminately. But having all of them highlighted at once can help you gauge whether the author is prone to adverbial overindulgence — leaving you more editorial energy to expend on other issues.
5. Keep an eye on your stylesheet at all times with the split screen function
If you’ve done any fine-grained copy editing in a program like Word, you’ve probably experienced the low-grade frustration of constantly toggling between your manuscript and your style sheet.
With Scrivener, you don’t have to navigate to a separate document to check on the spelling of (a)esthetic or the hyphenation of non(-)fiction. Just import your style sheet into the Research folder, and use the split screen function to keep it in view throughout the editing process.You’ll save seconds every time you need to consult it.
From the daintiest of details to the most sweeping of structural problems, Scrivener can help you streamline the editing process. Next time, turn on Revision Mode instead of reaching for Track Changes — your Scrivener-loving author will thank you!