Set Up A Family History Project in Scrivener

Scrivener [Mac – $45.00 & Win – $40.00] is a great app for any family history writing project. With Scrivener, you have everything you need – from research to writing tools – all organized in one place. This article looks at some options for setting up a family history writing project.

Scrivener Workspace

Scrivener Workspace

What you see here is the basic Scrivener workspace you’ll see when you create a new project. The only thing I’ve done so far is set up the Binder (the stuff you see in the left sidebar) with the basic items I’ll need in this project. This particular project was set up for my Barker family. I know I have material for two books on this family, but hope to do two more at some point. Since much of the research and resources I’ve collected will be needed for each book, it only makes sense to put each of these books into one project.

ScrivenerBinder01Let’s take a close look at the Binder. This is where you organize all the different components of your project. There are two basic kinds of items used within the Binder – folders and files – but as you’re about to see they can serve many purposes. Scrivener offers a number of icons to help you see at a glance how each item fits into the project. This project was created using the generic Novel template. Once I’ve set up this project to suit my workflow, I’ll save it as a custom template so the next family writing project will be even easier to set up.

At the top of the Binder is the Manuscript item. This is a folder that contains the content of my writing project. Other templates may call it “Draft” instead of “Manuscript” and I can call it “Fred” if that’s what suits me, but this is the area where the content of my book will reside. In this example, I have several folders inside the Manuscript folder. I can set up folders for each chapter or section within my book or I can do like I have done here and create folders for each book I expect to write for my Barker family.

Notice the difference in icons between each of these folders. Each of my planned books has a book icon while the newest folder displays the generic folder icon. Scrivener has all kinds of icons to make it easy to see the purpose of any element in my project. The Citations, Notes and Style Guide each use a different colored notebook icon while the Research folder has an open book icon. Right now everything you see in the Binder is a folder – except the Word List item under the Style Guide folder. That is a text file. At this point in my set up, it’s the only text file in the project.

While the Manuscript folder – and the book folders inside it – will be the content of the books I plan to write, the items below are for things that will support my writing efforts across all the books in this project.

  • In the Citations folder, I’ll list the citations I use in this project – appropriately formatted so I can easily copy them into the manuscript when I need them.
  • I’ve reached the stage where I have to jot down notes before I forget them so I have a folder where I can do just that.
  • At the very least my Style Guide will have a list of words properly spelled and formatted (Is it January 3, 1920, 3 January 1920, 3 Jan 1920 or 1/3/1920?) to insure consistency in my writing.
  • The Cover Graphics folder will hold the images I plan to use as the cover for each book.
  • In the Research folder I’ll dump all the notes, original documents, links to web sites and other genealogical information needed to write these stories.
  • The Template Sheets folder was included in the Novel template and holds templates for building character and location sketches. These are used by novelists to define a character (or location) and then as reference to insure consistency throughout the manuscript. I see potential usefulness, but haven’t decided how I’ll use them yet. For now it stays in.
  • Trash is self-explanatory.

Since the research, notes and even some of the content included in this project will be used in each book, it makes sense to keep it all in one project. When you get to the compilation phase of your project – the step that converts your manuscript into a finished book or ebook – you’ll decide just what content is included in the compilation. More on that in future articles.

First, a look at the terminology surrounding the Binder. First there’s the item. It’s a generic term for any file or folder included in the Binder regardless of its use. Next is the document. Officially, it’s any item containing text, but documents can also be empty – temporarily or as a place holder. Documents can also be word-processing or rich text files imported into the project. A folder contains documents and even other folders. A folder can also contain text such as a chapter title. Documents can be nested together as a stack or file group.

ScrivenerMenu01You can easily add folders and documents to the Binder by right-clicking in the Binder area and choosing the Add option. You’ve seen how you can nest folders within folders, but you can also nest documents as stacks. One of the very nice things about Scrivener is its ability to reorganize content items quickly and easily. All you do is drag the documents and/or folders from one location to another within the binder.

In the popup menu shown here, you’ll also notice you can duplicate and move items. Mostly this is used to reorganize the flow of a manuscript, but it could also be used to copy an excerpt from one of the book projects to become a preview teaser at the end of another book.

Once your book is finished, don’t delete the Scrivener project. As we all know, there will always be new research and new things to add to your family history. By keeping the project, all you’ll have to do is update it with the new information and recompile it.

Coming up next . . . Organizing Your Book

  • iamdismantled

    Thank you so much for sharing how you are using Scrivener for this project. I’ve just started organizing lots of family information for both sides of my family and this will help immensely. I hadn’t thought of using Scrivener, but it makes perfect sense with its many tools and storage options. Thanks!