Formatting in Scrivener: Setting Up a Basic Project


Formatting is one of the more frustrating elements of preparing a book for publication. Due to money (and the lack thereof), I have taken to doing my own formatting for both print and e-book editions. I'm not going to preach at you and say my way is the right way. My formatting jobs are very simplistic compared to a lot of people. Really, I only care that it's legible and I don't receive complaints about the formatting.

I like how I format. I also enjoy helping others format their novels. I even, on occasion, do formatting work for others. It's something I enjoy doing, and I know many authors get really frustrated with formatting their novels.

You are going to need a copy of Scrivener in order to format in the way I do. You are also going to need gimp or photoshop. I am going to walk you through, step by step, on the various ways you can import a document into Scrivener (from Word, as I have that readily available), format the text to be legible, and insert images into your file.

Creating a Scrivener Project

Step One: Create Your New Project

The first step is to open Scrivener. If you do not have a project, it should walk you through creating your first project. If you already know how to use Scrivener, bear with me for a moment.


I use Scrivener for Mac, but the method is identical for Windows, too. You may have slightly different listing order, but the menus are generally the same. So, from file, select ‘New Project.' The following dialogue will appear:


Select ‘Blank' and click Choose. Yes, I realize there is a section just for Fiction, but it's a lot easier if you just select Blank and create your own from scratch. I'll explain why when we dig deeper into setting up your project.

Once you select ‘Blank,' you will need to name your project. Use the title of your book. For example, I use the following for Water Viper: ‘Water Viper – A Jesse Alexander Novel – RJ Blain' for my project name. This makes sure I know exactly what the Scrivener project is for. I have a lot of Scrivener projects, so it's important to me to keep them all nicely organized.

Step Two: Rename Starting Fields

Your project has now been created, and your novel will look a little like this:


This is where the fun begins. The first thing I do is double click where it says ‘Draft' and rename it to ‘Manuscript.' I do the same on ‘Untitled' and rename it to ‘Copyright'–this is the first page of my formatted ebooks.

Next, with the new ‘Copyright' file selected (see above, where ‘Untitled' has a blue bar; that blue bar means it's the ‘selected' file, the one you're currently working on) you want to click the green ‘Add' button above.


Once you have the new ‘Untitled' page, you're going to begin the import process. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I'm going to suggest the way that doesn't involve learning some of Scrivener's higher end tools. There are better ways, more ‘proper' ways, to do this. Easy and functional are my goals for teaching the basics.

Importing Text into Scrivener

Don't panic. Grab your towel. If all else fails, grab yourself a PanGalactic Gargle Blaster. It'll be all right. Assuming you're working in OpenOffice, Google Docs, or Word, you can do the following.

Highlight the entire project (control-a or command a) and copy it (control-c or command c) to your clipboard.

Go to that fancy ‘Untitled' field you have, make sure it has the blue bar, and click on the body of the text. Paste it (command-v or control-v) into the text box. You will end up with an absolutely huge wall of text, and Scrivener will automatically preserve the formatting you used to write in OO.o, Google Docs, or Word. (That's handy for later.)

This is what Water Viper looks like after I exported the novel to word and then copy-pasted it back into a new Scrivener project:


You can click on the above image to see it in its full-sized glory. Yes, Water Viper is actually 193,850 words long without front or back matter. Now, I've already imported the images into the file, but ignore that–I'm going to remove them and show you how to import your own image from scratch in a moment. For now, bask in the glow of having a book in some format or another. Yay, it's a book!

Formatting in Bulk

Since we have this super duper handy dandy wall of text, I'm going to teach you a shortcut. When you format an ebook, you want an indent on the book. If you're planning on going for print using Scrivener as a starting point (highly recommended), you're going to want to do a few things first. Bear with me on this, it's a little tedious. It's easy, just a bit tedious.

Step One: Display the Ruler

Make sure you have clicked somewhere in the story before you do this. Otherwise, you will not find the correct option. Click Format -> Show Ruler.


Once you have done this, your scrivener project will now look a little like this:


Step Two: Justify the Text

While text justification isn't necessary, I find it looks better when formatted, but I'm old school. I grew up reading print books, which all use justified text. A book without justified text just looks wrong to me.

So, highlight all the text (command/control-a) and hit the ‘justify text' button. It's the one on the far right of the text alignment icon. In the following screenshot, you will see what it looks like after the text has been justified. To help clarify, I have put a big red ‘X' through the text alignment options you are not using:


You will notice a few things have happened. First, the jagged right edge is no longer present. Also, all centered text (such as used for glyph or scene break markers) have been shunted to the left.

Don't worry about it for now. We'll fix it soon.

Step Two: Setting Your Indents & line spacing

I recommend .25 of an inch for your margins. This is approximately 4 characters of indent, which is plenty large enough for reading on larger tablets, but is small enough for phones, too. Any larger, and you end up with grossly huge indents, and any smaller, and you start creating eye-strain issues. 3-4 characters of indent is ideal in my experience.

While we are dealing with indents, now is a good time to deal with line spacing, too. In the above image, you will see 1.0 in a field with a up and down arrow. Click that, select 1.0; as a general rule, there's no reason to use anything other than 1.0 in an ebook formatting. Print is a totally different kettle of fish, so I'm not going there for now.

In order to change your indents, I really recommend you zoom in on your project. To zoom in, look at the bottom and change the field to 150+%, as shown below:


Next, go up to your ruler, grab the top little marker on the ruler, and drag it right until it is at .25 in. That will set the indents for the entire novel.


Once you have selected .25 in, your document will now look a little like this:


Note: I have assumed you have already selected your fonts from when you work in your story. If not, command/control-a, select your font (I recommend garamond) and your font size (I recommend 12.)

Creating Your Chapter Header

Now that the critical bulk formatting options are set, it's time to create your chapter headers. You will have to repeat this for every single chapter, but the process is pretty straight forward. I will also teach you how to insert an image into Scrivener and set it up for use.

Step One: Pick an Image (Optional.)

You will need photoshop / gimp for this, and you will need basic knowledge of the program. You will need to create a small png, it will need a transparent background, and I do not recommend anything any larger than 25 pixels tall. I am using a cute little horizontal bar for my project, but you can use anything you want, so long as it's small.

Step Two: Insert an Image

Put your cursor where you want the image. Click Edit -> Insert -> Image from File. It looks a little like this:


Select the image you wish to use. Scrivener will put the image in. If it has a lower resolution, it may look huge. Don't panic. It's time to scale the image.

Step Three: Scale the Image

Click on the image, bringing up the right-click menu options. It will look something like this:


Once you have selected Scale Image, you'll get a dialogue that looks like this:


Use the slider to adjust the size of the image to your liking in the file. The bigger number in the bottom is the file's original size. In this case, I went a little over the suggested 25 pixels, but 33-35 is also fine.

Step Four: Center & Remove Indents from Your Image

Highlight the image (I recommend going from right to left to drag the mouse over the picture to ‘highlight' it.) Set the indent to 0 in using the ruler and click the center text alignment icon. When you're done, it should look a little like this:


Step Five: Copy the Image.

Use command/control-c to copy the image. Then you can paste it wherever you want. Scrivener will remember the image's alignment *and* indent setting, so it's a once and done deal. command/control-v to paste, using your cursor to select the spot.

Step Six: Adjust the Chapter Header Text

I use 18 point Garamond for my chapter headings. All I have to do in my case is remove the indent and recenter the text. In addition to this, I have removed the indent from the first paragraph of the chapter. Once formatted, it looks a little like this:


Breaking Your Book Into Chapters

So, right now, I have one big project in a single chapter. I need to separate these into actual chapters. This is actually very easy.

Step One: Scroll to Next Chapter


Step Two: Highlight Chapter Name & Image above (if present)

I recommend against having an image above unless you're a sucker for punishment like I am. If you do, you will have to remove the character/space from in front of Chapter Two (and after, in this specific) case. If you just have Chapter Two as your lead text, you won't have to adjust anything later.


Step Three: Select ‘Split with Selection As Title'
Step Four: Bask in the Glory of your new section! Repeat Steps 1-3 over and over and over and over and over.


I recommend you do all of your chapters in one sitting. Just scroll down, repeat steps 1-3, until you reach the end of your book. Then, you can go back and replace/fix all your chapter headings and scene breaks copy-pasting or inserting images.

That's literally it, over and over and over and over.

Compiling for E-book

You will need Kindle Gen from Amazon to compile mobis. Google it. Better yet, go to Amazon and read the instructions. There are also resources for Scrivener.

Because we're using a basic file instead of a fiction template, you will need to only adjust a few fields to compile. You need to insert a cover, which I'll go into below. You will also need to select all your content and use the ‘as is' function.

Step One: Insert Your Cover


Your cover art will appear under research, and you will be able to access it when you compile.

Step Two: File -> Compile


This is really important. Compile for Kindle eBook (or ePub eBook) for the type, and make sure everything has a blue check box here, with ONE exception. When you're done, it will look like this:


In your case, you'll have a copyright page instead of Chapter One, but I just selected a project with a full chapter list rather than my ‘new' project I was using for demonstration purposes.

This will make your book compile to look just like you've formatted.

Important: Under ‘Transformations' NOTHING SHOULD BE SELECTED. This will override the ‘As-is' option. By default, nothing should be checked there, so DO NOT play with that. You'll screw your formatting up.

Step Three: Select your Cover

Self explanatory. Yeah, I used the Nook/Kobo file for it because it's a smaller image size (same resolution, just lighter on file size for arcs.)


Step Four: Fix your Meta-Data


Fairly self-explanatory. Put your information about your book. Description would be the back-of-book description of your title. This isn't totally critical, but you definitely want the Title and Authors fields to be correct.

Step Five: Adjust Your Separators


Set everything to ‘Section Break' unless you're using folders, in which case, you're on your own on that front, peeps. I do simple, and simple says only text separates for me. Some folks like folders… and at that point, my recommendation is to “play around and figure it out on your own.” Scrivener has a lot of that.

This should give you a good starting point for setting up your own ebook formatting.

Expect some heartache; it's a learning process, and Scrivener is not the easiest program in the world… but this is how I set up a project.

Hope this helps!

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