Scrivener Templates (or How to Skip the Blank Page)

One thing I love about Scrivener is how easy it is to create, store, and activate templates. To me, Scrivener means never having to stare at a blank page, because when I start a new project, I have an instruction set for how to ease into the scary writing part.

Here are my Scrivener templates.

How to Write a Novel This is my favorite, of course, mostly because it makes me laugh every time I look at the title. If only it were that easy! This is my checklist of things I do before I start stringing words together—most of the other templates are mentioned somewhere or other in this checklist. The first item on the checklist, just to give me some momentum right off the bat, is “Have an idea.”

Male Interview & Female Interview These are two separate templates, a blending of Karen Wiesner’s Character Sketch templates and Ruthie Knox’s interview questions for characters. Sometimes I do these at the beginning and sometimes I do them when I get stuck in the middle and sometimes I do them when I’m revising. But usually I do them all three times.

Character Setting Sketch & General Setting Sketch These are pretty much verbatim from Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in Thirty Days method—one helps me define the larger setting, like a small town and its characteristics; the other helps me nail down settings that are character specific, like workplaces and homes. I do a bunch of Character Setting Sketches, one for each character with an arc. (I don’t have the right to link to or distribute any Karen Wiesner templates.)

Research List When I first start working on a new story, there are a million things I don’t know, and if I stop to try to figure them out, I get hung up and lose track of what interests me about the characters. So I just make a list of what I need to know later. I’ve also found that I usually need to know about two percent of what I think I need to know, and if I save the research for later, it spares me and my interview subjects a lot of pain. (This is just a blank, numbered list.)

Summary Outline This is a Karen Wiesner concept, too. It’s a list of scenes I know are going to happen, in order. Karen Wiesner’s plan calls for a lot of sketching out of scenes, but I’ve found that doesn’t work too well for me. I’m more a pantser than a plotter. I need to put all the right pieces in place to make the plot turn out well, but if I know too much detail about scenes that are coming, I get bored and become inflexible about listening to the characters and going with the flow.

GMC for H&h I got this from Ruthie Knox, who I think got it from somewhere else online. It’s a boiled down version of what makes the hero and heroine tick (internal goal-motivation-conflict, the engine of character arc) and what drives the book (external goal-motivation-conflict, the engine of plot)

Six-Stage Plot Structure Also Ruthie. A way of mapping GMC onto Michael Hauge’s six-stage plot structure. If you know the engines of arc and plot, you can probably figure out what has to happen, more or less, at each other turning points in the book. I didn’t use this template last time around because I realized I felt more comfortable mapping it onto a horizontal timeline that I sketched on blank paper. (And the beauty of Scrivener is that if I’d scanned that timeline, I could add it to my research folder and stare at it any time I wanted.)

Hauge Plot Outline A slightly more evolved version of the six-stage plot structure. To be honest, I rarely get this far in my own planning process because at this point I am so eager to start writing that I want to scrap the planning and go-go-go. Which I usually give myself permission to do. But if I’m still rolling, I do a:

Plot Sketch This (via Karen Wiesner) can sometimes morph into a synopsis, but I also have a template for:

Synopsis But I never use it because the thing that works best for synopses is giving yourself no more than ten minutes to write them. Twenty if you’re really slow. This is also, as far as I’m concerned, the only way to write cover copy. The more you think, the worse it gets.

I’d love to hear about what templates you use when planning a novel (and/or other tricksy things you love to do with Scrivener).