HomeTech TipsSoftware for WritersHow to Auto-fill the Synopsis in Scrivener for Windows

How to Auto-fill the Synopsis in Scrivener for Windows

Update (April 13, 2021): In late March, 2021 Literature and Latte released Version 3 of Scrivener for Windows, bringing Scrivener for Windows up to par with the Mac version. Because of that update, if you have upgraded Scrivener for Windows up to Version 3, you may follow the instructions in this article that apply to the Mac version. You should find it very easy to find your way around in the new Version 3 for Windows using the Mac instructions. If you have not yet upgraded your Windows Version 1 to Version 3 you may do so here at a free or reduced price, depending upon when you originally purchased Version 1 of Scrivener for Windows. There is no Version 2 of Scrivener for Windows.

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Scrivener allows the user to fill the synopsis in writing projects without typing in the entire text. In this article we’ll show you how to auto-fill the synopsis in Scrivener for Windows.

The problem: You’ve written several chapters in your new novel and each of those chapters is made up of scenes. But when you view the Corkboard or Outliner in Scrivener, all you see are the titles of the scenes which you typed in the Binder.

Bonus hint #1: If you don’t know how to custom name the folders and documents in the Binder, just double click the text of the current title. The words will be hi-lighted. Just type your desired title in the box to replace the original one.

I use Scrivener for all of my writing. In fact, I am writing this article in Scrivener. I also write fiction, and when I do so, I am a pantser almost completely. Because I rarely outline anything in my manuscripts, I’ve made little use of the Outliner feature in Scrivener until recently.

Outliner view in Scrivener for Mac. Mixed items. Scrivener for Windows is similar.
Outliner view in Scrivener for Mac. Mixed items. Scrivener for Windows is similar.

I recently had a need to see the progression of my work-in-progress in bite-size reminders. I opened the Outliner, expecting to see exactly that laid out for me in the same order they were in the Binder. Instead, I saw a list of scenes arranged in alphabetical order, completely out of the order as they related to the Binder. To confuse me even more, I saw that some scenes had just the title and others had a synopsis.

If this experience sounds like one you’ve had, keep reading. I’ll show you the easiest way to add synopses to your writing project.

Scrivener is incredibly versatile in the ways it can be set up and used. These instructions apply for fiction and nonfiction. In nonfiction, you might think of your individual pages as sections or even as entire chapters. When I write fiction I label a folder as a chapter. Each document within that folder will be a scene or beat. However you use it, you’ll find these instructions helpful.

You might use the synopsis feature in Scrivener to see an overview of the thought you are expressing in that particular section, scene, or chapter. Or you might use it to remind yourself of the actual beginning lines of a section, scene, or chapter. Remember, because of the versatility of Scrivener, your individual documents can be whatever you want them to be in your workflow.

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Any document in a folder can have its own synopsis. If you choose to write an entire chapter in one document, you would have a synopsis for that chapter. If you set your project up as I do when I’m writing fiction, each chapter has its own folder. Then each document within that folder is a scene or beat. At that level, each scene or beat could have its own synopsis.

NOTE: These instructions apply primarily to Scrivener for Windows. To find how to auto-fill the synopsis in Scrivener for Mac click here.

Where to find the synopsis in Scrivener for Windows

There are at least three places where you might see the synopsis.

  • In the notes pane of the Inspector (when the synopsis tab is selected).
  • On the individual cards in the Corkboard view.
  • In the Outliner.
Scrivener for Windows. View menu. Set Outliner options.
Scrivener for Windows. View menu. Set Outliner options.

If you know that you have either typed in the synopses or used the auto-fill feature but the synopses are missing from the Outliner, they are probably set to not display.

To set them to display:

  1. Click the View menu.
  2. Select Outliner Columns.
  3. Be sure synopsis has a check next to it.
  4. How to manually type the synopsis in Scrivener for Windows

If you want your synopsis to contain custom text that is not automatically generated from the contents of your manuscript, you’ll want to manually fill it in. This allows you to use it to give your document a general description, a quote from the center of the document, or however you want to use it. Just type your text into the synopsis box in the binder. To do that:

  1. Open the document that you want to have the synopsis.
  2. In the Inspector, click the first tab above the top box.
  3. Click the arrow next to Synopsis.
  4. Type the text that you want to use for a synopsis.

How to auto-fill the synopsis in Scrivener for Windows

How to Auto-fill the Synopsis in Scrivener for Windows
Scrivener for Windows. How to autofill synopsis.

Use the auto-fill feature which will automagically fill in a synopsis consisting of the first few lines of the document. Do that by clicking the small button in the top right corner of the synopsis box.

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Bonus hint #2: If you choose to not specifically title your documents in the Binder, Scrivener will use its Adaptive Naming feature to automatically use the first few lines of the text from the document to display in place of the title there. This text will be similar to the text that the auto-fill synopsis feature uses, but is technically not the same since it displays independent of any synopsis that you have intentionally chosen.

Open your copy of Scrivener and experiment with the steps I laid out. There is no one correct way to use synopses. But there are limited ways to display them. The instructions in this article will help. Personally, I prefer to use the auto-fill function to fill in synopsis when writing fiction. For nonfiction, my own reminders of what the document at hand is about works better. You find your way to use them. Scrivener will help you display them.

My Recommendation: The best training that I know of for people who want to easily come to grips with Scrivener and to do so in an easy to understand way is Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast course. It is a course comprised of a long list of video trainings and other aids that help you to get the best from Scrivener in bite-size chunks. You can learn more about Learn Scrivener Fast here.

Tom Buford
Tom enjoys technology and at several years north of 60, he finds it more enjoyable and interesting than ever. He has been happily married to his bride for more than 46 years and enjoys living with her and the cat that adopted them in rural Tennessee. Tom is also a published fiction author.