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How I Use Scrivener Comment Colors to Organize Work

A how-to on how I made sense of a million comments.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels


I love Scrivener. Every time I see some new writing app promoted, I check it out, and laugh a little. “It’s just like Scrivener, only less features for more money” or “Wow, this is like really complicated” or “They want a subscription? I’m out.”

I’m old school. I’ve been around since the age of the original 8088 chips in PC’s. Radio Shack was top of the line and new systems were coming out with color screens! So if you want me to subscribe to your software, I’m going elsewhere. Usually. I do use a couple of apps that are annual subscriptions (clickUp, Milanote). Most of what I use are free or a one-time cost (Scrivener, Highland 2, Hemingway – what I’m using right now).

So now that the tangent is out of the way…

Making Sense

Until the end of last week, I was using Scrivener all lopsided. I would read through my summary or story and highlight a section, create a comment, then pick a color at random. There was no rhyme or reason. It was a lot like I (used to) write – by the seat of my pants, no rhyme or reason.

Last week I called it quits. I’ve been working on the Summary for my work in progress Darkness of the Northern Sky. The first draft is around 11,000 words. It’s now 14,000 words. Even with it broken into 5 acts (Prologue-is, Act 1-4), the comments were getting unruly. I didn’t have a flipping clue what was important or not. Sometimes I’d make a snide remark. Sometimes I’d pose a question. Sometimes it’d just say “fix this”, or “new character”.

My sidebar was pretty… but full of random colors.

The Fix

Most of the advanced Scrivener users are going to read this next bit and say “well duh!” or “didn’t you watch the tutorial???”. I did. Years ago on Scrivener 2.0.

The color choices Scrivener gives are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple. Yes, the colors of the rainbow. You can change comment color on the fly. But as far as I know you can’t change the colors they offer. I could be wrong.

A quick note: I’m working from a printout of the Summary. I read the summary and make notes in a yellow legal pad. You need to know this or the next bit won’t make much sense.

Here’s how I organized it:

Scrivener Comment Coding

When I’m working on the document I can now jump straight to the priority items first (Red and Orange).

Red holds the highest priority. Orange are mostly questions that I have to answer.

When I’m working the yellow comments, I’ll need the yellow legal pad full of notes.

Green are the plot lines which I will sort and organize.

Blue are all the world building items: characters, locations, landmarks, notes on existing characters, etc.

Purple I will clear after reading them, no action necessary.

The End

I’m now taking all the red comments and putting them in a separate document to work through (like a task list).

Same with the orange.

And so on…

When I’m finished with the summary, my entire story, structure, plot lines, world, backstories, etc., should be complete. I can then work the novel.

I want to note, the novel is written. It’s 106,000+ words. But it’s a structural mess. It’s like if you built a house and hired Bob Builds Houzes to do the work because it was $60,000 cheaper. Instead of hiring Top Dog Homes who have deep knowledge on structural integrity and a reputation for building homes last forever.

Bob’ Builds Houzes is what most authors do on Kindle. Cheap, quick, non-sensical swamp muck. Because they think they can write. About 1% rise to the top. I decided to put the time and effort into my first novel to get it right. And also to learn along the way.

And learn I have!

Do you use Scrivener? Let me know…

Are you a writer?

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Like stories in the Fantasy Sword & Sorcery realm? Check out my current work in progress Darkness of the Northern Sky.

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POST ID: 22076

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