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Some Suggestions for Using Scrivener in Critique Groups

Posted in Scrivener Tips

I love using Scrivener for all my writing, as you well know.  However, it took me a while to find a good process for sharing writing with my critique group, and it’s a bit fiddly, so I thought I would share.

Now, with critique groups, it is usually not feasible nor practical to simply share your entire .scriv folder. My particular critique group was Word (using the .docx format) as our standard, then later switched to Google Docs, so I will be covering both methods.

After you have some writing done, design your compile. You may want to save these specific compile settings for critique groups, and for the most part you can set Scrivener to compile however you want, but here are some tips I’ve found useful:

  • Compile in a very universal font. This will help the page numbers to be consistent on every computer, so if you go over the edits/comments together, you can literally be on the same page. I have found Times New Roman to be best for this.  Remember, you don’t need to write in the same format or font that you compile in!
  • Make sure your compile includes page numbers, for the same reason as above.
  • Some people may think that sending in an older or more universal format (such as *.rtf or *.doc) would be better, but I have found that those are not universally readable on mobile devices, and *.doc is unstable anyway, so I prefer *.docx.  This works whether you are sharing in *.docx format or sharing via Google Docs.
  • This may seem overly obvious, but I’m listing it anyway: make sure you are only compiling the parts for this current selection and not the entire manuscript every time. Otherwise critique group members can get very annoyed. :)
  • I suggest talking to your group on a consistent document naming schema, for clarity.  In my group, I name my original something very clear like ‘my document chapters 3-4.docx,’ then each member of the group will return her comments in a similar format, specifically ‘my document chapters 3-4 – reviewer’s name’s comments.docx’ This helps me know which document was revised as well as who sent the revisions (since not everyone has that metadata filled out in Word).

Now that you have compiled your document, you can just email the *.docx if that’s the format you’re using, but I have found that if I am sending a revised copy of something I have sent out before, most critique group members prefer the new edition to be ‘red-lined’ so that they can just see what changes you’ve made. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have a copy of the original (pre-changes) document/compile which you had sent out earlier, then take the new document/compile (with the changes) and compare them (in Word, go to the Review pane, then click Compare (on the right), and choose the compare option, then choose the 2 documents you’ve compiled accordingly and save as a new document). You can then send the compare document to your group.

If you are using Google Drive, it’s a bit different.  Take the *.docx document you compiled and upload it to your Google Drive.  Once it’s in there, right-click on it and Open With Google Docs.  This automatically converts it to Google Doc format (though I recommend editing the title to remove the *.docx extension, which is just misleading and confusing at this point).  If you have it in a folder shared with your critique group, it will automatically share all documents in that folder with them.  Otherwise, you will need to share the document with them directly.  Then they can comment to their heart’s content.

Once your critique group has reviewed your work, they often will send back a copy of the work with comments and/or changes. Opening each one and comparing it to your Scrivener version can be a pain, but you can make it easier by using Word’s compare feature again. Here’s some instructions for that.

  • Open Word, go to the Review pane and select ‘Compare’ and then ‘Combine.’
  • For the original document, select your original document (the one you sent out), and then select the first review document as your compare. Make sure it is set to save as new document and that ‘label unmarked changes’ is filled with the appropriate critiquer’s name (believe me, this is handy later). I also prefer to turn off comparisons of things like formatting, which can be automatically changed when someone else opens and edits/comments on your document, and other things I know I won’t give a flip about. :) When all the setting are as you like them, click ‘OK.’
  • Word should now have an unsaved comparison document as your working document. Save this as something easy to identify, like ‘master review document.docx”
  • Now go into Compare and Combine again, but this time choose the master review document as your original, and the next reviewer’s document as your comparison, and make sure to choose to show changes in ORIGINAL document. Click OK and save that document again.
  • Repeat that last step until all the documents are together in that master review document. Then you can just use this master review document when going over your Scrivener work. This is also handy to see if a lot of people made the same comments at the same point in your work.

Now, if you REALLY want this to be handy, you can actually import the documents with the comments back into Scrivener.  To do that, they need to be in *.docx format (just downloading the Google Doc locally should convert it back to Word format), and you will have to open the document and enable editing.  I found that for some reason with the formerly Google Doc version, I also had to remove the header, which is fine because I don’t need it.  It will automatically turn all comments into notes (inline annotations or on inspector comments), which you can switch from annotations to comments however you want.  Note: It did NOT bring in the commenter name when I imported the file.

Something else I find handy: In our critique meetings, sometimes general ideas for changes are discussed that have not been written in the notes, or we do a little brainstorming on how to fix a particular flaw. I usually like to have the work open in Scrivener while we’re reviewing, and I jot down those ideas, suggestions, and solutions in the document or project notes (and I often create a separate Project note tab specifically labeled for that meeting).

Hope this is handy!

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