Scrivener Project Targets

by sarahenni on October 17, 2011

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is around the corner, and a few weeks ago I discovered a tool in my writing program that makes achieving 50,000 words in a month seem way more reasonable. It’s the Project Targets tool in Scrivener. (If you haven’t heard of Scrivener, I encourage—nay, beg—you to check out that link. It’s the best $40 I’ve spent on basically anything ever.)  The Project Targets tool breaks down a full maniscript word count goal into daily amounts, and keeps track of what you need to add every day to meet the ultimate goal.

Here’s how to use it!

First: Select “Show Project Targets” from the Project menu.

Then you’ll see a small separate window pop up.

It will ask you to set the parameters for your target: when is the deadline for this target, how many days a week you plan on writing, and whether you want deleting a word to subtract from your word count. (Scrivener is so nice.)

When you hit OK, the window will change into two separate bar charts that will show you the overall manuscript wordcount progress (toward the ultimate word count goal) and the progress of your current writing session.

My favorite part is how the bar changes colors based on how close you are to finishing. It begins a faint red, gets bright red, then slowly shifts to green (passing through an unfortunate pukey mustard phase, as evidenced above).

When your writing session for the day has been achieved (yay!) it looks like this:

I feel like I’m always learning some new and fun feature of Scrivener. This one has been the single most helpful in motivating me to actually sit down and write. It reminds me every day that I truly only need 15, 30, or 45 minutes to reach a reasonable daily goal. That’s helpful for someone like me who is detail oriented but needs to breathe into a paper bag when confronted with the big picture. (80,000 words?! How can that EVER be done?!)
What about you? Do you find features like this helpful? Do you use Scrivener? What are some other tricks you like in Scrivener?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Colin October 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I don’t use Scrivener, but I’m tempted to check it out. Like most new software products, I need to be convinced it’s somehow better than what I’m using. Currently I’m on Word–Office 2003 version, which is nearly 10 years old now, but does everything I need it to do. Before spending the money to upgrade, I need to be convinced it would be worth my while. Very practical of me, I know. Anyway, I’d be interested to see what other Scrivener users have to say. Thanks, Sarah!


sarahenni October 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Well it’s definitely possible to do everything you need to in Word, but I REALLY encourage you to watch some of the Scrivener videos. The things this program can do (especially when it comes to revisions and moving scenes and story lines around) are downright sanity-saving. And I was shocked that it was only $40.

The windows beta is getting better and better, too. I just put the most recent beta on my PC laptop and it’s great!


Luke March 10, 2013 at 12:22 am

Hi Colin,

I started out writing my first complex plot a few months ago and ran into problems after only 20-30 pages on Word. There was nothing wrong with word as a program and I have used word for most everything throughout my life, however tying chapters together and keeping the story from fragmenting and the plot lines from illogically progressing was obviously going to be an issue.

I wasn’t sold on any writing software for quite a while. I ended up spending nearly a week researching, trying out the free programs, and really wasting time that could have been spent on my work.

I refused to spend the money and spent another week breaking my work into 44 separate documents for notes, chapters, character sheet, and all of the other mess that goes into a work. I had a great system between Excel and Word and was excited to finally be able to get back to writing after all of the busy work.

Then I changed the order of a few chapters, and my house of cards quickly came down. None of the links I set up worked anymore and there was no way to navigate through each file to even find where mistakes were made; the documents shared a folder but in the eyes of the computer, their similarities and connections stopped there.

Since this is my first work, I can’t imagine how difficult the editing process must be when there’s no way to link documents under folders, to derive the key plot points of sections, to easily see various levels of complexity and block out what’s not important for what you’re working on then.

Sucking it up, I bought this program and have spent the last two weeks developing my project. I’m actually having more fun doing the development because I’m getting things done and I’m not frustrated while I organize. Writing a novel (for now at least) should be a fun endeavor right?

Anyways, Colin, I started using Scrivener for my novel and tonight I came across you post while searching for people who might have found more functions to mess with.

From what I can tell, the people who are in charge of Scrivener have a great goal of a simple and effective software for writers. I also appreciate their “No BS” response to demands for more functions; it does what it does, and it does it well. While I, personally, might feel I need some feature or another, giving in to that would eventually lead to a program as distracting for writers as Word.

There are a million other uses I see for it, as is: Class notebooks, career planning, goal setting, etc. It may not be the best for those though. Because it’s software for writing.

So, for writers, I would recommend writer’s software in the same way accountants must have excel. For $40, you can save yourself weeks to, I’d imagine, months of time between losing notes, keeping track of plot lines, and correcting dumb mistakes and oversight while editing and have a stronger finished product by using this program.

As someone who isn’t looking to be a writer(A doctor actually), the ability enjoy my hobby rather than give up on it in frustration over my bloated Word document is worth far more than the $40.


Erin Bowman October 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Thank you for discovering this wonderful little tool! I have been using it ever since you tweeted about it a few weeks ago. In fact, I love it so much that I customized my main Scrivener menu bar to include a short-cut to “targets” — It appears as an adorable little archery target icon! <3

It's funny — I know a lot of people love Scrivener because there aren't "pages" and they can just focus and write, but I am incapable of typing without seeing "splits" between traditional 8.5×11 pages. So I set my typing area to look just like Word. But I adore the Binder. Everything about it. I keep research, character info, setting info, revision notes, anything + everything "extra" in there, right underneath my MS folders. I love having it easily accessible. And I use the two-up view often, so that research or inspiration can sit in a window alongside my MS as I type.


sarahenni October 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm

ARCHERY SYMBOL! I am so copying you. ;) This MS is the first time I’ve really used Scrivener to its fullest—filling out character profiles, compiling research, and of course project targets. I love the two-up view, too. I found myself hitting roadblocks sometimes and spending a couple nights perfecting the outline using the index cards set me back on the right path. It’s made a HUGE difference. I feel so in control of my project. LIFESAVER. *hugs Scrivener*


Alyson Greene October 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I love Scrivener, but haven’t used this feature yet. Tonight I’ll definitely start, though.

I like Scrivener for drafting, but it s AMAZING for revising. To be able to move scenes around and color code them and look ar the cork-board, and it always knows where you leave off, it’s awesome! Scrolling through a giant Word doc and cut and pasting is a head-ache.

Great post. <3 Scrivener


sarahenni October 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm

YES! Revising is a completely and totally different experience with Scrivener. I could never return to copying and pasting after using it!

I’m glad I could point out another awesome feature for you—let me know how it goes trying to use it!!


Rida October 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I think that the main reason I’m not so crazy over the Scrivener beta I’m trying out right now is, yes, the absence of pages. But if it’s like Erin there ^ says, and you can change the look around to resemble Word, then I’m all for it!

And that is an awesome tool. I assume you know about the name-generator tool Scrivener has? I felt like a genius when I found it, but, yeah, I suppose everyone else discovered it already :)


sarahenni October 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Yeah, I haven’t messed with the appearance of the writing area too much, but I can definitely see how having the page breaks would be nice! It’s good to know that can be altered, for sure.

I know it has a random name generator, but I keep forgetting where it is! I did use it once though, and it was awesome! They are so clever with their features now!


Jessica Love October 17, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I have been using Scrivener for awhile now, but I haven’t really explored everything it can do. Like this…I had no idea about this! I love it! And how perfect for NaNo!


sarahenni October 18, 2011 at 12:32 am

When I found it, the first thing that occurred to me was how PERFECT it was for NaNo! (In fact, I was using it to try and hit 50K in one month, it just happened to be September!)


Alicia Gregoire October 18, 2011 at 12:41 am

I have the beta for Windows and love it. It looks like the Mac has more bells and whistles that hopefully the Windows one will get soon. Are you doing NaNo this year?


sarahenni October 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, I really hope the final Windows version is as amazing! It’s darn close—I use the Mac on my desktop and the Windows beta on my laptop, and the beta is improving by leaps and bounds.

I won’t be doing NaNo this year, but mostly because I basically set out to do 50K in one month, just it was in September! So hopefully by Nov. 1 I’ll be done first drafting. Are you doing it? I’m excited, it’s always a fun time even when you’re not participating.


Rebecca T October 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I am super anxiously waiting for the Windows version to come out. Dying to use this program. It so perfectly fits my style of writing. The more I hear, the more I drool :)


sarahenni October 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

You should try the Windows beta! It’s really far along, and has most of the features right now!


Lynn October 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Can I read the chapter called Segway Polo?? lol :)

I’ve heard a lot about scrivener. And now I have a mac, so …. maybe I’ll check it out. thanks!


sarahenni October 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

You should DEFINITELY check it out if you have a Mac! It will blow your mind, guaranteed. And hopefully someday I can share that Segway Polo scene with the world, LOL


Ghenet Myrthil October 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for sharing this tutorial! I love Scrivener. I’m not doing NaNo but I could see myself using this when writing my next book. Good luck with NaNo!


sarahenni October 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I would SO recommend trying it! It has seriously helped me enormously. I just need context or else the whole thing seems too overwhelming!


Stephanie Allen October 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I want to get Scrivener, but haven’t had the extra $40 to spend on it. Having to pay bills with a minimum wage job is lame =(


sarahenni October 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Boooooo! I feel you, though. If you do happen to find an extra $40 in the street though, I’d recommend Scrivener above, you know.. like 12 pints of Hagen Daas or however many go for $40. LOL


Hayley October 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I’ve been playing around with the Windows Beta version of Scrivener and LOVE IT! They’re *finally* releasing the Windows one on October 31, I believe (just in time for NaNo, haha). Hopefully they have this feature…it would make things a lot easier :)


sarahenni October 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

WOOHOO!! The beta has been awesome on my little netbook and I’m so excited for it to be final! GO NANO!


Lana November 15, 2011 at 3:57 am

Oh that looks awesome!! I’ve been hearing about it more and more lately. Might be something I gotta try out for myself.


Rachael August 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

I just bought Scrivener yesterday after using the free trial! I have the Windows version which, sadly, isn’t as amazing as the Mac version (yet) but is still very awesome. I can’t wait until I have a new WIP so I can try out this feature!


Bonnie November 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I am doing NaNo again this year and making myself get to know Scrivener at the same time! I knew I’d procrastinate learning it if I didn’t jump right in. Thanks for this post because tracking the running word count was gonna be a pain!


Erika Maki December 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I use Scrivener for Windows, and I notice that when I open up Project Targets it doesn’t have an Options button, so I can’t adjust things. Does the Windows version have way no to adjust the options?


Doug May 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Love the targets, but that’s a dang ugly window in full screen mode. Hopefully they will make it HUD style in an upcoming release. It’s so totally distracting in full screen mode I can’t have it up while I work. Very disappointing and seems like and easy fix! I’ve seen it requested many times over at the Literature and Latte forums, but so far no deal!


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