How To Format A Perfect Novel: Part 2 (Meta-Data)


Okay, to get this to happen, we’re going to need to create some custom meta-tags. I’ll take a brief moment to explain what that is in case you’re not QUITE super-advanced in Scrivener (if you were, you probably wouldn’t need this tutorial).

Meta-tags are user-defined tags in Scrivener. User-defined means they’re entirely up to YOU. You don’t have to create meta-tags if you don’t want to. If you elect to create meta-tags, what they’re called is up to you. The value for your meta-tags is also completely up to you. Basically, when it comes to meta-tags, you are almighty God.

Meta-tags can be very helpful when doing sweet-ass little formatting like we’re about to do. But how to create them?

So glad you asked.

The menu command is “Project>Meta-Deta Settings…” and then the “Custom Meta-Data” tab. The keyboard shortcut is option+cmd+, (that’s a comma). And for the visually inclined, here’s a pointer:

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Now, you’ll get a little window that looks like this:

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On the bottom left there, you’ll see a little “+” sign. Click that to add new fields.

My three fields are “Element,” “Chapter” and “Title.” “Chapter” and “Title” are pretty self-explanatory and useful to most books. You might want to swap “Element” for something else. I recommend “Character,” because if you do use symbols in your book (like I do) you’ll probably want different symbols for different characters.

When you’re done defining your fields, click “OK.”

Next, in the Binder on the left, I’ll click on the folder for Episode One.

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…and over on the right side of the window, you’ll see the custom meta-data fields for that folder pop up.

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Now, fill these in with whatever you wish. My “Title” field becomes “E1” (short for “Episode 1”). There’s no reason you couldn’t write out “Episode 1,” I just prefer to be concise. And my “Element” is “Earth,” because this is the “Earth” Episode. Again, you’ll probably want to fill this with a character, e.g. “Reginald Von Dickstain.”

Now we’re going to do the same for your CHAPTERS. First, click on them:

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Then fill in the meta-data fields with the titles for that chapter.

“Element” is the same as before, because these are all “Earth” chapters. If I was switching back and forth between characters, I would enter different elements for each chapter: “Earth,” “Air,” “Lightning,” etc. But for now, I’m sticking with Earth.

“Chapter” is new. I label my chapters “C1,” “C2,” etc. rather than writing out “Chapter One,” “Chapter Two,” etc.

“Title” is the title for that chapter. As I said, my book is in seven parts. Each part has multiple chapters. I choose a numbering system that’s the part number, a hyphen, and then a chapter number. The chapters for part one are thus “1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5,” and the parts for part two are thus “2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5.” You get the idea.

Here’s Chapter One with its meta-data filled out:

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No larger image for you!

Done that for all your chapters? Good job. All right, you’ve been slaving away at this for a long, long-ass time, and your head is probably spinning right now. So here’s a quick break for you. Hopefully you find this funny.

Did you watch that a bunch of times? If you only watched it once, you’re not done. Watch it till you’re refreshed and ready to go.

Okay, let’s get on with it. Don’t worry! We’re less than halfway there!


Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at

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