Using Scrivener to Organize Your Poetry

Scrivener is well known for being a great writing tool, but most of what you read related to writing fiction or non-fiction. What can it do for you if, like me, you write poetry?


For the record, I’m not affiliated with Scrivener or Literature and Latte ( https://www.literatureandlatte.com/). I’m just a satisfied customer.


My poetry collection consists of several hundred poems and I’m continuing to write. I needed to find a way to organize my work. I wanted to separate out poems that have been published, indicate a status (first draft vs. revised, for example), and so on.


Scrivener’s ability to let you create your own labels and add new text fields for metadata came to my rescue. (Note, Scrivener 3 lets you add checkboxes, dates, and lists as well as text fields.)


You are started with a binder, which is a big folder for all your documents. There are also two dropdown fields for you to change. I decided to call one dropdown “Status” and gave it the possible values of “First Draft,” “Revised Draft,” “Done,” “Leave It,” and “Published.” “Done” means that I’m done revising and it is ready to send out. “Leave It” means I don’t think the poem is going to be up-to-snuff, so I should put it aside and expend my energy elsewhere.


I use the second dropdown to label any poem that will fit into a Collection. I’ll talk more about Collections later.


I added custom text fields to track things like the date I wrote the poem originally as well as the date of the latest revision. I also have a field to note if the poem has been workshopped. I recently added a field where I list the Open Mics where I have read the poem.


These fields are all searchable but the search doesn’t differentiate among the custom fields. In other words, I can search on the year but it won’t let me say that I want the create date versus the modified date.


The binder is also useful for the organization. Within the binder, you can create folders. When I started using Scrivener, I had a number of old poems so I put those in their own folder. I wanted to keep them for legacy purposes but wound up revising and submitting some of them.


I also created a folder for newer/current poems. I also separate published poems into their own folder. I have another folder for short biographies and other related items.


The last Scrivener goodie that I use is Collections. You can create a collection and place a document into it. The new Collection appears on a tab with the binder. When you select a Collection, the individual documents are listed. You can rearrange their order without changing the order in the binder. This allows me to keep my binder alphabetized and rearrange the order in the Collection. Since the Collection will become a chapbook, it’s important to be able to play with the order easily. The entire Collection can be printed or exported by using the Compile function.


You may notice some redundancy in my method, but there is a purpose. Marking a poem for a Collection with the dropdown doesn’t put it into the Collection, but it does mark it with a color. When I view all the documents in Scrivener’s corkboard, I can see which poems are allocated to a chapbook.


You may find other things that you want to track. For example, I list submissions in the synopsis for the document but you might want to put that information into a field. Scrivener’s flexibility allows me to organize myself so I can spend more time writing and editing.


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