Scrivener to Word

HMS Victory photo by Karen Roe Victory! After some elbow grease, the HMS Victory has regained her proud shine. It takes similar effort to get your complied-from-Scrivener Word manuscript back to its shiny glory.

[Update 26 Feb 2018: This post was written about Scrivener 2 some years ago. It does not apply to Scrivener 3.]

This shouldn’t be so hard.

I’ve reached the point where it’s time to compile my manuscript from Scrivener into Word format, in preparation for The Great Editing. Now the Compile part is easy. (Well, I say “easy” in that it’s pretty complicated, but in a Scrivener way, and after you’ve been using Scrivener for a while, well, you eventually become something akin to a taxi driver in London; you eventually learn where those dead-ends and obscure addresses are.)

Dealing with the Word document output is another matter. This is because, while Scrivener has the ability to define and use all kinds of nifty Styles for your formatting (e.g., regular paragraph vs. blockquote vs. chapter title), it strips all of those Styles out in the export. What you’re left with is a document where the entire thing is defined as “Normal” Style and has individual formatting overrides.

But we all know that we all need to use Styles in our manuscripts, right? Because from Word they can convert to html elements in your ebooks, and they carry straight through into InDesign styles for print layout. (And if you’re submitting to an editor or publisher, they will get very annoyed with you if you don’t give them a clean document, defined entirely by Styles and not by a zillion one-off format settings paragraph by paragraph.

Through trial and error, I figured out how to run searches on particular, peculiar formats and replace them with Styles. It’s an Advance Search & Replace function in Word. (Someday Word may approach the power and simplicity of WordPerfect 4.1, but that day has not arrived yet.) It was a kludgey process, but one by one I found my various document components visually, picked out a peculiar formatting characteristic about it (e.g., uses Courier, font-size 14pt), and was able to run a global replace to tag all of those instances instead with a Style.

I worked my way through:

  • Section titles
  • Chapter titles
  • Blockquotes (I have a few variations, representing text from various sources)
  • Direct thoughts (a character Style, to preserve the italics I’m using for these)
  • Normal

Note that if you are using italics for things like direct thoughts, or for emphasis or whatever, you want to find and define those first before you do this on your Normal text, or bye-bye italics!

As I said, for a semi-professional longform document app, Scrivener’s export to Word should not be this hard. I hope they address this in upcoming releases, because it’s one thing to do this every couple of months in preparation of publication, and even that’s a pain, but clearly this will not scale. And right now it’s the suckiest step in the entire workflow getting text from brain to print and digital.

[Photo: Karen Roe (Creative Commons)]