Update 9/18/2017: A commenter pointed out that some of the features mentioned here aren’t available in the PC version of Scrivener. It’d been long enough since I used it that I didn’t realize. There is a stripped down version of Project Targets in the PC version, but there are parts of this post that will only apply to the Mac version. Unfortunately Literature & Latte doesn’t seem interested in introducing a full featured version of their software for PC users at this time.

I use Scrivener for all of my writing. Once upon a time I used Word because that’s what I had, but if you spend any time around writers you’re going to have someone recommend Scrivener to you. And at $45 it’s really a steal compared to Microsoft’s flagship word processor. It’s certainly less expensive than Wordperfect.

Assuming you’re old enough to remember what Wordperfect is.

The point is I use Scrivener a lot and I figured I’d share some tips and tricks that I use on the daily. This will be an occasional feature since it will only happen when I think of something useful.

Today’s subject? Project Targets. Easily one of the most useful little tools hidden in Scrivener.

Lots of programs will tell you a word count. The wonderful thing about Scrivener? It will give you a word count and also allow you to set a target goal for your manuscript. It then calculates how many words you need to write per day if you’re going to hit that goal and provides cool little progress bars that show both the progress on your novel as a whole and your progress on today’s word count.

Talk about useful!

To activate this feature you navigate to Project>Show Project Targets in Scrivener. There’s also a keyboard shortcut, but it’s different on Mac and PC and the tooltip is right there on the menu so I’ll leave it to you to figure out what it is in your particular OS.

Once you do that Scrivener pops up that helpful little window I mentioned that has the two bars showing progress towards your total goal and progress towards your daily goal. The only thing is it’s not going to work like that right out of the box. You could type 100,000 words and those bars would stay empty even as the word count climbs.

You have to play with them a little bit to get everything working properly.

First you need to set a word count. Under the top progress bar it says 0 of 0 words. Assuming this is a new project. If it’s an existing project you’re writing on there will be some different number in the first spot. Simply double click on the second 0 and input your estimate of how long you think the manuscript will be. Voila! Scrivener now shows you your progress towards your ultimate goal!

That’s not the best thing Project Targets will do for you though. No, you want to know what your daily goal is too. So click on the Options button to open up… your options. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin.

From here there are a couple of things you’ll want to adjust to get everything working correctly:

Click the checkbox next to Deadline and insert the date you want to be finished in the date box to the right.

Click the checkbox next to Automatically calculate from draft deadline and then select the days of the week you’re able to write.

Everything should be working as intended now and you don’t need to mess with any of the other settings. However those settings can mess with your progress bars depending on how you have your manuscript configured so I’m going to talk about them briefly and how they can screw up your total word count.

Count documents included in compile only is just what it says on the tin. When you click the compile button there are checkmarks next to the folders and chapters you want to include in that compile. If something isn’t checked it won’t be included.

This is important to keep in mind. I once had a novel that I thought was 10k words shorter than it actually was because I unchecked compiling a couple of chapters for some reason that’s lost to the sands of time. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized my mistake, and a boneheaded mistake I never made again.

There’s really no reason to uncheck this option since you only want to include stuff that’s going into your finished project.

Count text written anywhere in the project is best left unchecked. At least in my workflow. I have a lot of notes and different drafts of novels that I keep in various folders. If I checked this option then it would count those multiple drafts and suddenly I’m not getting an accurate count of what’s going into the final draft. Your workflow may vary depending on how you use Scrivener.

Allow negatives lets you go into a negative word count. So say you write 1000 words but then you go back and edit and remove 1200 words. You’d be at -200 for the day. I don’t use this option because when I’m writing I just write and don’t edit so there’s no point in tracking negatives. Again, your preference may vary depending on your workflow.

So there you have it. Project Targets in Scrivener! I’m always working on anywhere from 4-6 novels at any given time and I always write small chunks of each one daily. It harnesses my natural tendency to distraction and keeps me from getting bored writing one novel at a time. It’s indispensable knowing exactly how many words I need to write in each project on a daily basis to hit my target goal.

Even if you don’t use it that way I’m sure this will be useful if you’re a Scrivener user. Hope it helps!