Scrivener: Importing Existing Files

But what happens if you already have a document somewhere and you’ve started a book in Word or another processor? Not to worry. Scrivener has made several ways to import your document. We’re going to begin with the least labor-intensive way for you and this will work best if you have a manuscript of several chapters in one document. 

Importing by Sections:

This step has a tiny bit of prep work to make sure that Scrivener will break up your novel into files. First, you must open your original document in the program you’ve used to write it. Then you will add a hashtag to the beginning of every chapter where you want the new Scrivener section to begin. You can add the hashtag by hitting the “Shift” and “3” key at the same time. If you have titled your chapters with the word “Chapter” you can quickly find your beginnings by searching for “chapter” in your search and find instead of scrolling through your manuscript. Everywhere that you place a # will start a new document. If you’re writing in files, don’t worry! There is an easy way to change files to texts and texts to files and both options work the same way.

When you’ve added # to every place you want Scrivener to split your document, close out your original document. In Scrivener, go to “File” to get your drop-down menu. Then Import, and finally, because you want it in sections, click “Import and Split.” Scrivener will take your document and splice it into sections which will appear in the binder at the left of your screen.


If you have trouble with this, don’t fret. There is another way to bring in your novel and it’s not much more trouble than adding the # to your manuscript. That would be to start a “text” file and then copy and paste your entire novel into the file. You can split the text in Scrivener any time you need to by hitting Command and K at the same time. Simply place your cursor whoever you want the new section to begin, press the buttons together and you will have a new section. Go through the entire document and you will be ready to write.

If your manuscript has lots of images already and you worry about moving such a large document, you can copy and paste each chapter into a next text document. This is the most labor-intensive way, so try the others first but it is an option.

Note: if you want to add images to your document as you go, you can drag and drop them from the desktop in Mac. Likewise, you can click “Edit” in the top bar, “Insert” in the drop-down menu, and “Image from File” to import images. Now that we have a good start on writing your manuscript to get you started on the “top drawer” of your project, let’s move to the “bottom” drawer: the home of your research, character sketches, and anything you need to make your project happen!