*This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend products I know and trust. For more information see my disclosure page.
Scrivener’s corkboard is a great place to get an overall view and feel for your novel. It’s a great way to see your novel from start to finish. To focus on the most important parts. You can use the corkboard to visualize and plan what each chapter or scene is accomplishing towards the overall objective of the story. You could use it to chart character arcs and the story arc. It also helps provide a visual of what stage of completion each chapter or scene is in.
The corkboard is a great tool, so let’s explore some of its features.
How to Maximize Your Use of Scrivener’s Corkboard
The corkboard shows index cards for the next level of documents. So if a folder has several levels, it will only show the most immediate subdocuments. If there are several subfolders or subdocuments, you will see a stack of index cards in the corkboard. You can click on the folder icon in the top left to view subsequent index cards.
Since it only shows index cards one level in, you could easily create a folder and make index cards for a to-do list or even a calendar.
It will create documents for each index card, but in the binder you can keep a folder closed and just ignore the documents. This way you could just use the index cards.
There are also tons of ways to customize the index cards. Let’s look at some of the most useful customizations.
Size and Spacing
In the bottom right corner of Scrivener’s corkboard, there is an image that looks like four index cards. If you click on it, you will see some useful options. You can change the size and ratio of the index cards. You can have small 1×5 or large 9×5 index cards. Just note that whatever size you choose will be applied to any corkboard in the Scrivener project. You can also choose how many index cards will fit across the corkboard. If you don’t care, you can leave it on auto.
View Status and Label
If you so desire, you can also have the index cards display a file’s status and label. Status would be something like first draft, revised draft, or final draft. The status will be stamped across the index card if it is made visible. The label is similar to keywords. You could have a label for character, setting, concept, etc. Each label has an associated color and a little, colored tab or pin appears on the index card if you choose to activate the label.
Click Tools —> Options (or F12), then Corkboard (third down) to view settings for making the status and label visible. (See image below.)
The corkboard’s default background is a typical looking brown, speckled corkboard. However, if you click Tools —> Options —> Corkboard there are also beige and slate graph paper options and custom options.
You can choose any color, or you can upload an image. At first, I struggled to find an image the right size. Pictures I had taken with a camera were way too large. But I was able to change the size until it fit. I recommend a picture about 1700 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall. The exact specs will depend on your screen, but that should help you if you need to resize a larger picture. Or, you can search Google for desktop background images, which is where I found the beautiful mountain landscape.
Split Screen Hacks
My biggest complaint with the corkboard is that you can’t easily view different levels of the corkboard. For example, sometimes I wish I could view all the chapters at the same time as all the scenes from a particular chapter. Supposedly this is possible in the freeform mode, but that may only be available on the Mac. I wasn’t able to unlock the secret of freeform. (If any of you are Mac users, and such a thing does exist, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.)
However, I found a way around my little problem. I just use split screen to simultaneously view separate levels of the corkboard.
Split screen can also be a useful way to view the corkboard and the current chapter or scene you are working on.
Color Code Your Index Cards
If you want index cards to be a certain color, you can color code your cards by assigning labels to them. Then under View —> Use Label Color In, you can assign the color to the index card (and other things too).
This is useful if you feel like the colored tab or pin is too small. The tab or pin also only shows in the corkboard mode, but if you color the card, it appears any time the index card is visible.
Coloring the card can also be useful if you just like colorful cards!
The corkboard can also be a great visual aid. I love finding pictures of what I think I want my character to look like. I have a folder in Scrivener, separate from my scenes and chapters, that I use for character development. And this is where Scrivener’s corkboard gets visual. It’s something I’ve just started, but I use one index card to describe my character. A bit of what my character looks like (which can always change) and their strengths and weaknesses. Then, I have an index card that I convert to an image. I use this card to hold an image of what I imagine my character looking like. Pinterest is a great place to find images!
To convert an index card to an image, change the icon above the index card in the Inspector.
This kind of system would also work well for setting! And you could use the split screen mode to view your images while describing a certain character or location.
What is your favorite use of Scrivener’s corkboard?