Novel Structure

This section covers the structure of a novel project.

This section concerns files under the Novel type root folder only. There are some restrictions and features that only applies to these type of files.

Importance of Headings

Subfolders under root folders have no impact on the structure of the novel itself. The structure is instead dictated by the heading level of the headers within the document files.

Four levels of headings are supported, signified by the number of hashes preceding the title. See also the Markdown Format section for more details about the markdown syntax.


The header levels are not only important when generating the exported novel file, they are also used by the indexer when building the outline tree in the Outline tab. Each heading also starts a new region where new references to tags can be set.

The different header levels are interpreted as specific section types of the novel in the following way:

# Header1
Header level one signifies that the text refers to either the novel title or the name of a top level partition when you want to split the manuscript up into books, parts, or acts.
## Header2
Header level two signifies a chapter level partition. Each time you want to start a new chapter, you must add such a heading. If you choose to split your manuscript up into one file per scene, you need a single chapeter file with just the heading. You can of course also add a synopsis and reference keywords to the chapter file. If you want to open the chaper with a quote, this is also where you’d put the text for that.
### Header3
Header level three signifies a scene level partition. The title itself can be replaced with a scene separator or just skipped entirely when you export your manuscript.
#### Header4
Header level four signifies a sub-scene level partition, usually called just a section in the documentation und user interface. These can be useful if you want to change tag references mid-scene, like if you change the point-of-view character. You are free to use sections as you wish also in novel files, and can filter the titles out of the final manuscript just like with scene titles.

There are multiple options of how to process novel titles when exporting the manuscript. For instance, chapter numbers can be applied automatically, and so can scene numbers if you want them in a draft manuscript. See the Exporting Projects page for more details.

Unnumbered Chapter Headings

If you use file layout types for your files, the automatic numbering feature for your chapters is controlled by whether you use the Chapter or Unnumbered layout type for your file. However, if you have a different file layout where this isn’t practical, you can also switch off chapter numbering for a chapter by making the first charcater of the chapter title an *. Like so:

## *Unnumbered Chapter Title

The leading asterisk is only considered by the Build Novel Project tool, and will be removed before inserted at the location of the %title% label. See the Exporting Projects page for more details.


If you need the first character of the title to be an actual asterisk, you must escape it: \*.

Tag References

Each text section indicated by a heading of any level, can contain references to tags set in the supporting files of the project. The references are gathered by the indexer and used to generate the outline view on the Outline tab of how the different parts of the novel are connected.

References and tags are also clickable in the document editor and viewer, making it easy to navigate between reference notes while writing. Clicked links are always opened in the view panel.

References are set as a keyword and a list of corresponding tags. The valid keywords are listed below. The format of a reference line is @keyword: value1, [value2] ... [valueN]. All keywords allow multiple values.

The point-of-view character for the current section. The target must be a note tag in the Character type root folder.
Other characters in the current section. The target must be a note tag in a Character type root folder. This should not include the point-of-view character(s).
The plot or subplot advanced in the current section. The target must be a note tag in a Plot type root folder.
The timelines touched by the current section. The target must be a note tag in a Timeline type root folder.
The location the current section takes place in. The target must be a note tag in a Locations type root folder.
Objects present in the current section. The target must be a note tag in an Object type root folder.
Entities present in the current section. The target must be a note tag in an Entities type root folder.
Custom references in the current section. The target must be a note tag in a Custom type root folder.

The syntax highlighter will alert the user that the tags and references are used correctly, and that the tags referenced exist.

The highlighter may be mistaken if the index of defined tags is out of date. If so, press F9 to regenerate it, or select Rebuild Index from the Tools menu. In general, the index for a file is regenerated when a file is saved, so this shouldn’t normally be necessary.

Novel File Layout

All files in a novelWriter project can have a layout format set. These layouts are important when the project is exported as they indicate how to treat the content in terms of formatting, headings, and page breaks. The layout for each file is indicated as the last set of characters in the Flags column of the project tree.

Not all layout types are actually treated differently, but they also help to indicate what each file is for in your project. The Book layout is a generic novel file layout that is formatted identically to Chapter and Scene layout files, but may help to indicate what files do in your project.

You can for instance lay out your project using Book files for each act, and then later split those into chapter or scene files by using the Split Document tool. Scenes can also be contained within Chapter type files, but you lose the drag and drop feature that comes with having them in separate files if you organise them this way.

Some layouts do have implications on how the project is exported. Files with layout Title Page and Partition have all headings and text centred, while the Unnumbered layout disables the automatic chapter numbering feature for everything contained within it. The latter is convenient for Prologue and Epilogue type chapters.

All of the above layout formats are only usable in the Novel root folder. Files that are not a part of the novel itself should have the Note layout. These files are not getting any special formatting, and it is possible to collectively filter them out during export. Note files can be used anywhere in the project, also in the Novel root folder.

Below is an overview of all available layout formats.

Title Page
The title page layout. The title should be formatted as a heading level one. All text is automatically centred on exports.
Plain Page
A plain page layout useful for instance for front matter pages. Heading levels are ignored for this layout format, and so are formatting options like Justify Text. The page is exported with a page break before it.
This is the generic novel file format that in principle can be used for all novel files. Since the internal structure of the novel is controlled by the heading levels, this file will produce the same result as a collection of Partition, Chapter and Scene type files. However, it does not provide the functionality of the Unnumbered layout format.
A partition can be used to split the novel into parts. Partition titles are indicated with a level one heading. You can also add text and meta data to the page. The Partition file layout will in addition force a page break before the heading, and centre all content on the page.
Signifies the start of a new chapter. If the text itself is contained in scene files, these files should only contain the title, comments, synopsis, and tag references for characters, plot, etc. The heading for chapters should be level two. If you need an opening text, like a quote or other leading text before the first scene, this is also where you’d want to add this text.
Same as Chapter, but when exporting the files and automatic chapter numbering is enabled, this file will not increment the chapeter number. It also has a separate title formatting setting. This makes the layout suitable for Prologue and Epilogue type chapters.
A scene file. This file should have a header of level three. Further sections can have headers of level four, but there are no file layout specifically for sections.
A generic file that is optionally ignored when the novel is exported. Use these files for descriptions of content in the supporting root folders. Note files can also be added to the Novel root folder if you need to insert notes there. Note file headers receive no special formatting when building the project. They are always exported as-is.


The layout granularity is entirely optional. In principle, you can write the entire novel in a single file with layout Book. You can also have a single file per chapter if that suits you better. The Outline will show your structure of chapters and scenes regardless of how your files are organised.


You can always start writing with a coarse file layout with one or a few files, and then later use the split tool to automatically split the files into chapter and scene files.