Building the Manuscript#

You can at any time build a manuscript, an outline of your notes, or any other type of document from the text in your project. All of this is handled by the Build Novel Project tool. You can activate it from the sidebar, the Tools menu, or by pressing F5.


This tool is scheduled to receive a full update in novelWriter 2.1, adding many new features requested by users. See the 2.1 Milestone for an overview.

Header Formatting#

The titles for the five types of headings (the chapter headings come in a numbered and unnumbered version) of story structure can be formatted collectively in the build tool. This is done through a series of keyword–replace steps. They are all on the format %keyword%.


This keyword will always be replaced with the title text you put after the # characters in your document.


This will be replaced by a chapter number. The number is incremented by one each time the build tool sees a new heading of level two in a document, unless the heading formatting code has the added !. In the latter case, the counter is not incremented. This is useful for for instance Prologue and Epilogue chapters.


Behaves like %ch%, but the number is represented as a number word. You can select between a number of different languages.


Begaves like %ch%, but represented as a lower case Roman number from 1 to 4999.


Behaves like %ch%, but represented as an upper case Roman number from 1 to 4999.


This is the number counter equivalent for scenes. These are incremented each time a heading of level three is encountered, but reset to 1 each time a chapter is encountered. They can thus be used for counting scenes within a chapter.


Behaves like %sc%, but the number is not reset to 1 for each chapter. Instead it runs from 1 from the beginning of the novel to produce an absolute scene count.


This inserts a line break within the title.


Header formatting only applies to novel documents. Headings in notes will be left as-is.


  • The format %title% just reproduces the title you set in the document.

  • The format Chapter %ch%: %title% produces something like “Chapter 1: My Chapter Title”.

  • The format Scene %ch%.%sc% produces something like “Scene 1.2” for scene 2 in chapter 1.

Scene Separators#

If you don’t want any titles for your scenes (or for your sections if you have them), you can leave the formatting boxes empty. If so, an empty paragraph will be inserted between the scenes or sections instead, resulting in a gap in the text.

Alternatively, if you want a separator between them, like the common * * *, you can enter the desired separator text in the formatting box. In fact, if the format is a piece of static text, it will always be treated as a separator.

File Selection#

Which documents and notes are selected for the build can be controlled from the options on the left side of the dialog window. In addition, you can select to include the synopsis comments, regular comments, keywords, and even exclude the body text itself if you just want an outline.


If you for instance want to export a document with an outline of the novel, you can enable keywords and synopsis export and disable body text, thus getting a document with each heading followed by the tags and references and the synopsis.

If you need to exclude specific documents from your exports, like draft documents or documents you want to take out of your manuscript, but don’t want to delete, you can set the documents as “inactive” in the project tree. Build Novel Project tool has a switch to collectively exclude inactive documents.


The print button allows you to print the content in the preview window. You can either print to one of your system’s printers, or print directly to a file as PDF. You can also print to file from the regular print dialog. The direct to file option is just a shortcut.


The paper format should in all cases default to whatever your system default is. Of you want to change it, you have to select it from the Print Preview` dialog.

Export Formats#

Currently, six formats are supported.

Open Document Format

The Build tool can produce either an .odt file, or an .fodt file. The latter is just a flat version of the document format as a single XML file. Most rich text editors support the former, and a few the latter.

novelWriter HTML

The HTML format writes a single .htm file with minimal style formatting. The HTML document is suitable for further processing by document conversion tools like Pandoc, for importing in word processors, or for printing from browser.

novelWriter Markdown

This is simply a concatenation of the project documents selected by the filters. The documents are stacked together in the order they appear in the project tree, with comments, tags, etc. included if they are selected. This is a useful format for exporting the project for later import back into novelWriter.

Standard/GitHub Markdown

The Markdown format comes in both Standard and GitHub flavour. The only difference in terms of novelWriter functionality is the support for strikethrough text, which is not supported by the Standard flavour, but is supported by the GitHub flavour.

Additional Formats#

In addition to the above document formats, the novelWriter HTML and Markdown formats can also be wrapped in a JSON file. These files will have a meta data entry and a body entry. For HTML, also the accompanying css styles are included.

The text body is saved in a two-level list. The outer list contains one entry per document, in the order they appear in the project tree. Each document is then split up into a list as well, with one entry per paragraph it contains.

These files are mainly intended for scripted post-processing for those who want that option. A JSON file can be imported directly into a Python dict object or a PHP array, to mentions a few options.