As many of you know, my primary tool for writing is Scrivener. It is the perfect program for a writer, and I use it for both my novels and musicals. If you don’t know much about Scrivener, this post isn’t so much an introduction to the program as it is to how I specificially use Scrivener. Perhaps it will give you a few ideas of your own!
If you know nothing or very little about Scrivener, check out this excellent Getting Started blog post written by a friend of mine, Emily Irish.
For this blog post, I am going to use the binder for my current project, The Blessed (yep, I’m back at it!), but I will do my best to avoid any spoilers in the process.
First off, I use Scrivener in all of my planning and outlining stages. While I am a huge fan of the whitebook and the classic notebook, when it comes to really nailing things down, that goes into my Scrivener binder. Everything from worldbuilding to characters.
This is extremely helpful not only for having all of these notes be quickly accessible when I am writing, but also allows me to copy these notes if I write another novel in this same world. For instance, many of the Places and History notes, are from my binder for The Varken. This saves me a lot of time from having to either go to a different file all together, or from re-writing these notes. It also helps me to have solid consistancy in a series, as I always have a ready reminder of what characters and worldbuilding I have already established in previous novels.
As far as outlining goes, Scrivener really helps me to keep everything organized, and I love being able to look at everything all at once.
[If you get any spoilers from this, then good on you from being able to decode my moment nicknames!]
This is a very basic view of my binder, but on the left you can see some details as to how I organize even more. I organize my stories in a Three Act Structure, and here you can see I have percentage, word goals, and the movement for each Act. Within each act, I break it down even further.
First, I come up with overall sections before I come up with scenes. This allows me to focus on the overall plot instead of getting bogged down with just a list of scenes. You will see titles with black flags icons on the left. These are NOT scenes, but sequence headlines. I am currently writing the scenes in the sequence “Marjolee’s Dream” so those are no longer hidden under that title, where as the scenes for “Lys’ Decision” and “The First Plot Point” are still hidden away.
This really helps me to not get overwhelmed by scenes, but gives me the freedom to plan ahead. Of course, as I branch out more into discovery writing, those specific scenes are subject to change (and the “Chase” scene I’m writing not has already changed a lot!) the sections are less specific and more directional to keep the story and character arcs moving forward.
Each scene I give a short title, either describing the main event or topic of that scene, or if it is a type of plot point (such as Inciting Event of Charactistic Moment), then I name it such. This allows me to really be able to skim through my notecards or look at my binder on the left to see the flow of events, remember what has happened and where I am going without a long title that doesn’t fit or having to read the synopsis.
I use the synopsis section (which has been blurred – no spoilers!) for more detailed notes on what I want to happen in that scene or sequence. I also like to use little icons – which I get from IconArchive.com – more as a fun element than anything helpful. While they do reflect something about the scene, keywords and meta-data are much more useful.
First, let’s talk about how I use meta-data! I did a lot of looking around to see how other authors use meta-data, and there is so much variety. I think the big thing that makes meta-data different from keywords for me is that you can show meta-data in Outliner moder, as shown above.
With this in mind, I add some basic fields to help me define scenes quickly: Setting (Location), Characters (in the scene), Time (of day), and Pacing (of the scene). I’ve already found this is incredibly useful both at the start of a scene and at the end. At the start, it helps to me remind myself of the where and when, so that I can reflect those things in the scene, as well as keep track of which characters I introduce in a scene, or want to introduce, and finally what I want the pacing to be like. These things can change, of course, and I will have my meta-data reflect those changes, but it gets my head in the right space.
[I also thought about adding a “Song” section to put a song that reminds me of that sequence, and I might still do that, but I didn’t want to bog down this section with “fun things” as much as “helpful notes”.]
When I get around to re-writing, this meta-data will be really helpful in organizing scenes, rethinking pacing, and getting that overall, big-picture of a sequence. Here is another shot of the meta-data where I input it, as well as a look at my labels:
I re-named my labels to “Type” because I use them to mean what type of file is this notecard. When it is an actual part of the story, I note whose POV this scene is in, but I have other types if it is for my research section of the binder and such.
My Status labels are based on my own process of editing, which range from first draft (and sometimes I’ll add “Rough Draft” if I write a section that I am really unhappy with), to “Done”. “Millie Draft” is for when I’ve implemented initial feedback from my editor.
Moving on to keywords! Like meta-data, keywords is a tool that could be used in so many ways, but here is how I have decided to use them for now.
Currently, I am using them to nail down keywords for what happens in the scene. You can see some of my keywords on the left, and on the right are ones I am using in a select scene. Different from the synopsis or meta-data, I try to use these words to note the pacing and events of the scene. If you think of pacing as not only the speed at which the story unfolds, but how emotion is communicate to and transformed in the reader, this becomes really helpful.
Currently, I use keywords to note how the story is communicated (dialogue, action, etc.), how it effects the character, and if this scene contains a major plot point or not. I try to keep these words short and to the point. For instance, “Moment” (short for “Character Moment”) is when the character reveals something new about their personality (whether a transformation or not, simply new information); “Expo” (short for “Character Exposition”) is when a character reveals something about their history; and so on.
I intend to eventually add some actual ’emotion tags’ to my Keywords, but that probably won’t happen until I start rewriting the first draft and can nail down the emotions without immediate attachment to the scene.
And for fun, here is a glimpse at my current “Full Screen Mode” set-up!
I’m sure there are things I’ve skipped over or missed or don’t even know about with Scrivener yet! But there is a little glimpse behind the curtain to my process in writing and how I use Scrivener to make that happen.
How do you use Scrivener? Do you do things differently or did this give you some new ideas? Or maybe you use a different program all together? Let me know!
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