VNW’s comment on an earlier post got me to thinking about how I’m trying to utilize Scrivener’s features to help organize my novel manuscript. I thought I’d explore that a little bit.
Scrivener has many features, but four tools that I’ve been trying to use to help me organize and revise my work are Snapshots, the split screen, Comments, and Keywords.
Snapshots are useful because they make it very easy to access multiple drafts of a chapter (or scene) even when you move that chapter around or rename it. For example, I have a few chapters that are flashbacks and I’ve been puzzling about both the sequence in which these should be revealed to the reader and where they should fit into the overall structure of the narrative. So they’ve not only been edited to make them work more effectively as scenes, they been edited to fit more cleanly into the surrounding narrative AND they’ve been moved around. With Scrivener, once I save a Snapshot of a particular chapter draft, that Snapshot follows the chapter around wherever I move it and stays associated even if I rename that chapter. Very convenient for a larger project.
The Split Screen is a feature I typically use when I’m (a) adding large-scale notes for a chapter, (b) conducting a broad editorial overview, or (c) referencing a research document while writing a scene. Split Screen allows me to put the manuscript in the top window of Scrivener and the other doc I need to look at in the bottom screen. This is a simple feature but very convenient for this sort of work. I can associate a sub-document full of notes with any given chapter for ease of reference.
Here’s a screen capture showing both the split screen and the Snapshots for a chapter.
As you can see, I’ve gone through a lot of drafts on this particular chapter. I have them all arranged by date and I can scroll separately through the text of an earlier draft in the little pink column at the bottom right of the screen. This is really handy when I want to pull some language out of an earlier draft and reinsert it into the current manuscript.
I don’t really like to write for extended periods using the Split Screen, as it gets busy for me when I’m trying to be creative. When I’m writing, I tend to use a feature of Scrivener called Compose that blacks out the whole screen and lets me see just a paragraph or so of text. Great for removing distractions (hard for me to capture using my screen capture tool!). However, Split Screen is useful for editing. In fact, having the different visual input to work with helps me distinguish my editorial role from my writer role, so I can switch hats with a bit more cognitive ease.
I also use the Comments feature a great deal. This isn’t that different from turning Comments on in Word, except that I find Scrivener’s implementation to be cleaner and easier to use. You highlight text, make a note in the Comment field that appears in the sidebar, and that’s it. Easy to delete Comments, easy to add them.
Finally, I am finding that Keywords are a useful tool for a long manuscript like this one. Using Keywords, I’m able to create a list of key categories such as Characters, Locations, Concepts, Factions, and so forth that appear in the book. Then I can add those keywords to any chapter or scene. Here’s what it might look like:
In the example above, I searched for all instances of the keyword for a certain character. That character shows up a lot in the current outline, but that could change. In any case, I can click on the entries in the list on the left and see every place where that character appears in the manuscript. Great for keeping tabs on continuity issues. If I change the name of something in the master keyword list, all the tags I’ve added for that will change as well. (The manuscript text won’t change; if you change the name of a major character, you’ve got to do a search and replace.) It’s also handy if, like me, you inadvertently described a minor character the same way every time they first appeared in a scene. Easy to miss but kind of embarrassing when discovered.
I usually toss a couple keywords into a chapter or scene when I first create it, then go back and refine those during later drafts, perhaps when I’m feeling a bit blocked and still want to stay engaged with the story. In an early outline, this process brought to my attention the fact that I’d left a character out of a dozen chapters before dropping them back in for a dramatic scene without much foreshadowing.
I suppose you could use these tools to create a very detailed, well-organized outline before you begin writing. But I’ve learned that you can also employ them after the fact to help wrap your head around a manuscript that threatens to spiral out of control. I appreciate that Scrivener seems flexible enough to support both approaches.
Hope this helps to illustrate or clarify what I mean when I reference some of these tools in the blog posts.