Binder Tour

I originally made this as a blog post on January 31, 2012.  It’s become reasonably popular, so I’ve decided to turn it into it’s own page to make it easier to find.

I’m nearing the end of my third month as a pleased Scrivener customer. Starting our current novel project in Scrivener started as a test of just what the software can do, but it’s now my go-to tool for just about any kind of writing. For anyone who is still considering whether Scrivener is the right tool for them, I thought I’d give a quick tour of our Binder. Within Scrivener, this is the navigation tool around the project, so what you see here is our novel project, though with lots of the folders collapsed, because, ya know, it is still a work in progress and I’m not doing this to give away too many secrets.

1. Outline. Nested folders are helping us keep track of our chapters and sort them into acts. We’re going for a modified three-act structure, treating the second act as its own three acts. I suppose this is actually a five-act structure, but one things I’ve learned from writing is that the number of acts has nothing to do with the actual number of acts.

2. Manuscript. Yes, we’re keeping this separate from the Outline. In the end the outline is going to be a nice first draft outline with a lot of our notes in place, but where we can collapse it completely out of the way. Odd choice? Perhaps. One that’s working well for us? Very much so. Except when I accidentally start first drafting a chapter in the outline. Oops. Within the manuscript the labeling tools in Scrivener allow us to keep visual track of the act structure (the pink tab in the upper right of the card), and who the point of view character is for each chapter. This gives us a fantastic visual hint as to who we haven’t used in awhile. The built-in suggested labels are for things like “To Do” or “Revised Draft” but customization within Scrivener is the strength of the tool. It’s all built around users working the way they want to work in the project. Right now we care a lot more about the POV of a chapter than the draft status.

3. Characters. Everyone who shows up on screen more than twice, and several who only show up once. I typically keep this folder open so I can look up a character name spelling (I’m bad at names, and that actually extends into my writing) or quickly throw a character file in when I create someone on the fly.

4. Random Scenes. These are scenes between characters that my wife enjoys writing. They’re good character building exercises, and when I see one I really like, I’ll start massaging the story towards putting in at least some paragraphs.

5. Places. This lets us drill down into our hypothetical world. Lots of maps I made, lots of maps I found, photos of real buildings that show up in the story, descriptions of fake places.

6. History and World Bible. These are getting used a little less than I intended, but they’re the background of our world. I just opened them while drafting this post, and really am ashamed how little I’ve used them.

7. Side Stories. My wife has the Random Scenes, I have the Side Stories. She’s fleshing out characters, I’m fleshing out the world. I hope they end up being used somewhere, but that’s going to be a very late decision in the process.

8. Critiques. This is where I love Scrivener. These are the critiques from our alpha readers at the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia, typed live as given into this folder where we can easily review them when it comes time for edits. Losing critiques is one of my worst writing habits, so having them tied into the project is a life saver.

9. Research. Largely imported Wikipedia pages and other websites that include era slang and some real world people we’ve based fictional people on.

10. Trash. Absolutely filled with unnamed blank files that I created with a stray click. Oops. Not cleared because I’m always paranoid I dropped something useful in there by mistake. Actually, while putting this together, I found one of my wife’s random scenes landed in there, and has now been rescued.

Without Scrivener, this would all be an awkwardly nested series of folders filled with Word documents. Several of these files might not even exist. Scrivener makes it easy as hell to drag in any and all research I want, and wrangles it all very well, even when I find images that are several thousand pixels on a side and want just the highest resolution possible. It’s a sickness, I know.

Is this the best way to use the product? I can absolutely say: yes it is. Because it’s working for us. I’ve come across many writing toys in the past, things that I can play with for a while, but don’t actual conform to the way I write, and don’t allow for the organic growth that our Scrivener project has undergone. This is how I know that Scrivener is legitimately a writing tool, because it can be used whatever way works best for the writer. Is it right for you? I can’t say. I just hope that by showing how we’ve put together our project, you might see something of the tool and how it might help your writing.

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