Outlining in Scrivener

Ok, so today I’m going to show you a bit how I do some of my outlining in Scrivener. I’ve fallen in love with this program. I won’t extol the virtues of it because I can go on about it for a while. I also won’t go through how to use step by step because there are already quite a few great resources out there that explain things a lot better than I can, so when I talk of things, I will be assuming you know the basics of Scrivener, so apologies if you don’t! But I know it can be helpful to see the process for other writers.
I will say that my process is ever evolving and it can be different for each project I work on. But I’ve found a layout for myself that works quite well. Now, the amount of time I spent looking at examples of how other writers set things up is pretty ridiculous actually, but I find I am a person that does best when I have something to go off of. I tried using some of Scrivener’s templates and while they are helpful, they didn’t quite fulfill all of my needs. So I have begun to create my own templates. I actually have templates for novels, one for blog posts, and one where I keep a collection of story ideas that don’t have their own Scrivener project yet.
draft-binder The layout for novels is ever changing, as I said, but I’ll show you the layout I am using for my current work-in-progress. Because I can’t seem to do just one off novels, I originally set up a blank document and set it up where I have the first level as Book 1. Each Book is divided up into chapters, then of course scenes/sequels.  That’s the “manuscript” part of Scrivener in the binder. Then, it gets a little—complicated, I guess you could say XD I do like to outline, though I don’t do as much as others I have found. I tend to go right in the middle. I like a solid idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to plan so much that all of the fun is gone for me. This is an entirely personal preference, of course.
plot-binderAfter the Manuscript or Draft section, I set up one called Plot. There, I keep a number of things. The story idea (if I did one) which is a template I set up so I can just fill it out for each project goes there, as does the Premise that contains several things including: premise, theme, dramatic question, as well as subplots. I also put my “What ifs” here as well, which is something that I learned from KM Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel. Highly recommended to check out! I also keep what I call a Plot Plan here, which is marking down a few things like: the inciting and key events, theme, the hook, the first plot point, the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point, the third plot point, the Climax, and the resolution. It lets me see a sort of road map, just something to keep me on track as I go. Again, this is from Structuring your Novel, another read I highly recommend!
Last but not least, I keep a separate folder in the Plot part for Scenes. This is where I use another template to record the ideas for scenes I already have. Now, for those that really love to outline everything, you can sit down and just record all the planned scenes you have, detail their goal, their conflict, all of that. I don’t detail out every scene because things often change a bit as I go, so I mostly just detail out scenes that I know I want to hit. So starting out, I’d do those my plot plan and any others I have off the top of my head. I may or may not detail more as I think of them during the project or I may just write them out and see how it goes.
character-binderThe next bit is Characters. I really enjoy getting to know my characters both during the Outlining phase and of course, writing phase. I have several things that go here. Each character gets their own folder. In that folder are a few things: they get a checklist which is a list of about 60 questions that I try to answer for as many characters as possible. Many characters also get a Character Questionnaire that involves their arc, and then lastly, I do a bit of a questionnaire that outlines their character arc based on structure. It seems like a lot, but I do enjoy this process because it helps me to see where certain parts of the character arc fits within the novel.
world-notes-binderAfter that, there’s the Settings folder, which is where I keep track of well, the setting. I put any world notes here, keep track of locations, cities, etc. I even might keep house layouts here (yes, yes I actually do this XD). In the Research folder below that, I often will keep what I call inspiration pictures of my characters, maps, research notes and the like.
This is a quick explanation of the beginning of my outlining process and how I set up my Scrivener projects. I am going to pause on this and do a review of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs for next week! But I will pick up on this the following week, so if there’s anything you want to see, let me know in the comments below or contact me via the form.

Book Review: Structuring Your Novel

Title: Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
Medium: Book
Genre: Nonfiction (writing, how-to)

Initial Thoughts: The moment I hit the Introduction, I was very happy. I’ve always been an instinctual writer. I had read so much that I think I was using story structure without ever really knowing it. But just by reading the introduction, I get a sense of what story structure is and how it’s used, not just in writing, but in all art. As I read further, not only was I given some very clear definitions of structure, but given some concrete examples. And these examples were a variety, which was extraordinarily helpful. I’ve read several “How to” books now, particularly on writing as I am really trying to get serious about the craft, but one of the things that they lack is examples. Oh sure, most of them have something in there, just to give a hint about what they mean, but the examples the author gives are varied, so you can see what is possible.

Favorite Part: Definitely the examples! Not only were the definitions clear and something I could grasp, but adding in those examples, both in the explanations as well as at the end of each segment, was something that was super helpful! Especially as we went from overall story structure, then to scene structure, and even to sentence structure!

Overall Impression: I have enjoyed this book tremendously. I think it will help me to become a better writer and already, I have thought of something for a current work-in-progress that I think will be a much more solid opening than I had. In fact, I had been struggling with it for a bit. But reading this book gave me what I needed to get a much stronger opening that I think will help keep me on track for the rest of the book. I really couldn’t find anything I disliked about it or didn’t agree with other than maybe giving percentages on where certain things fall, but that’s more because when I see percentages, my mind skitters away from them XD. That doesn’t have to do with the book, though.

Recommendation: For anyone struggling with a current WIP, or for anything that has questions on story structure, especially if you haven’t been able to grasp it after reading other how-to’s on writing, this is a great resource and one I highly recommend!

To read this one and more of K.M. Weiland’s books, head to her website!