The Tools We Use: Part II

I’ve been using Scrivener for the last month or so, looking for a way to better organize my larger projects.

Part of the reason I’ve had to take this step is that I’ve promised the backstory of one of my characters to my Game Master. I had an idea some time ago about a sort of cross-over Dungeons & Dragons character. She begins her life in one world along the Astral Plane and is transported to another as a bet between two goddesses. Will young Katra survive the changes she is forced to undergo? We’ll find out as the GM throws one goddess trial after another at the group with which she has aligned herself. Anyway, I went looking for the stories I began writing about my rogue-turned-cleric.

Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find what I thought I had written and clearly saved. So, I decided that it was time to start organizing Katra’s story.

I began the process of tracking down the pieces of the story and importing them into Scrivener. As with most tools, Scrivener has an import function that works as well as expected. I simply created a home for this new project and launched the Import feature to add the parts I finally located to the project. And in a few keystrokes, I knew where I left the story waiting.

I have several projects started that I really need to import into this tool.

One project I’m particularly excited to organize is the story that my online fanfic writing group worked on for a few years. Scrivener would be a tool in which to test the organization functions. I’ve downloaded the various pieces of the puzzle, and for the most part, they follow a logical timeline. A few of the sections, however, don’t flow as they should, so I need to make notes and figure out a way to organize the information, so it flows better. That means I need to figure out what keywords and metadata to use.

So, what are keywords and meta-data, you might ask. Well, the user manual that comes with the Scrivener application defines it this way:

“Documents of any type in Scrivener can have various meta-data associated with them. Meta-data is a way of talking about something without changing it directly. A simple example from the analogue world could be a Post-It note on a paper-clipped stack of paper. The Post-It note is a kind of meta-data, as is the paper-clip.”

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines metadata as:

“Data that provides information about other data.”

In short, metadata is information about your information. Scrivener considers the title and the text that provides an image description as metadata. I’m still playing around with this feature, so stay tuned for more notes later.

Keywords are a little different in that they let you easily search your document. The Scrivener user manual defines keywords this way:

“Each document can have a list of keywords associated with it. These are useful for making documents easily searchable—for instance, you can list all characters and locations connected with a scene in the keywords even if they are not mentioned explicitly in the text. Creative uses for keywords also include extended status control, plot management, and whatever else you can think of.”

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a keyword as:

“A significant word from a title or document used especially as an index to content.”

Using keywords, you can easily embed information about any scene. When you go back to the corkboard view, your keywords are color-coded, making it easy for you to see how the common keywords are grouped in the various scenes. As an added bonus, if you aren’t crazy about the default colors, you can change them to fit a color schema that makes sense to your project.

Scrivener keyword notations on the cork board view
(c) JJ Shaun, 2019

By using a color scheme that makes sense to me, I can now see who is in the two scenes and where those scenes take place. The information shown on the card tells me the POV in which this scene is written, the chapter to which it belongs, and precisely where the action takes place. The color coding along the side tells me who is in the scene, and the location of the action. I can see that I already need to refine the information so that this view is even more helpful to me.

I’m not even close to getting Katra’s story finished, but now I can print out what I have and deliver it to my GM without having to tell him that I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Now, to find the time to finish notating and organizing the story that my fanfic group started. And my novel. And my first story. And … Well, anyway, I’m still learning my way around the interface, but I think the Scrivener application has found a place in my writing toolbox.

If you use Scrivener, please leave a note and let me know how you use the metadata and keyword function, I would love to learn from all of you as well.

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