Conquer outlining using Scrivener and Scapple

Scrivener result

I’m a big fan of Scrivener as a writing tool and recently began outlining a new novel (the fifth in the Inspector James Given series). As always, procrastination took over and I searched for ideas on how to make the process easier. I found an exceptionally good video on outlining from Abbie Emmons, which is well worth watching. Much of it I did already but some I didn’t.

I write novels with multiple storylines, and have found it useful to outline each storyline on a linear basis (i.e. this happened, then that happened, etc), combining them when I’m happy each story works. My series uses a single, first-person narrator, but I’d do the same if I was using multiple viewpoints, but probably outline for each character rather than by strand. So I end up with a basic set of folders in Scrivener like this:

I could, working directly within Scrivener, then produce a synopsis card per scene within each of the folders. I’ve done this in the past and it works fine, up to a point – the slight difficulty arises when not thinking in sequence, e.g. an idea sparks another idea for something later in the plot. It’s possible to work around this but it is where mind-mapping programs like Freemind and Scapple become useful. Scapple has the advantage of being produced by Literature and Latte (the Scrivener people) so interfaces better.

In Scapple, I produce a note for each scene, with the first line as a title/heading, like so:

Then, select all the notes (Ctrl + A) or just the cards you want (Ctrl + click), drag-and-drop them in to the folder you want. Make sure you drag them into the folder, not the document itself.

You should end up with a document per scene, with a synopsis and scene title like this:

Clicking on the individual scenes, rather than the folder, will show the synopsis with the scene outline – it doesn’t show on this screenshot for some reason.

The outline is also duplicated in the document and can be deleted as required.

Hope you enjoyed this demo.

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