Save the Scrivener Cat

I’m still nerding around with setting up a Scrivener template that suits my inclinations before I try to go back to one of my false starts and see if having a Save the Cat Writes a Novel beat-oriented binder works better if I use it as the basis for my Scrivener setup and have it set up in advance.

[Disclaimer: I do not receive any kickbacks from Scrivener or StCWaN; this post is purely a unaffiliated attempt to tie two tools together for my own use. With both tools, your mileage may vary quite a bit and anything I write about these two tools should not be interpreted as an endorsement of either. I enjoy testing things kinds of things out — that is my sole motivation.]

Earlier this week I had mentioned I had opted to upgrade my Scrivener license, even though version 1.0 was a bit lacking in parity compared to its Mac cousin. Version 3.0 seems to have remedied those issues and appears to be better functioning as a result (so far). I see Scrivener as a tool with awesome potential, provided that you don’t let yourself get hung up in the mechanisms and power within the software when you are supposed to be writing. That’s why I am (this time around) setting up my template, look and feel in advance of actually revisiting some of my unfinished orphans to see if the power is useful to my style of writing, or a hinderance.

One of the key things about Scrivener that always appealed to me was the ability to write in fragments and drag and drop various scenes in your story into their appropriate spot (assuming the chapter or scene wasn’t exactly where it should be when you wrote it). I tend to write somewhat linear because that is how most software handles writing; Word and Google Docs, for example, are classic examples. But I often wonder why I need to hold off writing that late-story scene unless I want to put it in a separate file and merge the files later. Plus, most word-processing software was never designed for long-form writing and they can (and have) barfed when you start getting past 50k words. Version control is lacking, at best. And forget keeping notes within the standard word-processing software. All of these things have improved, but they are still not allowing the whole drag/drop and there is little or no meta-data that is useful at times for a writer.

Likewise, I’ve been trying out some of the various tools for novel writing, including the 3-Act story arc, Snowflake Method and Save the Cat Beat Sheets, to name a few. I like trying out tools to see if they help with the writing process. All have their strengths as weaknesses, but I’ve found StCWaN to be the one that resonates best with me (so far, testing hardcore may uncover flaws — for me.)

So I decided to do a mashup of the two tools after not finding many satisfactory pre-existing templates. Once I manage to get to a point where I feel most of the flaws are worked out of the template, I’ll share it. But for now… I’ll just show you what I have so far. This post will not delve into the mechanics of either tool, I’m just showing off the template I am creating.

Here’s a screenshot at the manuscript level:

I elected to make the beats (B01, B02, B03, etc.) individual folders, with nested chapter folders and, nested within those, the actual text. I kept the “standard” beat appearance point percentages, but those are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. For better readability, I have the “binder” (left frame of Scrivener) focused on in the next screenshot:

All good so far, but how many people want to keep the link I provided, or the book open while they are writing? So I put the beat descriptions into the “synopsis” frames. This way, when you have Scrivener in the famed corkboard view, you can get a quick reminder of what each of those beats is meant to represent. Here are some screens of Act 1, 2A, 2B and 3 (as a slideshow):

There are plenty of ways to do your character sketches, and Scrivener has a template for such things (as well as a location/site template), but like most of the templates out there, I feel that the details drill down too far for my use. I don’t want to spend a bunch of time writing about the character when that can come out in the story. And, most of the time, any character sheet I create becomes obsolete within pages of story writing as I get to know the personality and quirks of my characters. In other words… it becomes a tedious, momentous waste of energy to fill in these 10-page descriptions of characters. Yes, you get a feel for who they are, but sometimes your initial impressions are the lies they tell.

So I decided to put in my own simplified character sheet that eschews all of the lengthy elements and came up with a design that puts certain traits and characteristics into single text sheets that can be removed or amended as needed, and that provide the added element of being a quick drill-down to that particular element in case you want to refresh your memory. Each Scrivener view has it’s use for this: Scrivenings view, Corkboard view, and Outline view. Each of those is viewable in the following slideshow:

In the “general character overview” screenshot, you’ll see my initial setting sketch topics. I combined typical categories to simplify the sheet. Part of me thinks it is still over-long, but I also know that it isn’t ready for primetime use yet, so I may tweak those elements to clean it up.

Anyway — that’s part of what I’ve been up to this afternoon. I did some plotting ideas while I was at the park while the kiddo beat up other willing participants with her stick, but those are even less ready for primetime than the template.

As I said, I may make this available at some point, especially if there is interest. I welcome constructive feedback, so leave your comments below — especially if you see something really broken in the screenshots, or if you have a personal need that I might be overlooking as I continue to develop this that I might find useful myself.

2 thoughts on “Save the Scrivener Cat

  1. I too enjoy the ‘write snippets’ style of Scrivener, and that’s taught me that perhaps that’s what writing is, focusing on each scene instead of always trying to write the entire novel every time you sit down at the laptop. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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