At a loss in regards to structuring/organising

I’ve read the tutorial and looked at several how-to videos on YouTube, but don’t seen to get anywhere when it comes to proper organisation/workflow.
My project is a manuscript that is supposed to contain the life stories of two main protagonists (and a couple of side characters related to them) during the Second World War.
I have their testimonials as RTF documents (that contain dates and flow text) and am trying to get everything organised in a way so that I can find a structure that allows me to shift all the stuff they experienced in a way that reads well.
I need to created a chronology of events consisting of each of their personal events, the side characters’ events and events in the world around them (political/social). And I should be able to sort this by year and month as well as who experienced it and the location where it took place.
All these single events should first exist as short decriptions and later, when I will have found a viable structure, be filled with the actual narrative that glues everything together.
And I have no idea how to do that properly, so that Scrivener’s functions support me instead of creating endless input and copy/paste work - only to end up in a structure I cannot use for (re-)arranging the events and creating a coherent and captivating story structure.
I have looked around for quite some time, and there doesn’t seem to be a step-by-step tutorial for such a case like mine - where it’s more about collecting the events, arranging and sorting them and filling them with narrative life… instead of making everything up from scratch, as novelists usually do. :wink:
Is there anyone out there who could help me finding a way through the rather extensive functions and options of Scrivener? - Thanks. :slight_smile:

(It’s more of a question of “where to put/insert what” instead of a writer’s question. I’d like to create a chronological order of events year-by-year, but I need to be able to see which main character it concerns and what conincided with the other characters and external events. And I should be able to add the final narrive to each event and sort/re-arrange them for an alternative final structure that isn’t necessarily chronological. - I struggle with the question on where I should create what in regards to using a text or a folder and if and where to create subfolders… and if and how I should work with metadata or keywords in order to (re-structure) the events and narratives. - I don’t know if I use the corkboard correctly, as some of the narrative that I added to certain “index cards” whose Title contained the event synopsis, date and main character seem to be lost if I switch to the scrivener view of the chapter…)

There are usually multiple ways to do things in Scrivener, which may be part of the confusion. Everyone’s work habits are different, and often people describe the same thing in different ways. A lot of writers use Scrivener for non-fiction and for historical fiction, so your problem is by no means unique. I’m sure other forum users will pop in at some point.

Before I get started, there are two non-Scrivener tools that you might want to evaluate. One is Aeon Timeline, which is third party software but integrates well with Scrivener. Managing complex timelines is its entire purpose. The other is Scapple, which is another Literature & Latte product. It’s designed for free form planning and is a bit more flexible than Scrivener in that regard.

Now, in Scrivener, the first thing to remember is that you don’t need to make all of these decisions at once. You definitely don’t need to worry about the text vs. folder distinction, and the only reason to create subfolders (or subdocuments) is if they help you. You also don’t need to worry about the “boundaries” of existing materials: if it helps you, use the Documents → Duplicate command to copy one of those RTF files, then Documents → Split to break the duplicate into whatever pieces you want.

In Scrivenings view, the default is to only show the item text, but the View → Text Editing → Show Titles in Scrivenings command does as the name suggests. Everything else is accessible through the Inspector. Or you can split the Editor pane and show the Outline or Corkboard view in the other half.

Personally, I use keywords to show which characters/items/settings are present in a scene. The advantage of keywords is that you can assign more than one of them to a given document. If you want to be able to sort by the date when an event occurred, you’ll need to either use a Data metadata field or a date-friendly naming convention for your document titles.

The Synopsis field is designed for short descriptions, with the actual text of the document to come later.


In Scrivenings view, the default is to only show the item text, but the View → Text Editing → Show Titles in Scrivenings command does as the name suggests.``

This newbie thanks you for this tip. Which raises another question: When I compile the manuscript, how do I ensure that the titles I’ve given to “scenes” are not picked up in the manuscript? I’ve titled them for ease of my navigation during writing and revisions. I want the final manuscript to have some kind of scene break icon, but no heading.
Somewhat related: Will chapter numbers be added to the Chapter Title when I compile? I’ve named each chapter folder with what I want to be the “subhead” that will go below the chapter number.

Scene titles and chapter numbers are both defined through the Compile command. So the answer is “whatever you want.”

Since you’re just starting, it will be a while before you need to worry about Compiling the finished manuscript. My advice would be to experiment with the options in a casual, not deadline-driven way. Maybe at least skim through the manual so you know what’s there.


I’m a newbie, too. I’m writing historical fiction with a complex timeline. I’ll describe how I’ve set things up. I had a first draft of my novel in a One Drive folder structure and I’m migrating it into Scrivener piece by piece as I go through an extensive revision. I figure I will discover capabilities as I need them. This is what I’ve done so far:

I created a timeline folder outside of the Manuscript folder. I cut and paste the various Word timelines I had squirreled away in my One Drive folder structure then broke them into separate text files for each year. This is how: I started with one big text file. I went below the last entry under the first year in the timeline, used Documents → split at selection. That created a new text document with the rest of the timeline in it. I repeated this after every year, resulting in a chronological list of text documents within the timeline folder. (If I had been smart, I would have defined the year heading for the next year, then used Documents → split with selection as title. The next document would have the year in the title, instead of me having to type it in).
Now, as I write or revise, I can easily call up the year I am in to see if I have included all the elements I want there. I can make that file a “quick reference” so it hangs around while I write/revise.
I set up the folders in the Manuscript section of the binder so that each is a chapter. In my case, the chapters are named by a location and a date – Vietnam, Aug. 22, 1945 – because my story happens in Vietnam, Birmingham, and various locations across the U.S. on dates that overlap. I break chapters up into scenes, giving each scene a text document.
I am importing my collection of research documents as I advance through the revision. This helps remind me of things I need to weave in. For some docs, I right click on it in the binder, “copy document link” and insert that link into the inspector notes field of the appropriate scene. That way, I have quick access to the supporting docs the next time I come into the scene for editing/revising. Some documents are specific to a character so …
I used the pre-made “character sketch” template in the Novel template to create detailed sketches of each character. Even though I’m on a second draft of the novel, this was an excellent exercise. I had held my characters’ descriptions, mannerisms, motivations, and purpose in my head. Getting all that into a document helped me fill gaps and also gave me richer information each time I come to that character. Research documents that pertain to the character are imported into that character’s sketch folder. I often copy the document into the research folder so I have it in both places.
I hope this helps. I say, just get started with a structure and add on as you go.