Basic outlining question

Not exactly a newbie to Scrivener, but I’ve always just sat down and started writing.

I’m currently working on a project, but ideas for a different one keep percolating through my brain. I’d like to get them down so they don’t get forgotten.

One thing that throws me as I look at various blogs about outlining, and in looking at Scrivener itself, is that I really don’t have any Chapter/Scene divisions, so it feels odd to arbitrarily set them down as such in an outline. That is, I have ideas about particular events, but that’s all they are–and I don’t want to think about them too much (yet) because that’ll start crowding out ideas for the current work.

I’m looking to do two things:
– jot down these basic ideas, freeform. I know I can always change Chapter, etc., info later on, but right now, its so early stage that I stumble a bit chopping the ideas up like that.
– I also would like to start mapping out timelines: e,g, Event X occurs over 2 weeks; Event Y occurs over 3 months, maybe subdividing Event Y1 happens one day, Even Y2 goes on for 3 weeks, etc. I do separately have Aeon Timeline and maybe this is better suited to that, but again, I’m mainly concerned with getting all the different ideas down before I forget them than I am actually creating a work.

Sorry if this is all vague; I’m using this approach for the first time. So far I’ve just started jotting this down in sequence in the Notes section as a single document called “Outline,” with parentheticals noting ideas for timespans. Is there a FAQ or whatnot out there that sort of aligns with my hazy thoughts?


Ideas ideas ideas… Yes, they tend to show up whenever they please.

The way I go about it is that whenever I have new ideas, I throw them in a document I create on the fly. (I wisely name it “Ideas”. ← :stuck_out_tongue: ← You can also dedicate a label/color for such loose ideas documents.)
Whether these ideas belong in the project I have opened at the time or not isn’t really relevant, because you can move a document from a project to another easily. So that is not a problem (just note in that document what is its purpose and that’s it — “Ideas for project Y”), and as the ideas are priority, no need to worry about the document itself as they come.
Nor to think about the organization of what comes up as ideas/sub-ideas. (Leave yourself instructions where needed. [This could be nice after he fell down the stairs? ] )

As for clarity of the whole, I have a substitution set especially for that in the options:
I auto-replace === with ══════════=══════════ ← I actually replace four consecutive dashes for that line, if that matters, but I can’t type that here, on the forum.
(As you can see there is one = in the middle, which I use to navigate them using search and/or Find....)
I call these “fractures”.
So whenever I’ve written a bit of something and now write a bit of non-sequential whatever else, I insert a “fracture” on a line of its own between the two. (enter === enter. That fast and simple. ← And no need for more than one document for the time being.)
These “fractures” make it easy to later split that document into multiple sub-documents, and juggle with the whole however is needed, when the time is right to do so. (Which is not/never while the ideas come.)

You can have an “Ideas” document ready to be used as such as a project bookmark, which allows to see/access it/type into it on the fly, in the inspector, bookmarks panel, without having to even leave the document you were working on at the time.

Alternatively, there is no technical limitation stopping you from having more than one project loaded at a time.

Hi Scott_R. Your question is in that category of topics I love discussing because I’m endlessly fascinated by the writing process and how to approach a nebulous new project.

Aeon Timeline is definitely one way to approach this. Other people my also start with our Scapple program because they could start writing out a bunch of different notes and then start using arrows or color-coding the notes to work out their ideas.

I personally start this kind of thing in a new Scrivener project just for this idea, and I don’t let myself worry about structure or an outline order at first.

But, I do put each specific event or character into a new document. That gives me the ability to use inspector notes or keywords for the dates or the people and places that will be involved in that event.

Later, I can rearrange, cut, and merge different documents as needed. What’s most important to me, though, is that I get all my ideas down somewhere and in some fashion that works for me.

I’ll also note that I have some projects that required exploding my usual writing methods because they just weren’t clicking until I did.

It’s a journey, and the path may meander. That’s something I’m trying to lean into rather than struggle against.

To put this another way: The method that works for you doesn’t have to match what the blogs tell you should work. As long as you’re able to follow what you’re doing and collect the data and ideas, that’s the important part.

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Words of wisdom.

And yes… To each his/her own way.

I tend to use index cards for this sort of thing. Either physical cards or using Scrivener’s Corkboard. One idea per card. In Scrivener, I’ll typically use the Synopsis field, not even bothering with a title at this stage, and make the list “flat,” without worrying about outline hierarchy. Over time, related ideas cluster together, and then I start creating more formal divisions.

You can use a Date field in custom metadata to set the start and end dates for events. I haven’t used Aeon Timeline much, but I think it can read that information from Scrivener. See their documentation for how to configure it.

As mentioned, don’t worry about what the books say. It’s impossible to tell what approach an author used by looking at the end result. But the nature of writing books is that they tend to describe the process as much more tidy and straightforward than it actually is. “I throw all my notes in a pile and shuffle them around until they make sense. The End,” doesn’t make for a useful book.


I always advocate for that which works for the person in these matters.

All of the above is great.

I find students who say they can’t write do not see that they can and do write.

In your case, you listed the things you wanted. There they are. Jot ideas down. Put them in order, However it suits. Change as needed to get the writing done.

Scrivener may or may not be involved.

I wish I could recall the person who said (and I butcher the quote): Writing is that which is easy for most, but hardest for writers.

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