Book Architecture Outlining Method

Hi. I am fairly new to Scrivener, and I was wondering if anyone has figured out how to outline in Scrivener in a manner that is close to the book architecture method (Horowitz). This is also basically how J.K. Rowling did her outlining if you have seen her snippet of The Order of the Phoenix outline.

Previously, I had been using Storylines in Writer’s Cafe. This was my favorite part of their software as it allowed me to do exactly what I was doing in a spreadsheet. I had my main (scene by scene) storyline and underneath that I had all the goings on of my various subplots. It allowed for a nice and easy visual of what was occurring at roughly the same time period.

I am not sure if the mac version would be more configurable to achieve this type of outlining, but so far in the windows version I am not able to see if it can be done. Is there a way to have more than 2 corkboards open at the same time? I could see how I could get something like this working with nesting folders if I could have several outliners/corkboards open at once.

Thank you!


Thank you so much! I had done some searching, but obviously my keywords weren’t matching up. :smiley:

I’d like to open this back up with the initial request. I looked over the method to mimic Storylines in Writer’s Cafe, and it doesn’t appear to be the same thing…

Storylines allows someone to setup multiple plot lines with their own individual timelines and then you can mix up the order of appearance. Think Game of Thrones. Each MC had very separate storylines (at one point), and then will likely converge as drama unfolds. Knowing the order to use is hard and Storylines is an awesome way to adjust. Scrivener doesn’t appear capable of that. I looked over the above procedure to mimic Storylines and all I get are extra columns in the Outline for extra detail for each scene. These columns aren’t separate plot lines.

See below for what it looks like. Conversely Scrivener is using a single column/row. Yes you can color code who the scenes belong to and use lots of other different ways to keep them separate, but I think Storylines is a more dynamic approach and I’d like to see the feature included in Scrivener (and I’ll add it to the wishlist.

An example of Storylines

Using extra “custom meta data” columns in Scrivener gives you the same capabilities for tracking what’s going on in various sub-plots, but it’s not going to look at all like what you’re showing from Storylines.

The creator of Scrivener has replied to many threads like this one over the years, and has said that there won’t be a sub-plot/timeline functionality built into Scrivener. So asking for it is unlikely to yield any results (and he’s really busy with the iOS beta, I’m sure, so getting yet another definitive ‘no’ is less likely right now). Feel free to post the request of course, but if you’re otherwise sold on Scrivener, but want to track the same information as Storylines gives you then you’ll need to look into a couple of alternatives.

First and foremost, you won’t be putting index cards into different tracks representing character (the y-axis as shown in your screenshot) and… whatever the numbered columns represent (seems to be only 1 card per column).

What you’re more likely to get out of the outline view with custom meta-data is this: Color-coded POV (Evan, Deborah, etc…) via the built-in Label meta-data, or a custom metadata column (your choice), and a custom-metadata column for each sub-plot. In each sub-plot column you enter how a given scene (from a given character’s POV) impacts that sub-plot. If it doesn’t you leave that ‘cell’ blank. A scene/chapter can, of course, have mutliple sub-plots interwoven, so that’s very helpful when your scene gets sub-plot dense.

You can also have a column that represents the date (and time, if needed) when the scene takes place. This will be more helpful as future Windows upgrades allow for (temporary) sorting by column. But it’s still helpful even without sorting.

And if you want to track “off-screen” developments, you can have a column for that. Each custom metadata column can be color-coded so that you can easily spot things like this column and the timeline column, so that’s handy for a visual cue to help you sort through the ever-expanding spreadsheet-like presentation of plot points and times, and so-forth.

The above is how you could put the JK Rowling example into Scrivener without any further purchases.

Alternately, there’s a companion application, developed by another developer/company, called AEON Timeline, which integrates with Scrivener via Custom Metadata. It allows you to get really fiddly with the timeline and characters and plot lines. Depending on your needs, the tool can require a period of learning, but it has a free trial period similar to Scrivener (if I recall correctly).

That’s my perspective, written from complete ignorance of the full capabilities of the Storylines feature of Writer’s Cafe. Hopefully, that will help you figure out if Scrivener can be the right tool for you to track this information in.

Hi Robert, thanks for the reply. Having extra columns in Scrivener to track extra data like dates and extra categories is certainly good to know.

I still wish Scrivener could have something comparable to Storylines, hopefully it gets worked into Scrivener at some point and I’ll keep in mind about Aeon Timeline. Doesn’t seem like there’s a lot out there about it. Wish I could just see a solid Youtube video about multiple plotlines being woven together. Would rather not spend the time with a trial download, but looks like I might have to do that to get a true taste.