I love the custom meta data feature but I’m not sure on the best/effective ways to use it. Can people share the ways they use the custom meta function within Scrivener please?
In general, I think custom metadata is best for any information that is specific, but which changes over the course of a story. Things like the date and/or time of each scene, mood, weather, or other ephemera that matter to your story.
I like the idea of tracking plot progression. One metadata field per sub-plot, with each entry used to track the events which move that plot forward. In the outline view, this can give you a very high-level understanding of pacing, especially when you’re trying to draw together multiple plots or story lines. I haven’t implemented this yet, but I plan to for my next story.
In my current project, I use several custom meta-data columns to track various plot threads the way Robert suggests. I use them mainly in the outliner to essentially create a spreadsheet to help me follow where various information is seeded. Some of these are subplots that start out small but develop into larger issues later, so the bits and pieces I need to include early on are minor and never the focus of the scene, so it’s usually not something that will make it into the synopsis. I also try to keep the synopsis brief and just use it to give the main action/place of the scene–what happens that moves characters from A to B–so it’s not a place to go into specifics about why mention of X is crucial.
Some of the custom meta-data “subplots” are also about tracking what various characters know or what they’re doing behind the scenes. For non-POV characters who have their own secret motivations and goals and whose actions affect the main characters’ decisions, it’s helpful to me to jot down here and there what’s influencing them and why they’re really doing x or y in a scene, because it’s not always the reason they’re giving my main characters.
Similarly, sometimes more peripheral characters have a lot going on that my main characters aren’t going to learn about until later when it comes to bite them, but I need to know the chronology of when things are happening with that peripheral character relative to where my main characters are so I can ensure the repercussions fit. I do have larger documents full of notes that provide more background and detail, but the custom meta-data spreadsheet gives me the overview.
I also have a “time” column that I use to mark the relative time of a scene, and the specific date when it’s helpful. The novel follows a linear chronology, so I don’t need anything fancy, but especially because I have multiple POVs, it’s very helpful to know that scene y immediately follows scene x and scene z is two weeks later. I also have a lot of travelling in the book, so noting those times makes sure I don’t take someone from A to B in two days when I previously said it takes a week.
Another way I use the custom meta-data is to mark document types so I can quickly search custom meta-data for all my PDFs, all my images, etc. Whenever I import a non-text research file, I just put its type in the field. I don’t think this is always necessary or particularly useful, but I’ve had a few times in this rather large project where I’ve wanted to filter certain types of files and it’s come in handy there.
In my change log project for Scrivener, I use the custom meta-data to indicate which build fixes a given a bug ticket, but that’s not particularly helpful for novel-writing.
Thank you MM and Robert for your great suggestions.
“I also have a “time” column that I use to mark the relative time of a scene, and the specific date when it’s helpful. The novel follows a linear chronology, so I don’t need anything fancy, but especially because I have multiple POVs, it’s very helpful to know that scene y immediately follows scene x and scene z is two weeks later. I also have a lot of travelling in the book, so noting those times makes sure I don’t take someone from A to B in two days when I previously said it takes a week.”
To create a “time” column, do you change Status to “Time” and then type in a date for each colored tag? (could be a lot of tags?)
I tried to create another column for my outliner “Scene goals” in “custom metadata” but it doesn’t show up in the outliner.
Any helpful hints?
I created a new meta-data field for “time”, separate from label and status. (I’ve repurposed label for POV; status is still status, though refined for my needs.) So first to create the field, Project > Meta-Data Settings… then click "Custom Meta-Data and add a new field. Mine wraps, so there’s room enough to write whatever I want. If you’re sticking to a strict date structure, you may not need that. I tend to do stuff like “~2 weeks from previous, and into the next day”.
Once you’ve created the field, load the Draft in the outliner and add the field as a column by clicking the arrow button on the right of the column headers, just above the scroll bar, or via View > Outliner Columns. If you don’t see the column in the outliner after you’ve selected it, you may need to scroll to the right. You can drag and drop the column headers to rearrange them.