How do you handle to-dos?

Let’s say you’re writing along in your first draft. You want to just get words out into a file, no matter how messy and ugly they are. You’ll revise and fix later.

You think of of something you want to do later. Maybe you just wrote something about a character’s appearance, and you want to make sure it’s consistent with the last time you mentioned his appearance a few chapters earlier. You don’t want to do it now and break up your momentum, but you do need to do it before you get to the final draft. How do you indicate that in the manuscript?

I’m thinking annotations could be a way to do that, especially since I understand – although I haven’t tried it myself – you can do a search and just jump from one annotation to the next and next and next.

How do you handle it?

Usually annotations. It comes up a lot in my writing: I don’t want to look up a reference for the precise details in the middle of the first draft, so I’ll just put something like “[SOURCE] said that the process modifications produced [RESULT]”.

When the item I want to note is outside the flow of the text I’m currently working on, I’ll add a Document Note to the appropriate part of the project. Or else I’ll stick it in the ScratchPad and figure out where to put it later.


Yup, annotations here too. I use a little code for them, so start it off with something like “TODO//”, then type in the thing I need to do. The Edit/Find/Find by Formatting... tool lets you jump from annotation to annotation as you heard, but you can also type in a search string so it only jumps to ones matching “TODO//”, say. You can also use a colour instead of a text code. I recommend using crayons or swatches to set the colour for both the annotation and the search window so that it is easy to sync up the precise RGB value. So those tricks can keep the tool useful for other things as well.

Thanks, guys!

I’m going to look into comments rather than inline annotations. Now that I think of it, annotations are included in word-count calculations (or they were the last time I checked), and I’m a fiend for my daily word-count writing quota.

Comments are good too, and they can be searched for in the same manner, with text matching (but not colour), from that same tool.

Annotations can be omitted from the count. Not the real-time footer stats, but if you click on the stat text it will show you a more accurate preview with options.

Maybe I should take a second look into notes and comments. Up to now I have different ways. If the to-do refers to the actual text I´m writing (like “what was the name of that character again? look it up later”) I will make a document note. If it is a certain scene within the text that I decided to add, I would create a new text document in the outliner/binder, name it and make a brief synopsis. Then I have different documents within the research folder, where other information might end up (like “characters”, “ideas”, “open questions”). All in all I have the feeling that I got a bit messed up with all the great possibilities of Scrivener. I love it, but there are so many ways and places to take notes etc. that it gets a bit messy within my project right now. Also a reason I don´t use comments on top of the rest.


I wouldn’t say that, it sounds like you are using the provided tools in a good way. Document notes aren’t bad either. You can after all compile a big list of them by turning of “Text” and just leaving “Notes” and “Title” turned on in the Formatting compile option pane. So depending on how you work, that right there could make it more useful to some people than the inline and text anchor notes.

I work with a mix of comments and document notes when assembling “to dos” for a scene. Notes tend to refer to the scene as a whole–a lot of time I’ll start them before the scene is written, so it’s like an extension or detailing of the synopsis, anything from a list of “this is the information she’s going to find in that file” to a couple snippets of dialogue that ran through my head which I know go in that scene but I’m not at the point of integrating them yet. As I’m writing, or in a revision stage, additional notes or ideas that have to do with the scene as a whole–“somewhere here I need to establish that he has a history of bad relationships” or whatever–get jotted in the notes.

Comments then are more line-specific and come up either during writing or when making a pass for revision. These kind of run the gamut, because I’ll make lots of sarcastic remarks to myself while writing as well as more theoretically useful things like, “check where I actually made her drop the gun in the earlier scene” or “double-check research on this medical technique”. But the point is that all these items are specific to the tagged phrase or paragraph, so it’s helpful to have them in the comments where I can immediately see what text I was referring to.

I have broader notes in the Project Notes, to-dos that either are for the whole book or are for working out a big enough section of it that they shouldn’t be confined to a single scene. I’m still playing around with that, though, because usually notes of the latter sort at least end up being their own documents stashed somewhere outside of the Draft in a “Notes on X Plot Point” folder or such. Depends on the project. Mainly I just have not yet made enough of a deal of project notes to remember that they’re there and I should check them–they don’t have quite the visibility (given the way I work, at least) as document notes or binder items. But at the same time I like the idea of having them be out of my way, for certain types of notes, and plus the floating notes window with lots of tabs is cool, so I’m continuing to give it an opportunity to find its place in my work style. :slight_smile:

I feel just the same about the project notes - looks cool but hasn´t got its place yet.
My short experience with comments was the same: make notes on specific lines, like “to much summary, need more detail here”. But the way I´m trying to work right now is: first make a first draft and really don´t reflect, then revise it. But then I try to do what needs to be done right away. So instead of leaving a comment, I will correct it/research it or whatever right on the spot. Well, I´m still trying. Maybe I will give the other method a try: first revise it critically, like a lector, leaving all those very specific notes, than go over it again and try to correct it. This might give me more freedom to be critical without having to come up with a solution right away.

I haven’t really found a use for any kind of notes yet – project or document. Off to one side as they are, I fear they’d be forgotten.

On a related note: As I start a new novel, I’m getting to be quite agile at keeping running notes on minor character names, bits of background, and other notes I know I’ll want to remember later. I just click on split-screen, navigate down to the Research folder, drop a quick note in folders named Characters, Settings, Groups, and so on, and do it all without breaking flow of what I’m writing.

An alternate to that last one, which is useful if the prose you just wrote essentially contains the content of what you wanted to make note of, is to select it and use the Edit/Append Selection to Document/ sub-menu to place it in the relevant note file; this is also accessible from the right-click menu.

Thanks, AmberV!