How to connect and organize information?

I watched a bunch of tutorials and played around with the software for a couple of hours, and I find it pretty interesting. However, there’s one thing I’m really missing, and I wonder if I’m just too blind to find the solution.

How do I connect my pieces of information together? For instance, I’d like to add a location to each of my scenes, so I can then easily sort / revise them. I discovered that you coul add a custom metadata location field. However, I also create all my locations in “Places” to describe them etc., and having to add a metadata field as well seems redundant (and maintaining identical data twice is always dangerous). Is there any convenient way for these scenarios:

  1. I discovered that you can drag and drop locations, characters etc. into documents, and they get linked. That’s cool, but is there a keyboard shortcut for it? E.g. I don’t want to drag the ‘Mathilda’ document into my scene, but instead just write @Math and it autocompletes the link.
  2. Assign locations and characters that already have an associated document to a scene without having to mention them in the actual text
  3. Documenting family or otherwise noteworthy relationships between characters in a graphical way

I hope you get the idea. Looking forward to your feedback. :slight_smile:

I can’t tell you much intelligently about links because I don’t use them. But what you want to do (@Math) probably doesn’t work that way. It’s an obsidian thing, isn’t it?

I mainly use collections to create order “… without having to mention them in the actual text”. I find that dangerous. Anything that is in a text field anywhere can be found with Scrivener search and ordered afterwards. What is nowhere, not. This is a fundamental decision. I don’t sort from the beginning, but afterwards. Especially research material. This saves me a lot of time and I don’t have to choose a structure at the beginning that then doesn’t fit at the end.

I don’t know if you use Mac or Windows. Either way, if you want full control over (your own) shortcuts, I recommend an automation app.

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Thank you for your quick reply. I also get that everyone organizes their work differently, so there’s no ‘best way’. :smiley:

I personally would love to create framework documents (character sheets, location notes, worldbuilding guides) and link them to cwrtain scenes. That would really help to revise and refine the story when I mess with its framework (and vice versa). Straight examples:

  1. I decide that for the narrative at one point it’s a good idea to make one of the recurring characters have a disability. Now I have to find all scenes where this character has a relevence. Please note that this may also include scenes where the character is not mentioned by name.

  2. Imagine I want to rename a character (especially minor side characters). At the moment, I am able to drag and drop their character document into the scene and have them linked. However, renaming the document does not rename the link. So I’d have to search-replace the character name manually, which can be tricky depending on the actual name.

  3. I might like to have an overview of which locations I visit over the course of the story (e.g. to check if the travel time is plausible). Linking the location sheets to the scenes would make that really easy - otherwise not.

  4. Having a map of characters with their relationships would be awesome. Who’s related with whom, friends, enemies, and so on.

Sure, I could use third party tools for all of that, but I can hardly believe Scrivener is not able to assist in these cases at least to some degree…

That is certainly correct :slightly_smiling_face:

Regarding your point 1: If someone is not mentioned by name somewhere, but you still get the idea to make a link, then you can also get the idea to note something in the “Notes” field. But that’s my approach. Everything that is written somewhere can be found. :slightly_smiling_face:

4: Such things work better with Scapple. Or you try corkboard-cards (free form) in Scrivener.

I am not much help to you. But as I said, I can’t say anything about links, I’m sure others can.


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In the use case you’ve described, you could also simply use project replace.
Edit / Find / Project Replace
→ Replace the old name with the new name and voilà. Links should still work properly after that, but would read the new character’s name (or whatever the change was).

. . . . . . . . .

Check out Scapple

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In this post linked below I explain how I manage complex linking across multiple documents with exact in-text locations within them :

There is a another post of mine previous to this one a bit upthread, in case it ain’t clear enough, but I don’t think it is essential.

It is worth also reading posts from @AmberV (posts from this same thread) who handles the matter somewhat differently. (But in a fashion that’s just as functional — if not perhaps even more ? —, as far as I can tell.)

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Yes, I could use keywords. However, then I would have to create all entries twice (once as a document and once as keyword). This leads to extra work and potential inconsistencies. (Don’t get me wrong, keywords are still a great feature in general!)

I will have a closer look at the approach of just dragging related documents into the notes section. For instance. dragging a location document into the notes of every scene that takes place at said location is the closest thing I can get for “show me all scenes that take place at location X”.

Text Tidying

Okay, that one’s actually cool. Would be great if the updating was done automatically; however I get that this might lead to performance challenges in large projects.

Scapple for relationshops

Mhmm. I watched the Scapple intro video and it looks really cool, however I would again encounter the problem of having to maintain my resources in two separate places with extra work and possible inconsistencies. It would be cool if Scrivener had a “Scapple light” feature built in…

In this post linked below I explain how I manage complex linking across multiple documents with exact in-text locations within them :

Thank you for pointing to that solution. However, this one looks pretty complicated for someone that is on day 2 with Scrivener, and I’ll put that on the shelf for now. :slight_smile:

In general, I wish Scrivener would just have a small set of organizational features (or make them more accessible). It’s “almost there”, but for now it’s more like aw really powerful resource organizer with a couple authoring function. Mhmm.

Anyways, thank you all for your help. I will go ahead and see how much I can improve my project with your input. <3

You can drop the Scapple project in a Scrivener document. That’ll create a link that launches it. So it is not that different than having to navigate your project to the place or view mode where this map would be, should the function be one day integrated.
(You can also add it as a project bookmark, which would make it accessible from any document, without much navigation.)
If you save the Scapple file within a custom folder within your Scrivener project’s folder (on disk), it’ll backup along the Scrivener project, so you don’t have to worry about / handle this part separately.

. . . . . . . . .

I’ll give you an advice (take it or leave it) on how to approach the software and be learning what it can do and how. (It can do an impressive lot.)
→ Forget what you think you know.
→ Start by getting rid of your expectations concerning how this or that is to be achieved.
→ Learn to use it blank ; from the ground up (and read the manual) ; – as if you’d never used any text editing app before.

(Scrivener offers so much flexibility, so many different ways to get from point A to point B, that it is only a matter of you actually developing YOUR way of doing things. The one way that fits how you’d spontaneously go about things. Don’t force it, it’ll come naturally.)

I think you need to clarify for yourself what you are actually trying to do. In my experience, keywords + a good search engine is faster and easier to maintain than links. Scrivener does support Wiki-style links, which can facilitate the abundant links that you seem to be looking for. BUT, why do you want abundant links? That is, will the links enhance your writing process enough to justify the added time and overhead they require?

Assigning a keyword to each document in which a character (or location) appears is the fastest and simplest way to associate a character with a document. You can also have a “character sheet” with more information, and can assign the same keyword there, allowing you to find the information sheet and all related documents in a single search. I’m not sure how this equates to “creating all entries twice,” and in any case creating a keyword is a matter of a few seconds at most.

You are perfectly right that adding keywords is not overly time consuming. It’s more about good principles. It’s always the best concept to enter a certain data set only in one place and then just refer to it in other places. So whenever that data set changes for some reason, all other places get “updated” as well.

In the end, adding the locations and characters to the notes of the scenes will work just fine - along with the method described above updating the links if something has been renamed. I can then also ditch linking the other documents in the text body, which makes things obviously easier.

Now I only have to find out what the Status change actually does. Setting a document to the Status “To-Do” for instance does not visibly do anything to it. :slight_smile: As Vincent said, this tool does not work like the ones you are usually used to. But I will figure that out. Thank you all for your help.

FWIW, I see assigning a keyword as “referring to” a character sheet located elsewhere. YMMV.

The Status field can optionally be shown in either the Corkboard or the Outline view, as well as the document inspector. And it can be searched for.

This is such a massive topic, frankly, because arguably a large bulk of Scrivener as a designed tool is all about how to connect and organise information. That’s kind of why we are here. :wink: And that of course goes all the way down to fairly rudimentary aspects of its design (like being a hierarchical outliner where you can put stuff into other stuff to say it’s alike; subtle, but all about organising and linking things together).

On top of that Scrivener is a tool that doesn’t enforce one way of doing a certain thing. This is not something for which there is one best answer, there are no best practices when it comes to how to organise your thoughts or link them together in Scrivener—because a huge part of its core design is to be a toolkit that you can use to build those concepts, to suit how you best work, or how you work itself needs to be structured (for me one project to the next can be radically different in how it is organised).

Documenting family or otherwise noteworthy relationships between characters in a graphical way.

  1. Click on your “Characters” folder in the binder.
  2. Turn on Corkboard mode if necessary.
  3. Enable View ▸ Corkboard Options ▸ Freeform mode.
  4. Optionally, right-click (or left click on Windows) on the icon for this folder in the main editor header bar, and tell it to be locked to this group view mode. Now you can go off and use Scrivenings or Outliner or whatever you want most often, but you will always get this visualisation for this folder when you return to it.

I discovered that you can drag and drop locations, characters etc. into documents, and they get linked. That’s cool, but is there a keyboard shortcut for it?

Two things to consider (I use both of these, whichever is in that moment the most efficient):

  • Enable Automatically detect [[document links]], in the Corrections settings tab. This, like you’d expect, also creates new items if nothing matches, which is very powerful. There are some tips and tricks that can make that more efficient too, such the shortcut for Edit ▸ Completions ▸ Complete Document Title, but I’ll link to some general discussions on linking, which go into all manner of usage tips. No sense in duplicating all of that here again.

  • Quick Search, the “URL bar” looking thing in the main toolbar (or what comes up as a pop-up search if you don’t use toolbars), is really more of a multi-tool than just “search”. For one thing it makes navigation to things by name so easy it’s almost better to think of it as “Quick Open”. But one neat thing about it is that you can drag and drop results out of it.

    Yes, it’s still the mouse, but grabbing “Math…” out of a thousand item binder may be more efficiently done that way, than any other. In that case, [[Math + completion + ]] is probably best, but what if you want “Notes on where Mathilda went on the 32nd of October”? Maybe in that case searching is a touch faster, even with the mouse.

As you’ll see below, I generally prefer a different kind of link in Scrivener to any of this, and I’ll go into why that is after a few other thoughts. But that said, method two above works perfectly with it.


For anyone that really wants to get into linking in Scrivener, I highly recommend visiting the Behaviors: Document Links settings tab, and reviewing what happens when you do stuff with links. My preferences are:

  • Have nothing happen when I make a new link. I link too much to want to be playing whack-the-mole with Quick Ref windows or banging on the Back button all day.
  • Always target the current editor on clicks and bookmark usage. I’d rather use Scrivener like a browser, traversing forward through links, then retracing my steps back with a History button, as I generally divide my work into different splits and don’t want navigation clobbering other things going on, as the defaults do.

Links on linking

Since that is what you expressed an interest in, it’s good to know Scrivener is pretty well-rounded when it comes to linking. There are other tools out there that are better, that focus on that task much more tightly, and some we could learn a thing or two from, but as far as most tools out there go, you’ll find way more support for the concept, all the way down to the subtle stuff like dragging an item into an editor/notes field to easily make a link.

I have written a lot about it the topic of linking in Scrivener. Some of this dips into using Scrivener as a general-purpose note-taking tool, but as I’ve said before (and in these links), general-purpose note-taking has a lot of overlap with writing, and managing the cloud of data around the core writing.

Apologies in advance, that is all going to be rather massive info-dump for someone just starting. :slight_smile: Know it’s there, is perhaps more what I’m saying right now, than “you must learn all of this”.

Linking vs Bookmarking

So before I said there was another tool I preferred, to using hyperlinks alone. That other tool is very closely related, and it is called Document Bookmarks. You can read about how to use them in the user manual PDF, in §10.3, Project and Document Bookmarks, and §13.4, Bookmarks Tab, where you will be spending most of your time with them, in the Inspector sidebar.

One thing is that while you can make a link with nothing but the keyboard, you can’t use it. With Bookmarks though, those can be 100% keyboard driven through use (you just can’t make them with the keyboard). While it might feel good to make links with just the keyboard, I will on average use a link far more times than I will make it. That just kind of goes without saying—otherwise why make a link? :laughing: So I’d rather the efficiency be on the usage rather than the creation. If we had both that would be even cooler, but we don’t.

I use hyperlinks a lot, don’t get me wrong! They are extremely useful, but as my primary way of saying: X relates to Y, I prefer a symmetrical relationship that is keyboard driven and augmented by a built-in editor so that often times navigation isn’t even necessary. This goes back to my thoughts on default bookmark navigation settings, above. If hitting the Enter key on a bookmark navigates to it, and that navigation happens in the split you started from, then your bookmark list shifts to the target. You can thus navigate in a linear fashion through a network of items with nothing but the Up|DownArrow keys and Enter, and maybe a little use of the Back shortcut now and then.

Another big thing to consider about this feature is that all of your associations are listed together concisely, rather than scattered about in the text. There can be virtue in that of course—for some things I would rather an “anonymous” link that isn’t listed in the bookmark list—but having that choice is nice. Again, there is no right or wrong, or best-option in Scrivener.

Metadata vs Bookmarking (and linking)

I would say the notable differences between metadata vs Bookmark-based linking are:

  • Bookmarks (and links in that making them makes bookmarks on the target) are in Scrivener a way of establish a hot list of items you can view and edit directly from the sidebar, and by default they will be “back-linked” when making any kind of link.

    • Let’s say you open up scene 32, load its Bookmarks list, and you’ve got all the characters and locations and whatever else you’ve deemed worthy of note to this scene, right in a list where you can:

      • Reference, and update them, them in their own integrated browser.
      • Use them as bookmarks, to navigate throughout the network of associations.
      • Sort them among each other by intention or importance.
    • The back-linking concept has important implications. That means that from Sally’s character sheet you see all the scenes you marked her as being notable to, or any other supporting materials that might have done so.

      E.g. you can do consistency and continuity editing right from the thing you just maybe changed. Let’s say you changed Sally’s disposition toward coffee in the character sheet. You’ve got a curated list of every scene to go through looking for references to drinking coffee that now need to refer to tea).

      And as with many things in Scrivener, a list of items isn’t just a list of items. For look-ups, the little integrated editor in the sidebar is extremely convenient, it’s like having a contextual notepad of common data, but for something like the above you may want want to instead select the whole bookmark list and drag and drop them into an editor, and switch to Scrivenings mode.

      Or maybe drop them into a Collection, for a more extended multi-session editing task.

      If you already read some of the stuff I linked to above (and I don’t blame you if you didn’t go all the way down the rabbit whole because there is a lot), you may have already come across this one, but here is a concise description of how I use this particular technique to track large scale edits. This tool can be useful for a lot of things that bind stuff together for a purpose, certainly not just things authors of fiction might be interested in.

    • Bookmarks struggle in the areas of export and searching. You can’t search for them, there isn’t a switch in the compiler for listing them automatically, they aren’t included in file export. They are much more of an internal device than metadata can be. There are ways to “export” them, but none are meant to work at scale.

  • Metadata: you can effectively do a lot of the above, but it will always be a multi-stage task that starts with first searching for whatever metadata key you are using for binding multiple items together, and then working that search result list. So while you can get there, it’s always going to be more of a process to do so, a lot different than hitting the shortcut to open the Bookmarks tab and flipping through stuff you’ve curated to be important to this, as opposed to a gargantuan list of everything related to Sally.

    • Metadata values have an effective cap on their use, not so much in technical terms, but in how the more we add the less useful the interface gets for working with them. A label list with 900 labels in it has long outlived its usefulness for whatever one started out using it for. Even Keywords can get a bit claustrophobic. This puts a limit on the kind of relationships we might want to establish between things. I can drag Scene 32 into Scene 48’s bookmark list, just because I feel those two have something that they may not have in common with their metadata. Thus do do all of my organising with metadata, I’d have to come up with low-use special value.
    • As noted, the core metadata values have optional display capabilities which can make the extraordinarily useful. Nobody can deny how useful colour-coding is, and one of my favourite things to do is turn on icon tinting by label, since icons are everywhere. For crucial information and categorisation, that will always win.

There is more of course, but those are the factors that stand out to me as unique advantages and disadvantages to take into consideration, and what might influence me to pick one or another for a particular task.

And naturally one isn’t limited to one or the other, and a judicious use of Bookmarks for some kinds of relationships will be more fruitful (like the one-off Scene 32-48 binding) than using metadata. For other things metadata can indeed be the best answer, especially when it comes to process-oriented stuff where large quantities of items might need to start (or stop) being associated with one another.

I use a big scattering of everything, really, more or less of this or that depending on the project. Some projects need metadata more, others are almost so driven by Bookmarks that I can close the binder and hardly ever use it because I can navigate almost purely through that and other point-to-point tools (like Quick Search). They were built from the ground up to feel like using a wiki.


Holy, that was truly an in-depth insight into the topic. Thank you for devoting all your time to this. <3 It did bring me some new perspectives and fresh ideas as well.

@AmberV_3338G8eG A Most Excellent! layout of why I use Scrivener. In a word flexibility. Nicely done!

@Ayanami Having been in a similar space as you signal you are in now, please allow me to encourage you to continue down the trial and error path. Doing so is not only the quickest way to discover what works for oneself, but provides excellent raw material for storytelling that al of us can learn from.

I’m a 15+ Scrivener user. I continue to learn (fill in gaps and more…) new skills by returning to this space. Observing how @AmberV and the rest of the Scrivener crew’s openness to continue learning and how they handle such chaos (ha-ha) is also worth the time, space and resources.

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Yeah, the amount and dedication of the support team is stunning. Which my internet provider was as passionate for their service. (:

If anyone is interested, I have decided to drag and drop character and location documents into the Notes field of each scene. This allows me to look them up for each scene individually as well as searching for a list of e.g. “where does this location matter” easily. I still think, a builtin “link resources” feature would be nifty. However, as we already established, everyone has a different favorite approach, and that’s totally fine.

I also learned to like Scrivener reasons I cannot really pinpoint. My first impression of the software wasn’t overwhelmingly great (oh wow, it’s a document manager with folders and some publishing tools). However, it really started to grow on me, and I hope I have the opportunity to witness its evolution for a long time.

Have you tried/checked Documents Bookmarks/Project Bookmarks ?

Using this, documents that are to be accessible from ALL other documents is a one-step operation.

And you may then keep the notes for notes.