It's worth playing with the layouts

I got hooked on a two pane outliner a long time ago. Very Scriv-like, you got a tree of topics to the left and a document per topic to the right. Click on a topic, edit the document.

The Scrivener binder in the large isn’t really a very good place to do outlining, even if it works like the two-pane outline setup I find useful.

I like to kick around ideas in a scratch outline, set that outline aside, do a fresh outline and see what works between the two. Even if all that goes in the Research folder, it’s still messy to look at. As is my room, but that’s a different issue.

I can end up with a half dozen outlines in my Research folder. Fortunately, Scrivener has a nice outline mode that works great to filter out the noise.

Create a folder in Research for a new trial outline, and click on it to make it active. Turn off the binder and the insepctor. Put the document into outline mode with the rightmost of the three buttons centered a above the document. Click the vertical split button, and last (the best part) click the “automatically open selection in other pane” button underneath the left pane.

Now you’ve got a two pane outliner showing just what’s in your trial outline. You don’t see all the binder topics that don’t apply to the ideas currently in focus. As you click on the topics in the left pane, you switch to the corresponding document in the right pane.

It’s sort of like using a binder folder as a sub-binder to see just part of the binder tree.

It sounds complex, I suppose, but it’s really just vertical split, outline mode on the left, click the auto-open button on the bottom. Turn off what you don’t want to see at the moment, which for me in this mode is the binder and the inspector.

I saved that layout as 2Pane in the layout manager.

Once I’ve decided what story to tell, and, in truth, I haven’t really quite done that yet, I plan to use the document notes for the next step in sort of snowflaking in to a finished story.

The binder doesn’t work for me as an outliner. For that, I use my 2Pane layout. The binder’s best use for me is to reflect the coarse layout of chapters and maybe scenes, or book sections and chapters, not all the detail musings I would put in an outline.

Fortunately there are document notes.

Imagine having an idea of what to write. I often dream of it, frankly. In 2Pane mode I’ve walked through a novel as an outline. Now I put topics in the binder’s draft folder for each chapter.

But I don’t write my chapters yet. I need both hands and a flashlight to find a good tale to tell, so I set the layout for binder, document, and inspector, with nothing but the document notes in the inspector (synopsis and meta-data minimized). I’d get rid of the document if it would let me, but sliding the vertical separator as far to the left as it will go works well enough.

Now I can outline each chapter in the document notes before I write the document for each chapter, using the RTF capabilites of the document notes and numbered lists to write the per chapter outlines.

Now, with the vertical separator centered on the screen, maybe with the binder once again turned off to save screen space. I have the document for a chapter side-by-side with the outline of what I want to say. If I can think of something to say, but that’s not Scrivener’s job.

It’s like my imagination is trapped in a dark night. Stormy, too, at times. Ooh, that’s it! It was a stormy and dark night…

No, that’s not quite right, but I think I’m close to something. I’ll work on it. Hmmm… 2Pane, I think, will do for a canvas on which to explore.

Another interesting approach I take sometimes is a layout that is nothing but a corkboard. I leave the footer bar on because I use some of the information and functions there. From there I just go up and down the hierarchy slice by slice, developing out ideas in freeform mode sometimes or just in grids. You can fully navigate, create and manage with just the keyboard. Something you can’t do without the mouse is move things across hierarchies, but then if you’re doing that, the broader view afforded by an outline is probably a better stage to work on.