Managing a Series?

As a frequent lurker of the Lit & Lat forums, I’ve come to see that the users here are quite knowledgeable and often have great tidbits of advice to contribute; and so, faced with a daunting task, I have at last decided to crawl out of my little cave and call upon you clever folks for some input regarding a question that’s been on my mind for a while now: What’s the best way to manage a series in Scrivener?

It’s something that I’ve yet to make heads of tails of. I suppose it shouldn’t be that complicated, but then again my mind works in hopelessly convoluted ways… so I may just be overcomplicating something that was never that difficult to begin with… hmm.

Anyway, I’m currently working on a story that’s part of a multi-volume series, and I’d like to find a way to manage the series (i.e. the drafts of each volume plus its associated notes and research material) in the most efficient manner so that I won’t have to copy/paste things like character bios between Scrivener documents, for example. So far, I’ve considered two main methods (of course, alternate and better methods are much appreciated!):

  1. The “dump everything in one place and hope it doesn’t explode” approach, which is the setup I’m using at the moment with my Draft directory containing several root folders, each meant to contain the parts, chapters, and scenes of the corresponding volumes. Under Research, I have folders categorized for notes, characters, settings, etc. This ungainly setup seems adequate for now, but I fear that’s only because I’m about 5% through Book 1 and the document hasn’t gotten “heavy” enough to suffer a performance hit; despite that fact, however, I do like this method for the fact that I can easily refer to my notes alongside my writing without having to copy/paste repeating items (i.e. character info that’s shared between volumes) because everything is in one place, which is what I prefer.

I’m just curious about how much one Scrivener document can hold before it starts slowing down. If there is no such limit, then I’ll feel better about using this approach… although I’m still not entirely settled on whether I want to continue using it in the long-term.

  1. The second method I have in mind is to use one Scrivener document per book and store notes and research material in an external “central repository” app like VoodooPad. I would then refer to notes only within VP, while keeping Scrivener strictly for drafting. What I like about this particular method is that it’s more lightweight; what I don’t like is that I can’t take advantage of Scrivener’s split views to refer to my notes alongside my draft, and I won’t have some nice features I’ve become dependent on like annotations and footnotes, not to mention fullscreen mode. And then there’s that anal side of me that doesn’t like the idea of having to use more than one app… yes, silly, I know. :unamused:

I’ve also considered setting up a template for use with the series, but what keeps me from doing it is that if I make any changes to notes in one document, it won’t be synced in any of the other documents, making the idea pretty much moot. Or maybe I think that now because my brain is fried and I really shouldn’t be stressing over something like this when I should be asleep…

In any case, what are some of your ideas for managing a series?

Apologies if this rambling post made absolutely no sense; I’m half asleep so I’ll be fleeing back into my cave now, but before I go, I want to say thank you in advance for any advice/help/witty banter you can provide me; it will be highly appreciated!

What I do:

Keep canonical copies of all research in DevonThink Pro. Copies of individual items may get pulled into Scrivener for convenience, but DTP can’t be beat as a repository for lots of data.

Do all drafting in Scrivener. Create subfolders within Draft and Research as needed. Moved finished works out of Draft if it gets too cluttered. Scrivener is the canonical repository for outlines, things-to-do notes, and all other notes related to the writing, as opposed to the research.

Depend on the Finder and/or to keep track of invoices, revision notes, contracts, and other communications with clients and editors.

This works very well for groups of related articles. It seems to work for groups of related book-length works, though my experience with such is more limited.

Almost all of my writing is non-fiction, which requires a lot more research than fiction, but generates less work-in-progress notes like character sketches and the like.

Hope this helps,


On the matter of performance alone, you should be quite all right. There are two areas of the interface that suffer under lots of data: Corkboard and Edit Scrivenings. With the former you’ll want to make sure you don’t load up a single folder with thousands of pictures; that can make things a little slow as it has to draw all of those Polaroids. The latter can be avoided by not select Draft and choosing Edit Scrivenings. You can load an entire book comfortably; it only takes a second or two on a fast machine, but loading an entire series of books might take a bit.

There is one other area where things can get slower and that is backups. If you backup regularly (which you should be doing), you’ll notice that over time things may get slow there, too. However if your project is primarily text, you should be okay on that score. It just gets to be a bog if there are hundreds of megabytes of media in the research folder.

I’m working on this, myself, mainly because my stand-alone epic fantasy novel–besides needing a few more major revisions and a bunch of world-building, map-drawing, and building-planning that I really should’ve done five years ago when I started the thing–has become a series to spite me.

I’ve already written a short story with a fresh character, and have an idea for a novel or two set in the history of the world. (And an idea for a novel of short stories based in the detail that my world has a high percentage of not-quite-harmless crazies.) Speaking of which, that’s something else I need to work out–a bit more of the history.

And then there’s the urban fantasy one, that will definitely become a series.

What I’m doing is keeping one project for the world itself–hm, maybe Outliner would work well for the history/timeline–and all “universals”. I then work on individual novels in their own projects. If I have several short pieces or ideas for them, that’s in its own project, named something like “Shorts”. (I’ve recently reorganized my fiction on my computer into a folder in Documents entitled “Worlds”, so I can keep things together.)

For things like character histories (which I’m very bad about creating and worse about updating), I’m trying this: “Characters” is its own folder in the Binder. I update it within the novel project while working on it, then copy it over to the universal and merge files.

We’ll see how it goes.

When I’m researching, I’m dropping it in the DevonThinkPro beta. I don’t think it’ll stay there once the beta’s over, though, unless I can figure out how to batch convert MHTs to PDFs. Anything that I need specifically for a project–like one where the narrator grew up in the streets of Victorian London, and I have a file that has a bunch of low-class slang–gets copied in. Songs and images that I particularly associate with a character or chapter also get pulled in to the actual project.

Entitled: 'A Ship Called Scrivener’.

Now, that sounds like a tempting read (I do love me some crazy characters)… but then I think I should fear for my sanity… should I? :open_mouth:

Carradee, your situation sounds much like mine. The series I’m working on also began life as a standalone novel, and I can definitely sympathize with the pains of rewriting one long story for what feels like the nth time. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve tweaked characters by now… and I doubt I’m anywhere near finished with world-building at the moment… I suppose there’s always more to keep me busy for the nth + 1 iteration. :confused:

I’ve had a copy of DTP lying around for some time now, but never found a use for it since none of my projects had grown quite that large, and it was a bit overkill for my needs at the time; however, I like the idea of using it as a repository for research as Katherine mentioned, so I’ll give it another try.

Thanks also to Amber for your reassuring explanation. At least I won’t have to worry too much about my current setup slowing things down (I have only a handful of media files), although I’m now pretty sure I’ll ultimately use either a DTP or Scrivener database/document as a universal repository, so I’ll probably do some liposuction on my main document soon.

Again, thanks all for the suggestions and advice!

“Sing a Song of Sanity”, actually. I even have one short story planned, already, which explains why a desert weed in my world has been named after an ocean creature. :mrgreen: Using magic generally leads to insanity in my world, which explains why very few people actually learn to use their inborn talents.

You’re welcome for the thoughts, Nanobite! I’m glad you’ve gotten something useful from my rambling.

If you do give DTPro a try again, I suggest using duplicates or replicants to maintain your character, setting, and other aspects that span the books in the series. I’ve found those tools quite helpful.


Thanks for the tip! I’ve set up a DTP database with all of my series-related information and I’m already fallen in love with the replicant feature.

I’ve slimmed down my main Scrivener document and have left only a few media files that I need specifically for this draft, while keeping everything else in DTP. Using the Copy as Link feature in DTP, I can refer to my notes from within Scrivener by pasting links to my documents under the Document Info pane of my reference folders in Scrivener. This way, I can access all of my notes and research in DTP with none of the bloat associated with importing lots of data into my Scriv document. So far, I’m quite happy with this setup… which is a relief, because that means I can finally stop stressing over organizing and start writing again! :slight_smile: