Any memoirists out there who have used Scrivener? What Project template do you recommend for a new Scrivener user? I will be importing my first draft files. My memoir consists of lots of vignettes and I don’t know the structure I want to use, except that I have about four threads, one of which is the narrative arc, that weave together. I appreciate any suggestions or help!

I’ve been writing a memoir off and on for several years. I began with the basic blank template, adding items as I wrote or found them. Along the way I developed a number of topics, and am using a separate folder for each one. Then, as threads emerge, I’ve organized them with Compile. It’s still a work in progress, but so far, that simple breakdown has been working well.


Thanks PJS! My thought is to letter or number the threads (made up of vignette/scenes) and then create a pattern with which to weave them together. So the Narrative Arc thread would be A; then the Ancestor Thread would be B, the Childhood Memory Thread C, and then each scene or vignette within them A1, A2, etc. Any thoughts on how to manage this with Scrivener functions?

There are many ways to track threads. I would suggest that the most common and easy to use method is the document label. Open the Inspector panel by clicking the blue ‘i’ button in your toolbar, and then click on a file in the Binder that is a part of one particular thread (A2 or whatever). In the “General” section of the Inspector, you’ll see a Label drop-down. Go there and choose to edit the labels.

Note you can even rename this feature from “Label” to something more appropriate if you wish. The idea is to give each of your main arcs a separate colour.

This colour can of course be seen in the Inspector, but if you go to the Outliner you’ll find it is a default column (and if you don’t see it, just add it as a column). It will also be tacked onto index cards on the Corkboard.

Furthermore, you can use the View/Use Label Color In/ menu command to assign the label colour to various areas of the user interface, including global things like the document icon which is displayed all over the place, even in the Binder, make thread tracking super easy. Play around with some of those options to find a balance you prefer.

There are other tools that can be made use of for tracking narrative threads as well. Maybe you don’t need threads to be so prominent, maybe some items need to have two threads assigned to them, or maybe there is another piece of information more deserving of the Label role. Keywords are a good second solution for stuff like narrative tracking. You can add keyword colours to index cards on the Corkboard, and easily search for all sections that have been assigned to a particular keyword, using the Project/Project Keywords… tool. Just select your thread, click the “Search” button, and your Binder will list each section of the memoir pertaining to that thread.

Collections are another feature you could consider using for this. Collections can either be manually maintained, or automatically generated based upon a search result (such as a search for a particular label or keyword! :slight_smile:).

Main advice: choose something simple and go from there. Scrivener has, as you might expect, a lot of depth in this particular area. You can get pretty fancy when it comes to tracking all of the little pieces of your manuscript. But, a few simple tricks like using label colour can make a huge difference with very little burden of time in learning how to use it.

Wow AmberV! Thank you so much for your helpful advice and instructions. This definitely gives me a place to start. I think my biggest conundrum is that, in Word right now, my manuscript is in 10 sections and each section has a variety of vignettes that belong to the various threads. It feels like I need to go through each section and label each vignette A, B, C, D, etc. with its theme/threadName/keyword (all being the same thing depending on what I call it but representing the various threads)

Should I download all the sections and then go through and label each vignette according to its theme/thread/keyword using the Inspector and General Meta-Data Label function that way? It seems like it will be tedious but there’s probably no other way. I am going to have to go through and label each vignette according to its thread whereas if I had started out with Scrivener, I would have done them as I went. Of course, I can do that with anything I add from here on out.

Thank you.

That’s what I would do, if I felt this information would be worth the effort. I can say from experience it is very nice being able to see plot threads at a “bird’s eye” view, so personally I feel it is worth it, but there are many people who do not, and don’t make much use of meta-data. So do whatever feels right for yourself. There are a few tricks to make things easier. If you know five of the items you are looking at should be associated with “D”, then you can select them all at once with Ctrl-clicking or Shift-clicking, and then right-click on the selection and set the label to all of them at once in the corresponding contextual menu.

Exactly, splitting up a document and organising the pieces is something most people only have to worry about when they start using the software. There is only so much we can do to make that part easier, but fortunately it isn’t something you’ll spend most of your days doing. :slight_smile:

…And you don’t have to do it all in one go. You could import the whole thing as a single document in the binder, then add a new “Thread B” document at the end and let it rest for a bit. Then, as you have time, split off the last or first section, label/keyword/meta-data it to death and be done for the day. Using color coding for everything you split off and mark as belonging to a given label makes it crystal clear what documents you still have to do that for, so you can always do it in bite-sized chunks.

Thanks guys! Very helpful. I’m on a deadline for September 1st to have a draft. Once I have all the vignettes labeled according to their thread, I want to create a pattern for them and compile the document that way, if possible. For example, if my threads are labeled ABCDE, then I will use that as a pattern for the entire document, as ABCDEABCDEABCDE, etc. Only one of the threads needs to be chronological, so is that a problem? Can I do what I am envisioning?

Due to the deadline, I can’t do it as time permits. Hopefully, I can get it done within the next two weeks? It’s about 300 pages, give or take…

Also, the Word documents are not compiled, so when I import, I am importing about 12 sections which include various numbers of vignettes in each of them. All I can think to do is to go through each section and label each vignette, then compile? Right?

If I’m understanding the structure of your memoir correctly, then I think you can easily do different formatting for each thread by having them at different levels.

If it always follows the pattern a,b,c,d,e,f and then a,b,c,d,e,f again and again, then you’ll be golden.
Split every thread from its original document (documents->Split in the menu). Then “stack” b onto a, c onto b and so-forth, until you have a binder structure that looks like…

Then, in the compile dialogue, you would create new rows in the Formatting pane for the “stacked pages” icon. This icon will match each document in the binder from a to d. Be sure that each row has the “text” and maybe the “title” boxes ticked.

Note that your ‘e’ documents have a different icon in the binder.
The last level (for ‘e’ documents) is a little tricky. The ‘e’ documents will be at level 5 technically. But you don’t have to create 5 levels–just a level above any other documents that you might have at level 1 or 2 (if you have Acknowledgements documents at level 1 or 2 (in a folder), for instance, you probably don’t want them to be formatted the same as “thread e” documents. So lets say you have uses for level 1 and 2, so you create another level: “level 3+”. That means that any formatting you apply through this level 3+ will be applied also to level 4, 5, 6, … to infinity and beyond! This level 3+ formatting will be for your ‘e’ documents.

Now go through each level and format the example text as appropriate. Add or remove chapter numbering from the title prefixes, and then you’ll be done with formatting; no need to worry about the appearance of the text in your binder documents; they’ll be reformatted according to these compile rules.

I hope that makes sense. The E documents are the most confusing thing here, I hope.

Good luck!

I think I have a completely different reading on what you’re trying to do, than the above. :slight_smile: If I understand correctly, you basically have a chapter structure with five different themes, each chapter repeating these themes. Wouldn’t something more simple like this suffice?

[size=80]Five alternating sections per chapter, displaying as label tint in icons.[/size]

As for compiling, nothing really special may need to be done here. The default output settings will work with the structure here.

But then, if they are always in the same order, maybe using labels is overkill? You can see at a glance which thread is which, by which position it occupies in the chapter. Using labels like this would be more useful if the thread order was different and did not have a repeating pattern.

Either way, I don’t feel like I quite understand the premise of the question. I don’t see why Scrivener would care if your sections are chronological or not, just as Word doesn’t care what order you type in. How you organise things is how they will compile, top to bottom, that’s all there is to it. I would suggest starting with that basis, experiment with it if you need to with some test compiles and one-liner sections, and grow from there.

Ioa advocating the simple approach? :open_mouth:

Seriously, I had assumed that each “thread a” would need to be formatted the same as all other “thread a” documents, but be distinct in formatting, indentation, paragraph style, or even color from threads b through e. While it’s more arcane for sure to do it this way, creating levels of document formatting for each thread means not having to worry that the indentation or font choices are inconsistent throughout the Scrivener project, so long as all thread C documents are at the same level in the binder.

Of course, I could be over-complicating things. :unamused:

I know, right? :mrgreen:

If each thread needs its own end-reader formatting, then maybe something hierarchical like Robert suggests would be best. I had just took it to mean this was, like plot threads to a novelist, something one would want to keep track of as an author, but have all of that information vanish when compiling and become an undifferentiated block of text (perhaps with an empty line in between sections if they are logical sections that need a break between them).

To the OP, here’s the thing, Scrivener’s compiler can be a bit like Word’s outline stylesheet system. With Word, you can set third-level outline headers to all print a certain way, while second-level headers represent chapters and first-level parts—or what have you. Scrivener is similar, you can outline like this and then set up the compiler to give the different levels their own heading format (or whether they even have a heading at all, which is something Word doesn’t do). In addition to that, you can also style the body text differently, depending on the level. This is where we are getting into things like different indentation and font choices.

Ugh. I think the “simple” approach may be what I’m trying to grok. All I want to do is take each vignette -you can call it a chapter; it doesn’t matter because I’m not thinking in terms of chapters, but in terms of fairly short vignettes and how to order them- but now that you mention it; do I want to separate each “ABCDE” group of vignettes into a chapter? I have no idea. Suggestions? Right now, I have 4-7 vignettes each in a Section that totals about 20 pages each. I want to go through each of the 11 or 12 Sections and label each vignette according to a THREAD THEME (like Family of Origin, Ancestors, Jennifer’s Journey, Recovery, etc.) which represents a general Category (say of 4-5 categories) that each vignette falls under. So, there would be a pile of Ancestor vignettes, a pile of Family of Origin vignettes, etc.

Then, when I have labeled each vignette, I can move the vignettes into a pattern of ABCDE that I repeat as a way to weave the vignettes together like a braid, that has a familiar pattern, and then, when I compile them, they will be in that format ABCDE ABCDE ABCDE throughout the book. But maybe each ABCDE needs a Chapter or Section Title? I am not sure. My book is not in chronological order but moves around in time and topic. Only one thread is sort of chronological and that is, let’s say “C” that needs to be placed in order from beginning to end, as it is the narrative arc which pulls the reader through the narrative and the other threads woven around it.

:question: :confused:

Amber, this is a rough draft that is already written and that I thought I could use Scrivener to compile in the way I’m envisioning, as a braid with a narrative arc. I wouldn’t want it all melted together in the end, but for each vignette to be it’s own thing with space between each. I might want to insert a few blank pages between at times or here and there.

SO it’s more like A B C D E A B C D E

Yup, you can do that with simple drag and drop. That sounds a lot like the approach I described above, then (whether or not they are sorted into folders is irrelevant, and in fact folders can even just be for your own use, not compiled at all—again that’s up to you). If each vignette type is colour-coded like that, it would be easy to make sure the order is right when you’re putting it all together in the Draft folder. Like I say, the compiler just takes your Draft folder from top to bottom. So if they are in ABCDE order in your Draft, that is how they will be when you compile.

I couldn’t say without knowing the source material. If chapters suit the narrative you are going for, then sure, use them. You might consult with your editor on that decision. I can say that personally I have enjoyed books that use either method. :slight_smile:

A space between text files is often the default. You can set that by going into the Separators compile option pane and checking the text/text separator.

For periodic page breaks you can use the “Page Break Before” checkbox in the Inspector (click the blue ‘i’ button on the far right of the main toolbar).