Techniques: Managing different storylines?

First of all, a friendly hello to everyone! I’m relatively new here and hope I’m not getting on your nerves with one of my first questions because it’s already been discussed.

What strategy do you follow when writing multiple storylines? Linearly, as the story envisages, i.e. again and again with the breaks as the reader experiences them - or one after the other (until they flow together in the finale)?

Thank you very much for your experiences and recommended approaches!

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Hi TomsPumpel. This is an intriguing question, and I’m willing to bet you’ll receive a different answer from nearly every writer you ask.

Personally, I’m a pantser, which means I have very little idea where my story is going when I start writing. I tend to write it chronologically, with each new scene being a bit like traveling at night with a flashlight.

That is, I can only see a scene or two ahead of where I’m currently writing. As I write my first draft, I’m feeling my way through my book without really knowing what will happen by the end.

If I’m writing a story that has a few key characters and the narrative will switch between their points of view, I write each scene from whichever character’s perspective comes to me first. I have a different document in Scrivener for each scene. And, I use things like custom metadata and keywords to track which character’s POV is being presented.

During revision, I’ll think about changing which character’s POV is presented in each scene so that the most powerful–or deceptive–POV presents that scene, depending on what I’m writing.

Revisions are also when I consider telling the story in a different order than chronological. I’ll use Scrivener’s collections tools to gather all the scenes from one character’s POV and review or revise them to check for the narrative flow.

I’m a slower writer working this way, but I’m not here to churn out multiple books a year. James Patterson can do that because he has a large group of collaborators, and that’s fantastic for him. His approach wouldn’t work for me.


I use Scapple to keep a separate character board with details I update for each character as I write and note what act/chapter/scene detail was added as story evolves. I also mark with a comment (highlight and add a note) so key moments in the text are easy to spot.
I do this for locations and the plot line.
Now this could be done with character, location, and plotting files in Scrivener. If you put these key files in Project bookmarks, they become easy to find. If open as a Quick Reference Panel, then the file can hover over the story as you write or on another monitor screen to refer to. Default is any highlighted file in the binder where you then hit the space bar will open as a quick reference panel.


I’d write it in the order that you would expect the reader to read it and also color-code the scenes by POV character and/or time period (if you skip around in time).

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Good hint with colour codes! Thanks!

sure! you could also do a thing that I did in my MS and preface their synopsis with the times that they take place.

my MS, for the most part, followed a linear timeline lasting around two weeks. I would preface the synopsis with, for example “Friday (evening-midnight)”. for the half dozen or so flashback scenes, I’d just put that “FLASHBACK” in the title (in capital letters).

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You could also have a keyword timeline to group events by date/time of day and even overlap keywords like have ones for a month/year coupled with time of day, nighttime, morning etc.
I love keywords since can layer multiple ones to a file.
If have actual dates then if do dates in custom metadata can order in chrono order in the Outline by clicking the column to make ascending or descending.

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