Worflow question: handling ideas that pop-up during writing

A while ago, I developed a procedure to handle topics and ideas that come up while I’m writing, whereby I would scroll down or to a section and type notes in square [ ] brackets. This would satisfy the need and allow me to return to the flow I was on. It’s how my brain works – ADD perhaps – but there are times when the story writes itself. If I don’t write them down, it’s chaos.

Now, I’m not entirely sure how to handle this process in Scrivener. For example, I don’t think creating a TODO item is going to be helpful as it takes time to do, and thus can distract me from my thought process.

As I imagine I can’t be alone in this, I wonder how other writers handle this – in real life and perhaps within Scrivener.


If I’m in Scrivener already I use the Scrivener Scratch pad for holding this kind of note,

Agreed, Scratchpad is your best bet.

Depending on what the ideas relate to, you might use Scratchpad, a second “notes” project, a second document in the same project, Document Notes for the document you’re writing in, or an annotation directly in the body of the text you’re writing.


I prefer that the notation be within the text, as it’s visually there – a reminder that is visual (important for me). Annotations look like they would work, too – can we set the default color in Preferences somewhere instead of per-note? I like that I can add these and not have them included in exported text – very different with [ square bracket notes to yourself ].

Changing annotation colour is persistent. After you change an annotation’s colour, all annotations you make afterwards have the changed colour until you change it again. So no, there’s not a preference for this.

For short notes, I mainly use TODO: wrapped in an annotation, along with a saved collection based on TODO:

I often simply create a new document and place it in the draft close to where the idea might be needed. By not adding a title, these notes are easy to spot in the binder.

If it’s an idea that might need plotting, then I might create a small scapple project.

I also keep a small notebook beside me along with a pad of post-its.

So many notes!

For notes about your current project…

If you’re not using the inspector while you write, I would suggest creating a TODO document near the top of the binder and creating a project bookmark to it in the bookmarks pane of the inspector. Keep that open, with the TODO document selected, and you can freely add notes to that document for later perusal. Even if you are using the inspector, it’s not that hard to switch from one view (say document notes) to the bookmarks pane.

For notes unrelated to your project, then I agree that the scratchpad, or maybe even another “ideas” project that you keep open while writing on other projects, is the best way to go.

Thank you, everyone, for all your ideas and suggestions. I appreciate it :slight_smile:

You’re lucky to have ideas popping up during writing!

So far I’ve created a new document under Research for any new ideas which had no logical place in the storyline. Or which are not meant to be part of the story. For instance, when I thought of aspects I’d like my proofreaders to pay attention to, such as “are the names of the characters well-chosen”, Or when I was asked to whip up a blurb for my book. Such documents go under Research, in my workflow.

Scene outlines for which there is no place yet are created as separate documents in a separate Roughs folder I added below the Short Story level . (Take care not to include that folder when you are compiling your text for external use.) When I find a use for them, I move those scenes up into the story folder and flesh them out.

Of course you can achieve the same result by writing a note in the scratch pad and “Copy note to” the Research folder or Roughs folder. Whatever you prefer.