Wrangling a Trilogy

At the end of NaNo this year I finished the first draft of the third novel in a trilogy. I now have more words than I’ve ever written before, spanning multiple worlds and plot threads.

I did not set out to write a trilogy, so the overall storyline has not been planned, but evolved organically during three successive Novembers. There are huge plot holes, the entire b-story of the second novel needs rewriting to come into line with what happens in novel three, and this then needs to be seeded back in novel one.

My novels were all written in Scrivener, so I’m familiar with the program, but I wondered if anyone had any hints or tips on how to use all the extra functions in Scrivener to help wrangle a story of this size.

I began by importing all three novels and associated research into one Scrivener project. I’m very conscious that up until this point I have been treating each novel as a standalone story (they do work like that), but now I feel like I should be looking at the trilogy as a whole.


I kind of have the same problem. I’m finishing the first novel and outlining the second one these days.

I’m not sure yet how to approach this, but I’ve managed to learn the use of the outlining features of Scrivener to help me work at the big picture and then drill down as needed.

I suppose the trilogy will need one more upper level of abstraction.

Hint #1, and the most important; create a keyword for each book. I can be as simple as “book1” and “book2”, so long as it doesn’t have spaces in it. Then tag EVERY document in each project with the appropriate keyword. When you import all of your materials into one project, this will allow you to sort out which material you used for which book, even if you intermingle them. If you don’t use Labels for anything else, you could them to track which book you’re looking at, since you can color-code the icons and index cards for each label; and you can search on labels alone the same way you can with keywords.

I think keywords + saved searches on those keywords are some really heavy-duty tools for editing stories, no matter how you edit, so long as you keep them up to date. You can use them to track & review subplots, characters, important objects, locations, etc… If you edit in phases, looking at specific aspects (Plot, Character, Setting), you can add those keywords, create a saved search on each, and the remove each keyword as you finish that editing phase. Impromptu queries then become easier: “When did these two characters appear together in the book?” search for BobFarley and Zorro with the “All Words” option checked. “Was this object ever in this location?” Search the keywords CandleStick and Study.

More on successful use of keywords from our very own Pigfender here: pigfender.com/index.php/2013 … -keywords/

Manually generated collections can also be useful for experimenting with rearranging scenes and chapters, or even preserving the original order of things in case you change your mind. I haven’t done this, but I can see it being a kind of “binder order snapshot”.

I discovered the outline view only a couple of months ago, but already it’s been a great help. I agree with you, in that I probably need to take another step back to see the big picture.


Thank you! This is brilliant, keywords and saved searches are things I’ve not figured out yet, this is a great help :slight_smile: