Outlining in Scrivener

I’ve started outlining my next novel in Scrivener. This will be the first novel I’ve written in the program since it was in beta. I’ve been transferring my notes, character data and location data into Scrivener for the past couple of weeks. I really like how Scrivener lets you organize your notes in the Binder. I guess because I’ve used programmer IDE’s in the past, I can appreciate the writer IDE format Scrivener uses.

I normally use a custom spreadsheet to build my outline, leaving extra lines to further break each chapter down into scenes. But this time I’m doing this directly in Scrivener under the outline view. Making chapter folders as I go and when I have scenes in mind, including them too. I jot a reminder in the meta notes for each chapter and scene what I think should happen. This is really just a guideline, not a rigid structure.

Scrivener makes it easy to move around your chapters and scenes until you get them in an order that makes sense. I have been labeling them in chapter order, but the labels are easily changed as I find order in the outline. I’ve just started this process, so I’ll post about it again as I get further into it.

My process for outlining starts with me just ruminating on the big idea, discovering the themes and possible subplots and then making sure the characters all have recognizable arcs. I usually pick one character to be the main hero in a Space Opera and several others to be POV characters, usually one from each subplot. Conflict is a central aspect of the novel that I try to inject in just about every scene. Setting up opposing goals and desires in the characters ensures conflict on many levels.

The final bit of thought concerning the story as a whole involves finding connections between characters, plot points and locations. Deeper meanings and symbolism that help bind the story together and make it more meaningful. Usually, these kinds of details come forward as I’m writing, or often in subsequent drafts. Many times those connections are done subconsciously by me as I write, and are not discovered by me until after I start reading through the first draft. Those ah-ha moments of clarity about the story that hopefully a reader experiences are what make the whole process worth doing in the first place.

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