WRITING KNOWHOW Plotting your novel with Scrivener

A picture of books all set out flat and open like a carpet

In the final part of her Writing KnowHow strand, Caroline Deacon looks at how Scrivener makes plotting easier.

With its huge capacity for organising your notes, story and research, it makes sense that Scrivener is also a fabulous tool for plotting. Of course some of us like to write without a plan, but if you're a plotter, Scrivener allows you to create an outline for your story and to add lots of useful additional information in columns. 

You can also view each chunk of outline as an index card, but then swap back into outline mode, and indeed if a scene is begging to be written, you can add that immediately and it won’t affect the look of the outline, apart from a subtle change in the little icon for the scene, which will show you have some words in that document. 

A screenshot of Scrivener on plotting mode
Some of the plotting possibilities in Scrivener.
Photo: Caroline Deacon

If you like to plot from character, a great way to do it is to use Scrivener’s character templates. Start filling these in, and you’ll probably find that scenes occur to you, for example I need to have a scene showing that’s Annie's unhappy with her appearance. Just click 'add a scene', jot down what you want to do, and return to the character template. 

These opportunities can really help move things forward. A plot I was struggling with all came together when I started using the 'setting' template. You don’t need to use these, but they can help clarify your thoughts, and of course attaching photos or video links can help. 

Scrivener also offers you a whole range of icons to quickly identify different types of scenes. Maybe you have some lines of dialogue you know you need to include, but you just don’t know where. Create a document with those in and add a speech bubble icon. Call the document ‘unplaced dialogue.’ I’ve maybe made Scrivener sound very 'busy’ and of course it can look busy, but when you want to ‘just write’ you can move into composition mode and all extraneous stuff disappears.

If you've got a project you're about to begin for Nanowrimo next month, maybe Scrivener is just the thing for you!

Header image: Maxpixel

Make sure you catch up on Caroline's previous posts where she introduced Scrivener and showed how it can improve writing efficiency and help manage large projects.


Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes YA. Follow her on Twitter @writingdilemmas / www.carolinedeacon.com

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