Our new blog contributor, Rebeca Schiller of SimplyScrivener.com, discusses how Scrivener changed her writing process and helped her find her novel’s structure using the Sokoloff Method.
Developing Your Structure With Scrivener
Writers are intrigued and obsessed with process. We experiment with what is the most expedient way to get the story down on paper. We spend countless of hours experimenting with different outlining techniques that include the traditional method we learned as children in elementary school, playing with the various approaches as described in craft books, or writing it all down in one fell swoop à la NANOWRIMO.
In the beginning, my process was labor-intensive. I wrote 1,000 words on a yellow legal pad—any other color was unacceptable. Once I was done with that day’s session, I transcribed it into a Word document.
I continued in this manner during one NANOWRIMO. Once finished, I began to edit the story in what seemed to be an endless document. I came to the realization that keeping all the scenes in one text file wasn’t optimal. So I broke them down into different Word documents, which ultimately led to a chaotic and unmanageable digital filing system.
A few months later, a friend introduced me to Scrivener, which allowed me to create a structure I could see and easily follow. Word was soon set aside and all my writing projects—freelance articles, essays, blog posts, and marketing collateral—were drafted and neatly stored in their individual Scrivener projects—each one with it own binder structure. For example, in the online magazine I edit, I have folders in the binder broken down by year, month and week. The week folder holds four articles. It’s easy to create, organize and keeps the binder neat.
And yet, a structure this simple wasn’t working for my novel. One afternoon, procrastinating when I should have been writing, I scoured the internet to find other outlining methods that I could piece together to build a structure that made sense to me. After reading several blogs, I discovered Alexandra Sokoloff’s “Screenwriting Tricks for Authors” and found “Nanowrimo Prep: The Index Card Method and Structure Grid.” Following Sokoloff’s steps, I divided the story into three acts, breaking it down into sequences, and then scenes. Suddenly the story flowed. I had an outline that made sense to me and suited my writing style.
The mechanics of creating the Sokoloff method was relatively simple. Following her structure grid, I created what I call the “bones” of the story : Act->Sequence->Scenes (or Chapters). Because each scene/chapter was its own document, the real work was to determine in which Act and Sequence they appeared in. Once I moved each scene/chapter in its respective folder, I devised a code where each document included the Act, Sequence and Chapter numbers along with a descriptive header. Should I decide to move the document into another sequence during the editing process, I know where I had it originally filed.
I’ve had friends comment my process is complicated, but it works for me. For writers who prefer to get their story down quickly, Scrivener provides a number of templates for novels, short stories, essays, and general non-fiction that includes a built-in binder structure, but I discovered that half the fun of writing is coming up with a structure that’s unique to your own style.