This is the second part in a three part blog about using the author tool Scrivener in conjunction with the Story Grid Methodology developed by Shawn Coyne.
In the following month I’ll create posts to cover these topics:
- Part 1 – Set Up
- How I set up Scrivener to edit or write a new manuscript – My Way
- How I incorporate the Story Grid guidance inside Scrivener
- How I incorporate other writings methods
- Using a Global Value Tracker
- Part 2 – Using and setting up Meta Data
- A new way to use Meta Data to track the 5 Commandments for each scene
- Using Meta Data to Track the Literal and Essential Action as well as Value shifts
- Review of tracking Story Grid Spreadsheet Data using Meta Data
- And We’ll review the export feature that allows you to export all your metadata into an excel spreadsheet that resembles the Story Grid Spreadsheet Shawn Coyne uses
- Part 3 – Collections and Keywords
- Using Keywords to track Sub-Plots
- Using Collections to Track Main Characters, Locations, and Unique Elements
- Using synopsis to Track Beats
These topics have been the most frequently asked questions about my method. If you have more questions, please ask them in the comments below.
Now, let’s get started with the most fantastic combination since chocolate and peanut butter, Scrivener and the Story Grid!
Setting up the Meta Data in Scrivener
I discussed the basics of working with Metadata in my Metadata Function post, so check that if you are unfamiliar with the function. In this post, I will discuss a variety of Story Grid information that you can track. I will use these metadata techniques when I am editing manuscripts for clients or when I’m doing my self-editing on my own writing after I have written a first draft.
Real quick, you can find the Metadata by opening the Inspector, that little “i” in the blue circle at the top right corner of your Scrivener screen. This will open a pane (called the inspector, funny enough) on the right side of the screen. Then, select the metadata icon at the top of the inspector pane (the third icon from the left in the inspector pane). Make sure that you have selected a scene in the binder and the editor has a scene showing, not an empty folder; you can do this by selecting a scene in the Binder.
In the Custom Metadata section (in the inspector panel), select ‘Edit Custom Metadata’, the gear on the right side) and you should see this window pop up:
Tracking What the Story is About
In this section, you can add any metadata you want to track, and all of these categories can be exported into an excel spreadsheet, which I will show you at the end of this post. I use these metadata items to track specific story items, Story Grid spreadsheet items (as outlined in the Story Grid Book and in this article by Shawn Coyne), and the 5 commandments of the scene.
Don’t forget to select wrap text in the lower section so you can see all of the notes you are writing for each item.
As you can see above, here is what I track concerning Story Items:
- Beats: these are quick bullets of each significant event that happens in the scene
- Suggestions: these are my suggestions as an editor (or to myself if I’m self-editing) reference POV, story progression, suggestion on improving the 5 commandments, and any thing else I want to tell the author
- Military Lingo and Weapons: In this novel, it is military heavy and I want to track all the weapons and military lingo I am using, making sure I explain at some time in the novel so I don’t lose the reader. I’ve also used this (retitling futuristic words/ items) for science fiction novels where I track new words that the author is applying to their world or futuristic equipment.
- Subplots: Here I will mention which sub-plots appear in this scene, such as a love story or red herrings or clues leading to the real villain.
- Obligatory Scenes: these are the Genre obligatory scenes outlined in the Story Grid articles at www.storygrid.com
- Literal Action: I took this item from the Story Grid Masterwork Analysis books that the Story Grid releases (currently Pride and the Prejudice – The Story Grid Edition). This describes what exactly what the characters are literally doing, usually described in general.
- Essential Action: Also from the Story Grid Masterwork Analysis books. This describes the essential action of what the characters are doing in this scene, the most important pats of the scene that progress the story.
- What Life Value has changed for one or more of the characters in the scene: include all the life values that change in the scene
- What is the most important life value that changes: From all of the life values that change, highlight the value that best tracks the scene-by-scene progress of the global value at stake.
Tracking the Five Commandments of the Scene
The 5 Commandments are the core of the Story Grid Methodology. I wrote a previous post that tracked the 5 commandments in the Synopsis section of the Inspector Pane, but over the last year I’ve realized it is more helpful for me to track the 5 commandments in the metadata.
I made entries in the metadata that include:
- Inciting incident
- II Type: Type of Inciting Incident, this is a dropdown list (Casual or Coincidence) made in the editor and I’ll show you how at the end of this list.
- Turning Point
- Turning Point Type: also a list (Character Action or Revelation)
- Progressive Complications
- Crisis Question
- Crisis Question Type: Also a dropdown list (best bad choice or irreconcilable goods)
Here is where you make a drop down list in the metadata editor:
Story Grid Spreadsheet Metadata
The rest of the metadata I use to track everything that the Story Grid book recommends, if you want to see a review you can read Shawn Coyne’s article.
These items include:
- POV: Point of View the scene is told
- Period of time: Date / Time that scene takes place
- Duration: length of time the scene lasts
- Value Shift: This is the same as we spoke about the beginning of the post during the story items, you can take this out, but I put it here to keep all the Story Grid Spreadsheet items together incase you chose not to track the story items as I did.
- Polarity Shift
- Locations: Locations where the scene takes place
- On Stage Characters: Characters that appear in the scene
- Number of On Stage Characters
- Off Stage Characters: Characters that are mentioned in the scene, but not physically in the scene
- Number of Off Stage Characters
So, those are all the items I track in the metadata when I edit a manuscript. It’s seems like a lot, but it actually goes pretty fast since all the data is write next to the manuscript. Next, I’ll demonstrate how to export this into excel and numbers.
Exporting the Metadata you want into the form you want
There are three items in Scrivener that need to be selected in order to export all of your metadata into excel or numbers:
- In the binder, select the folder that includes all of the scenes / chapters that you want to export the metadata for
- Select the Outliner (highlighted below at the top right, multiple blue lines)
- Choose which metadata you want to export (the carrot beside the letters POV below, you’ll see the dropdown for all the metadata you can export)
Here are some close ups of the three items:
I will usually make two spreadsheets – one for the 5 commandments and one for the Story Grid Spreadsheet information (which will also include the story items I mentioned).
After you have selected these three things, you are ready to export. Select File, then Export, and then Outliner Contents as CSV. Then choose a location to save the new file. If you are using Scrivener in windows, this will automatically make an excel file with all your data, but if you are using apple then it will make a numbers file and if you want it in excel, you will have to copy it from numbers into excel.
This is what my numbers file looks like after I export the data for the 5 commandments:
So, that’s how I organize my Scrivener Metadata when I edit manuscripts. How can you use this? Well, after you write your first draft, you can go back and track to make sure you have 5 commandments for each scene. You can follow the progressive complications to make sure you making the stakes more difficult as the story progresses. You can create the Story Grid Spreadsheet as you reread you first draft easily and efficiently.
My third and final post on Scrivener will cover making collections to track character arcs and using keywords to track subplots and a few more tricks. See you next week!
I started out learning Scrivener on my own, and I loved the tools I found. I eventually paid for an online course called Learn Scrivener Fast. It was very thorough and professionally done, and I learned even more tips and techniques. I really loved the course, and I became an affiliate, this is my affiliate link to Learn Scrivener Fast. I do receive a percentage of anything spent through that link.