How I Use Scrivener for Life Story Writing: a few helpful tips
I made the change from Mac Pages to Scrivener over the past year or two, and now Scrivener is my go-to for creating all my life story books. I'm constantly learning new things it can do, but here are the essentials that make it an indispensable part of my workflow.
1) Split-screen editor.
The Editor is where you do your writing, the main window where your draft appears. And since we as life story writers are basing the narrative on what our storyteller has shared with us, it's a huge help to view the raw material (transcript, old letters, etc) side-by-side with the draft.
2) The Binder.
This is where you see all of your documents and folders, where you create new ones, and where you go to move sections of the book in a snap. You can use it as an ersatz-outline, dragging and dropping elements until you find the perfect structure.
On its own, the binder is a powerful visual tool; add colored labels, and you'll never get lost in your writing again. Listen to the podcast to see how I use just a couple of labels to signal what's been finished and what still needs work.
Need some visuals to go with the podcast? Take a look at my sample project below.
In the screenshot below, the Editor (middle pane) shows the transcript form May 1, 2018 (the name of the document appearing in the Editor is at the top of the Editor pane). As I go through the transcript, I highlight the pieces that have been moved into the raw material folder, where I have folders and documents that will roughly correspond to sections of the draft. The raw material folder is an interim resting place for the storyteller's words: transcript > raw material > draft. By parcelling out the bits and pieces discussed in the interview, I can begin to put them in the order they will appear in the book. That means if a storyteller revisits a memory that we've already discussed, I have an easy way of finding where it belongs. As I copy and paste the chunks of transcript into the raw material, I highlight it in yellow on the transcript. Once the entire document is highlighted, I label it with my custom yellow "Done" label. Now when I look at the Binder, I can see which transcripts need to be added to the raw material and which are already done.
In the screenshot below, I can see that one of my transcripts has been completely added to the raw material (i.e. I don't need to work through it anymore), and three still need to be added.
The following image shows the folders and documents of my raw material. I will add more as I learn more about the storyteller's life. I continue using the same color-coded labels that show which raw material has been written up in the draft and which still needs to be worked in.
In this final screenshot, the transcript of a phone conversation appears in the Editor pane. Some of it is highlighted (showing that it's been added to the raw material folder), some of it hasn't. Because I still have work to do on it, the label is purple—"needs to be added."
To split the Editor pane vertically:
- Go to "View" > "Layout" > "Split Vertically"
- Click the rectangular icon on the far right top of the Editor pane
I hope this has helped you with organizing your own life story projects. Until next time, go out and save someone's story.