Mentoring Authors One Scene at a Time – Thriller/Military/Non-Fiction/SF/Fantasy
Posted on May 25, 2020 by Randy
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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
Here is where you make a drop down list in the metadata editor:
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:
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.
There are three items in Scrivener that need to be selected in order to export all of your metadata into excel or numbers:
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!
For More Information on Scrivener and the Story Grid, check out my Scrivener Post Page to see all of my posts on the subject.
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.
If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:
Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.
My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.
Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!
If you want to learn more about writing a story using the Story Grid methodology, go to the Story Grid Webpage to find free videos and articles on how to implement the methodology.
These articles contain information about the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. They also give details on obligatory scenes and conventions for specific genres, such as the thriller, love story, war story, crime story, and more.
For an example of how these techniques are used, read Jane Austin’s The Pride and the Prejudice with annotations by Shawn Coyne.
If you are interested in hiring me to edit your manuscript or if you need help writing a novel, check out my editing services. Also, see my Testimonials page for comments from previous clients.
Category: Authors, Blog, Progressive Complication, Scrivener, Scrivener Meets Story Grid, television, WritersTags: 5 commandments, 6 core questions, export, Learn Scrivener Fast, metadata, spreadsheet, Story Grid, tv series
With 25+ years of military experience, let me help you make your action characters and scenes more authentic. Contact me and tell me about your writing project.
© 2020 Randall R. Surles
Thanks for another informative post! I’m currently working on two projects. I’m editing a western, which I will now incorporate all these extra meta-data points in to. I’m also building a fantasy epic series.
In regards to workflow do you enter the metadata while you are building or is that a process after the writing where you go back and enter the information?
Hey Jason, I’m glad the posts were useful to you.
So, since I’m an editor and I usually receive the manuscript completed (at least 1st draft), so I insert it into Scrivener using the import and split feature I described, then I extract the 5 commandments and other metadata as I read, and then I’ll go back over the metadata and make sure my notes in the inspector make sense and are complete thoughts after I finish the whole manuscript, then I will export to an excel spreadsheet.
However, as a writer, I’m a planner (as opposed to a pantser). I will plan out my 3 acts (beginning hook, middle build, ending payoff) and the 5 commandments of each act and I will try to predict the obligatory scenes as well and place them in the act I think they will appear. Then I will break down each act with what I’m trying to accomplish (set up the normal world work, play, home of the protagonist; show the reader the protagonist’s faults, want (and need, though subtly through a secondary character usually) and envisoin scenes to fulfill those objectives. I usually won’t use all the metadata at this time, just the 15 core scenes and obligatory scenes.
I’ll usually take a break between acts, just to clear my head, and go back and outline the 5 commandments for the scenes I have, not changing them right now, but noting which scenes have weak 5 commandments. Then move on to the other acts.
Finally, once I have a first draft, I’ll self edit using all of the metadata.
Hope that helps,
If you need an editor – let me know, I would be interested in editing another fantasy and a western novel.
Take care and be safe,
What an awesome response! Thank you for the consideration you really communicate well!
I am going to email you directly regarding editing.