Scrivener: Making Notes

Scrivener provides a lot of places to put notes. This is a feature I don’t make full use of.

You can have:

A) Synopsis – each scene/document can have one. You can show this in the outliner, it’s available in the sidebar (Inspector), and it’s what appears on the index cards in index card view.

You can make it pretty long, but you can’t make the synopsis window very big, so a long synopsis means a lot of scrolling. It would also mess up the outline view (though you can hide/show it pretty easily).

There is a synopsis finder, which will search for text in the synopses only.

B) Document notes – this takes up much of the Inspector. Each scene/chapter/folder/file/whatever gets its own document notes.

C) Project notes – this is an interesting concept. These notes apply to the whole project. You can view them in the inspector (instead of the document notes) or in a floating window. In either case you can use tabs to divide your project notes into different pieces.

I don’t use project notes at all. I’m not sure what the point is. It seems easier to create a document for each kind of note – if I want to see it while I’m in some other document, I can either split the screen or open it in a popup via quick view.

Document notes are where I put…notes…about what needs to change in that particular scene, or what I need to write. Things like “make her more suspicious” (fiction) or “more exciting, shorter” (day job). I also use it for notes to refer to later: “moon 1/4 full”. For fiction I use document notes a lot. For work stuff I hardly ever use them.

The synopsis, on the other hand, I use more at work than for fiction. Which seems weird. But it’s a convent place to stick a short list that holds the due date and status (due Mar 16, waiting for content from X). This then shows up in my outline view and helps me get a quick overview of a project.

For fiction, I just give my scenes longish titles. I would like to use the synopsis to hold an outline of the scene–at one point, I was writing very detailed outlines based on Bickham’s scene and sequel structure (which I can’t find my post on to link to). Lately I haven’t been doing that, but it’d still be nice to have a list of what is in the scene, separate from what I need to do to the scene (which is in document notes). I could make a separate document for every scene (maybe a subdocument), but that starts messing up chapter word counts and makes compiling (exporting) the text annoying.

Scrivener users, do you use project notes and the synopsis? If you use another program, does it have various kinds of note fields, and do you find them useful?


Filed under Writing

11 Responses to Scrivener: Making Notes

  1. Pingback: Scrivener: Making Notes | Everything Scrivener

  2. Interesting. I wasn’t even aware that project notes could be seen in a floating window. I use them regularly by switching at the top of the Notes panel. They’re for material that may go into a specific document when I figure out which one that should be. I use Synopsis mostly as a memory device for novel chapters. I have a terrible memory for details, so the synopsis keeps me from having to scour through the chapters to find scenes or discussions. So far (several years of use), I’ve never had any use for the Metadata space, so I always keep that collapsed, which gives me more room for notes.

    • Elizabeth

      I use the label and status items extensively so I know what scenes I need to work on, but it’d be nice to hide the rest of the metadata box.

      I would probably find it useful to put things I need to remember in the synopsis. Even something as simple as which characters are in the scene, location, time of day. I keep some of that in Document notes, but it can get cluttered.

      • Use keywords for things like which characters are in the scene, location, time, etc. You can have as many of those as you wish per scene or document and and find and/or sort on them. You can make collections with them.

        You can organize your keywords by making “child” keywords. Like have a main keyword Characters then all the character names a child keyword. You can do that in the Project Keywords window (click on the gear in the upper right of the document keyword pane in Inspector). Making it a child does nothing to its status except positions it under the main keyword you are making it a child of in the list.

  3. Heath

    I do academic writing rather than fiction writing, but I use the synopsis field for the main point of each document section (making the outliner useful in terms of seeing the bones of the argument) and use the Project Notes in a floating window for a to-do list as I go on. (Things like “look up history of department store hiring practices for section 2” and such.). Fiction writing and academic writing are so different, though!

    • Elizabeth

      They are so different. I’ve been using Scrivener for fiction longer than for web content at work, and I find it interesting that I’m using them in such different ways.

      I might have to steal your to-do list in Project Notes idea. That would make it easier to find than buried in my Research folder.

  4. Pingback: Scrivener: Making Outlines Neater with Synopses | Elizabeth Shack

  5. Happy Visitor

    Just wanna say thanks!

  6. You can also create a to-do folder in your binder (if it’s not there automatically; I can’t remember) and you can create a link from your doc or project notes to that, if you want. Seems like an extra step, but in any case you don’t have to bury your to-dos in Research, just put it in the top of the binder with Notes and whatever else is not in the Draft folder.

    • Elizabeth

      I’ve actually done just that in my most recent novel project. I have a to-do list in a document above the draft folder, with two more documents under that (plot ideas and a list of scenes to add to the outline).

      It seems like every project gets set up slightly differently. I like the flexibility.

  7. dean loren

    project notes are a waste unless you can compile them
    which is a really big question
    why doesn’t scrivener
    allow you to compile notes like it allows you to
    print out document notes?

    After I did all my notes only to find out you can’t compile

    Scrivener programmers should be shot
    for making such an incredible short sighted move
    in programming


    you got a solution that does not include cut and paste
    and you got a loyal follower

    dean loren

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