I am, at least some of the time when writing, what is known in the writing world as a Pantser. I will start to write down something without any strict or clear understanding of where it will fit in the grand scheme of things.
The life of a Pantser comprises the creation of large piles of Stuff in bursts of writing. Then, in order to unlock the value and make a sensible structure for a book, you have to engage in post-hoc organization and evaluation.
Sometimes what you create emerges as a different type of artifact. For example, some of my blog postings began as ideas for book chapters, but I realized that for multiple reasons (often having to do with the fact that they keyed off news stories and were highly topical with a short shelf life) i converted them along the way to blog postings.
Sometimes I complete a story or chapter draft, then it gets ransacked for ideas for other stories. That happens a lot when writing novels. It is important to almost never delete Stuff. Even if you think that something you wrote is way less than half-baked, it may contain an idea or phrases and descriptions that can be re-used later. (I read an interview with Chris Hillman, who played with Stephen Stills in the band Manassas, who said that one of the important things that he leaned from Stills was to put all of his ideas into notebooks. Even if they seemingly had no clear end point, you could quite often go back to a notebook when writing a song and find something that suddenly fitted into that new song. My best friend from school in the UK, who was a songwriter, also had a similar pile of notebooks and music books, where he wrote down ideas. Sometimes they were just fragments, but they often were used at a later date.
What being a Pantser leads to, within a Scrivener project, is a large number of chapter and story fragments in various life cycle stages. Then you have to be able to organize them, clearly call out their status, and organize them so allow you complete the ones that are worth completing and unlock the value.
This weekend I learned how to combine three features of Scrivener to make that process of post-hoc organization much more elegant and useful.
1. Project Find (aka Search)
The Project Find (Search) facility is good for pulling out files that meet various text criteria. What I did not realize until now is that Search can also select based on key meta-data items like Status. This allows me to (for example) pull up a list of all files that are in To Do status (i.e. unstarted).
I discovered how to use Collections in a way that allows me to have a work list of ‘in flight” items. It is possible in Scrivener to save Search results into a Collection. So, I can Search for all files with a Status of “To Do”, and then create a Collection (which is not a copy of the files, just a different view of the contents of the Binder) named “To Do. Then I can work my way down the Collection, creating sketches or drafts for the items in the Collection.
The functionality is good, lacking only only one feature – the ability for Scrivener to drop an item out of a Collection as the item’s life cycle status changes. For example, if the Collection was based on Status, if the Status changes to a value outside the scope of the original Search that created the Collection, ideally an option should exist to drop the item out of the Collection. I suspect that this facility is not implemented in Scrivener because Search and Collections are two separate facilities linked only by the ability to save a Search as a Collection, which is a one-way creation process. To make what I just described happen would require a significant amount of extra coding.
3. Default Status
The other essential feature to implement in all Scrivener projects is a Default Status. I found that my Scrivener projects had no Default for a Status, so any new file I created had a Null value for Status. I set the Default value to “To Do” on all projects. That way, if I write down an idea, it appears in the To Do Collection list, and I can then see that it needs to be at least Sketched.
I also looked some more at the Label facility in Scrivener. This is a powerful feature that allows you (for example) to color-code the display of items based on Label criteria. I think it is useful, but I need to play around with it and use it over time. It would be more useful for me right now if it allowed color-coding of display based on Status value, but that does not appear to be an Option.