Author Topic: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener  (Read 35147 times)

Offline Chord

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 297
Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« on: August 20, 2013, 06:16:50 AM »
I was talking to ma100 about Scrivener and she suggested I write a bit of an article about some of the facilities I make a lot of use of, in simple terms. So here it is! :) Iím not going to explain what buttons to press. Feel free to ask if you donít know how to use some facility but the point is more about Ďhowí I use them. Hope it helps.


Scrivener is a fabulous writerís tool, but a tool is useless without a process for using it. Waving a hammer in the air achieves nothing, you have to go through the process of putting a nail in the right place and using the hammer effectively to drive it into place before you achieve anything.

Iíve talked to a few people who seem confused by keywords and meta-data. Between them you can add so much useful information to your scrivener project, things that make it easier for you to keep track of what is going on. As a novel gets longer and more complex, anything that helps you keep things consistent and in sequence is a godsend as far as Iím concerned.

Meta-data is a flash way of saying Ďextra stuff you scribble onto the documentí. It allows you to add your own information to all of the documents in your project.

Some of the common things I do with meta-data are ;

1. Set when the scene occurs. I add a meta-data field called ĎWhení. I can then attach a point in time to each scene.  You donít have to give specific dates, just Monday - Week 1   or January Year 1 or Day 1 - anything you want as long as it tells you what you need to know. If you DO add specific dates then its worth putting them in reverse   2013-08-20 because then it will sort into the right date order. The beauty is, you can set these meta-data fields to show in your overview, allowing you to compare them across all documents.  It lets you see any inconsistencies in time - are two adjacent scenes happening too close together (criminal arrested on one day, on trial in the next). What are the seasons doing? Has the heroine had an eighteen month (or eighteen day) pregnancy?

2. What time of day is it? Again this sets the scene for you. It also shows you if you are writing everything as happening in an eternal morning. In fast moving action, it can come down to the hour and minute something takes place.

3. Where does the scene take place. This is great for tying your settings to the scenes. (You can do this with keywords but if there are a lot of scenes I usually find this easier. Also itís nice to see in the overview where the scenes are taking place.)

4. What is the pace of the scene? Is it action filled, fast and heavy or a slow thoughtful scene. You need to manage pace carefully so putting this info in makes a lot of sense. Again, it comes into its own when you display it as part of the overview.

5. TheÖ  ahemÖ shite level of the scene. Iím not talking first draft, revised, final etc. Iím talking about the scene you look at and wonder why it isnít written in crayon, the cringer, the one you are NOT going to let your public see. I put this in so I donít let growlers get through into the final version. I found I was getting scenes that were complete and at the right level but I just didnít like them. Itís too easy to let them through if you bang Ďfinal versioní on them and then cringe every time you read it. Perhaps thatís just me, but there you go. 

So, thatís meta-data. You adapt it to give the information YOU want to have. It doesnít cover all bases though. For example, you can add meta-data to list which characters appear in a scene. There is a better way of dealing with that thoughÖ Keywords.


A keyword is just a tag you put on a scene. You enter a keyword using the keyword HUD from the toolbar and can then drag it onto specific scenes to tag them. (You can also add individual keywords to a document but lets not complicate this). Keywords arenít words that appear in the text - they lurk in the background unless you search for them.

Keywords let you tie threads in your story together. Letís say we have three main characters in the story Ann, Bert and Charlie. You can create keywords that indicate if theyíre in a scene  e.g. Ann_is_present, whether they are mentioned in a scene  e.g. Bert_is_mentioned, or if they undergo some change or growth in a scene  e.g. Charlie_grows. This allows you to easily track the characterís story arc through the novel across all of the scenes. These keywords are dragged onto scenes they refer to - they donít appear in the text, they just tag that scene as having that keyword attached.

In the same way you can attach keywords for plot or sub-plot threads. So if you have Ann trying to escape an abusive husband enter Ann_escapes_Hubby as a keyword and drag it onto the specific scenes. If Charlie is planning to murder Bert, have a Charlie_murder_plot keyword.

You can tag locations in the same way  at_hospital, outside_hospital. You can use it for more abstract ideas  magic_used for example could be used to tag scenes in which someone uses magic, so you can check it is used in a consistent fashion.

So you end up with a list of keywords

Ann_is_present
Bert_is_present
Charlie_is_present
Ann_is_mentioned
Ö
Magic_used
At_hospital
Outside_hospital
Ann_escapes_husband
Charlie_murders_Bert

You just have to drag them onto the relevant scenes then. The inspector will show which keywords have been attached to each scene.

To use these keywords, once theyíve been attached to scenes, bring up the Keywords HUD (click on the Keywords icon in the toolbar). You can then click on the keyword you are interested in (or alt-click on several of them) and use the search button at the bottom right. This will bring up all the documents tagged with this keyword or keywords, letting  you check through them for consistency. It is an incredibly powerful tool when used properly.

Once theyíve been set up itís easy to maintain them. You just drag the appropriate keywords onto a scene as you write it and enter the data in the meta data fields in the inspector. Keywords are also a major tool for sorting out a novel thatís already in a mess. You can add the keywords at any time so if you have a tangled horror, they can help sort it out for you.

There is nothing to stop you totally ignoring both meta-data and keywords but I find them SO useful, especially at the conclusion of a first draft where you really want to make sure everything is in the right place and all the bases are covered before you polish up the writing. It makes it so much simpler during editing when you can pull all the relevant documents for a character or place or sub-thread into one place without delving through the entire body of work.

 Chord
With a fat friend there is no such thing as a see-saw, only catapults.

Offline Annmarie

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3526
  • Got my kinky boots on. Watch out!
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2013, 07:26:32 AM »
Fantastic. I haven't used this yet, but will start. Many thanks for your tutorial.  :)
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.

JewelAS53

  • Guest
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2013, 09:55:47 AM »
Thanks, Chord,
I'm still reading the tutorial on Scrivener, only had it an hour or so.
Considering how I plan to structure the writing of my book, the information below will be uber useful.
J

Offline Chord

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 297
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2013, 10:37:11 AM »
I'm finding almost everything about scrivener is useful. It's a hell of a tool and I keep finding new uses for it. For example, with my work in progress, I'm wavering between YA and Adult. I'm allowing my characters to swear or make sexual references if it feels right, but I'm flagging scenes where I do that with a 'not_for_YA' keyword. Then if I choose to go YA it's easy to go through and tone it down without having to plough through the whole thing.

With a fat friend there is no such thing as a see-saw, only catapults.

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

  • http://www.writestreet.com/writestree
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31219
  • Hello from Texas
    • Alice's Hide Away
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2013, 01:23:19 PM »
Well shoot Chord, when you say it like that, it sounds simple.  ;)

I think it was about 2 years ago when I first tried Scrivener . . . during NaNo no less. Not the brightest idea to try something new when I was working toward and deadline.

Maybe I'll give it another shot soon thanks to your explanation.
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2013, 01:27:09 PM »
You're braver than me, Alice. :-[ Clueless. ::)

Offline Chord

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 297
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2013, 01:57:44 PM »
I think the problem with Scrivener is that it like giving someone a power tool that has no idea about basic carpentry. No matter how good a tool is, you need a process that it fits into.

For me, I add a folder at the root level, call it info and add an 'overview' document. Then I write the story out, all of it, as pure text. Maybe it's only one page but it describes the start, middle and end of the story. It usually has the main character identified (but in my current novel I changed them a few chapters in). I usually set up folders for characters and settings but I don't labour the point too much. A character sketch might just have basic details and maybe a photo dragged in from the internet of an actor I've got in mind for the part.

Then I start on the corkboard, doing a rough outline of the story, refining it. I may actually write some scenes out if I've got something specific in mind (I usually do). It lets me build up the story, add twists, sub-plots, etc. By this point I know what keywords and meta-data will help me out.

This will pretty much all take place on the first day of the project. By that time I've got a pretty fair outline of the story, a couple of scenes written that give me enough info to decide what PoV works, etc. More importantly I've got the skeleton to hang some flesh off. I don't bother with chapters at this point, just scenes. I don't have every sub-plot in usually, they grow as I introduce more characters.

The beauty of scrivener is you can always change things. I can structure scenes into chapters when I've got a solid enough idea of the structure. I can refine character sheets as I go along. I can add keywords to help me track new plot threads. I don't have to get bogged down in the actual writing of all the scenes to play with the story idea. Then when I AM ready to fill in the scenes I have all the information I need to write it effectively.

Without a process it can be difficult. I'd actually love to see Nick's 'write a novel in 28 days' method applied to scrivener because they'd sit so well together. Any process should work though, as long as you're not just blindly clicking on things and expecting a story to happen. :) I work in a sort of evolutionary way where a core idea grows as I write it. Your process may be to plot everything to death before you start. Scrivener lets you do it either way.

I really like this youtube tutorial by Karen Price http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmgMFsFkhx4. It doesn't cover everything and she doesn't work in quite the way I do but I think she explains the core stuff really well. It's worth a watch if you have a spare few minutes. There are LOTS of other youtube tutorials for scrivener. The one area that is weak is the keywords and meta-data - which is why I addressed it here.


« Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 02:20:11 PM by Chord »
With a fat friend there is no such thing as a see-saw, only catapults.

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

  • http://www.writestreet.com/writestree
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31219
  • Hello from Texas
    • Alice's Hide Away
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2013, 02:20:20 PM »
Chord, just to let you know, I'm saving your post about scrivener. You lay it out clearer than I remember their directions being.  ;)

Thanks . . . and thanks goes to Ma for shaking your tree.  8)
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline wanderer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2638
    • Western Wood Artist
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2013, 02:44:53 PM »
Quote
You lay it out clearer than I remember their directions being.  Wink

The early manuals and tutorials were not very informative. However, recently they have updated things and it is a lot better, with room for some more improvement.

Personally I like the program because of the flexibility and amount of data it can handle. I've included maps, photographs, web pages, and massive amounts of research data. All easy to organize. Once I have all the research done, I just start a new project for the writing. Keeps things "cleaner" that way.

Can't say enough good things about the program, however it does have a learning curve.

hillwalker3000

  • Guest
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2013, 05:50:16 PM »
This couldn't have come at a better time.

I've only downloaded Scrivener on a 30-day free trial a couple of days ago - with a view to using it in November for my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Already worked my way through the tutorial and it seems a vast improvement on Word. Can't wait to put it to the test.

You're a star, Chord.

H3K

Offline wanderer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2638
    • Western Wood Artist
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2013, 05:56:19 PM »
Here is their forum and it has a nice search feature to answer questions: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/index.php

Offline sirensix

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 42
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2013, 03:34:17 PM »
This is SO helpful, thank you.  I've had no luck figuring out how all these things work and I find the PDF manual inscrutable, especially because when I try to do a "Find" on it, it takes me to a spot about a block away from the word I was looking for, for some reason.  I had given up on figuring out the finer points and was just using it as a shiny blank space to put words in.

I am going to come back to this when I get a chance and try ALL the things.

Offline ma100

  • Esteemed Contributor
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30526
  • I don't need kinky boots, nothing will beat me.
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2013, 05:33:23 PM »
Aww Chord, Thank you for this. Of course I knew exactly what to do.  ::) ::)I don't think anyone noticed I was struggling with this huh.

I have only used the basics, but I am more confident when someone explains things to me.

Guys, also don't forget, if your a member of MWC and thinking of buying Scrivener, we have the discount code that I nicked Scrivener was kind enough to give us a 20% discount on this product until the next Olymp-inks. ;) You'll find it on the sticky in the prose work shop.

Offline Vienna

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7407
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2013, 04:46:52 AM »
I have been thinking of investing in Scrivener for a long time and this thread is very interesting. Basically it's worth having right?
Just a well-read punk peasant

Going to church makes you a christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car!

Offline Annmarie

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3526
  • Got my kinky boots on. Watch out!
Re: Using keywords and meta-data in scrivener
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2013, 04:53:50 AM »
I have been thinking of investing in Scrivener for a long time and this thread is very interesting. Basically it's worth having right?

YES.

I was in the middle of my novel when I first got Scriv late last year, and I transferred files over. That was a bit time-consuming, but the improvement in organizing the text was amazing.

I'm developing my next book with Scrivener, and now I see just how fantastic this program is. There's a place for everything, all the bits that go into story development stored in easy-to-find places and on hand when I need them without flipping through files or windows. I still have a lot to learn, but for organizing complex projects, Scriv is great.

I have a few complaints, but it's probably stuff I just need to adjust in the settings.
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.