Anyone using Scrivener to plot out a story?

I used MS Word to write my notes to help me identify characters, locations, objects, a timeline, puzzles, themes etc for my Inform7 murder mystery game. Over time the document got more and more complicated and I ended repeating some info in multiple places and things continued to get complicated. Although I dabbled in implementing the starting scenes of the game, I need to really be more clear on the story line and events. I have seen many fiction writers recommend Scrivener on the Mac as an application to help structure a novel. It has outlining abilities, a flexible tagging system, corkboards etc. Has anyone used this for plotting an IF story? Feedback welcome.

I’ve used it for static fiction a little and it was a pretty neat tool. I think there’s a free trial so best thing would be to give it a try.

I tried the Windows version not too long ago (I think it’s only been available for Windows for a little while, anyway) … I remember liking the looks of it, but then, never really reaching for it as a tool. There’s at least one other, similar tool for Windows (a bit older, I think) that I also installed, like the looks of, then never really used.

I’m probably just set in my ways … which, for organizing lots of stuff, usually means an Excel Workbook packed with lots of tabs’ worth of sheets, and directories full of scraps for research tidbits. I’ve done my last several books that way, and what little IF I’ve made, likewise.

But, to put it in perspective, I’m the guy who still can’t figure out what Evernote is for, even though dozens of people have recommended it to me as exactly the kind of thing I’d love.

I think Robert Crumb’s rule of thumb for artists always applies in these cases: “Whatever works!”

I have used Ulysses for IF purposes and like it, but Scrivener looks very promising, I’ll check that out as well.

Since I use Scrivener for straight fiction, I’ve gotten in the habit of writing out text for games there before I transfer it over to Inform to code it. Of course, sometimes I wind up just writing in Inform when I’m tinkering with stuff, but Scrivener’s a neat tool. I like it a lot for fiction writing and I’ve gotten in the habit of using for any sort of creative brainstorming.

For Scrivener n00bs: it’s a lot handier if you take the time to go through the extensive tutorial first, even if you normally think of yourself as a person who doesn’t need tutorials (like me) (I should really know better by now). It’s also great for writing multi-scene anything, IMO.

I used to use Storybook for planning IF. However, as its development continued, it got more bloated and more spammy about the Pro version. The free version is supposedly open source, but the latest version I used contained embedded ads trying to sell the non-free Pro version. I don’t really understand how this can work with an open source license, but I’m no lawyer.

I like the idea of Scrivener, and I know others have used it for a game.

I have a homegrown script that sorts out ideas from daily files into main idea files. e.g.


add last lousy point in room X

make game less arbitrary by hinting Y

Now, in a file oldgames.otl which contains \shuffling, I add “add last lousy” to the end of comments with \shuffling.

In newgames.otl which contains the line \3dopolis, I add “make game…” to the end of comments that start with the text \3dopolis.

Thus if I have to dump a bunch of random ideas (or only have time to,) I don’t have to worry much about where to put them. They’re sorted into manageable piles I can fine tune later.

It was an exercise in hashing for me but probably not viable for others. The problem is, for me, graphical-type thinking doesn’t help, and I get nervous with too many options some time. Maybe it’s partially an “I built it” thing too. I enjoy seeing my program crank through the text I wrote and start sorting it.

Though if I found the right freeware to do this and more (but not too much more) I’d jump at it.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions and feedback. I’ve started using Scrivener and will add a later update as I get more time with it.

I usually just write directly into Inform. Maybe this is a bad idea, because I get frustrated with how bloated my story is and abandon it.

Anyways, CeltX would be the reflexive choice for me, if I were going to plot out my story beforehand, which I probably should. I’ve never heard of any of the other programs above. I should try one.