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Message started by John McDonnell on Mar 15th, 2008, 6:56pm

Title: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by John McDonnell on Mar 15th, 2008, 6:56pm

I am new to Tinderbox, plus I am a decidedly non-geeky type, so please bear with my very basic question. I am using Tinderbox to organize notes for a novel, and I'm very pleased with how flexible it is. I can just type notes on the fly when I'm brainstorming, and worry about organizing them later. My problem now is that I'm at the point where I have a LOT of notes, and it's becoming unwieldy. I created adornments (boxes) in Map view for scenes, motivations, conflicts, Acts (I, II, and III), but one problem I'm having is I have so many notes in each box that I can't see them individually. Is there a way to just get an Outline view of an individual box? I would like to see all the notes for, say, Act I, in a list so that I can change them around according to what scenes will be in that Act. The adornments don't show up in Outline view, only the whole file, and it's difficult to sort out which notes belong with which Act.

Thank you in advance for your answers. By the way, since I'm so new to Tinderbox as a novel-writing tool, I would appreciate any suggestions from other writers on how they organize their writing with Tinderbox.


Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Amber Vaesca on Mar 15th, 2008, 7:48pm

The easiest way to do this would probably be to create an agent that looks for notes inside of that particular adornment. If you've never messed with agents before, they are easier than you might think. Think of them as smart-folders. You tell them what to look for, and they will keep an updated list of everything in the Tinderbox document that matches that criteria.

To make an agent, position the cursor in the outline where you wish it to be located, and from the Note menu, choose "Create agent". You'll get a dialogue box that looks roughly like the one you get when you make a new note, with important differences. First name it something useful like "Chapters in Act I"

Now we need to tell the agent what to look for. Look for the word "Query:" and note the drop-down menus. Here you can select most of the things you'll search for. You can create complicated "is this but is not like this" type statements, but for this example we only need one criteria. Ignore the first drop-down and open the second drop-down (right now it says "contains"). From that, select "inside". This will tell the agent to look for notes that "inside" other notes. It will also look for notes that have been positioned onto adornments in a map. Now type the name of the adornment. As long as the adornment is uniquely titled (there are no other notes name "Act I" in the document) you'll be okay with just that.

You should be all set, click Okay.

If all went well, the agent will have an arrow beside it denoting the presence of children. These are generated aliases which link to the original notes. Leave it open and try dragging a note in and out of the adornment and watch how the agent updates itself when the note leaves the adornment.

Now you'll note pretty quickly that this might not be doing everything you need. For one, the list is just a bunch of aliases, and you cannot change their order or anything in the agent list itself. If you drag an alias out, it will place that alias where you dragged it---but the agent will quickly create a new alias to replace the one you dragged out. But you can get back to the original note pretty easily. Cmd-R will focus on the selected alias, but I like to open a new outline view first, so that the original outline view doesn't get disturbed. So just select the alias you want to move to another Act, press Cmd-Opt-O to make a new outline focussed on the alias---and then press Cmd-R to find the original note. Now you can drag that note to a different Act if you like, between windows.

But, if things are getting messy in map view, you might want to consider converting to the use of outline structure instead of having everything on one map. That's your personal call, of course, but if it was getting to the point where the map was useless for me, I would create an outline structure.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Bernstein on Mar 16th, 2008, 9:00am

How many notes do you have?  Just wondering!

Early on, you might well want adornments to represent Act I, Act II, and Act III; you won't know whether the sinister Mrs. Higgins appears in Act I or not until in Act II, so it's nice to be able to move things back and forth quickly and fluidly.

Later, these decisions will seem more fixed.  If course Mrs. Higgins must be established late in Act I!  Once the acts are fairly fixed, and you seldom find yourself wanting to move notes between acts, it makes sense to drag all the notes from the Act I adornment into an Act I container.  There, you have a fresh map to explore the structure of the act in detail.  Perhaps now you do the same thing with scenes.  

Note that it's not hard to move things between containers -- it's just not as easy.  And there's not a simple way to express things like, "I suppose this is Act II, but maybe it's Act I"; something can be between, or near, or astride an adornment, but you're either in a container or you're not.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by John McDonnell on Mar 16th, 2008, 9:40am


I have about 100 notes, I guess. Enough that it's getting harder to keep track of them. I like your idea about using containers. I haven't tried that yet, but I'll do it.


Thanks for your suggestions. I would like to be able at some point to organize my notes in each Act, or even each scene, so that they're in the right order for the story. From what you're saying, I can't do that in Map view. I'd have to do it in Outline view. Is that right?

Also, I'm going on vacation tomorrow, and since I don't have Tinderbox installed on the laptop I'll be taking with me (and besides, it's not a MAC), I was thinking of exporting my file and printing it out so I can work on it in longhand. Would it be best to export it in Outline view?

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Amber Vaesca on Mar 16th, 2008, 4:42pm

You can certainly export everything even if it is all just organised in map view, but one of the key things with Tinderbox is that the map view does not impact outline order. In your case, this is going to be a frustration most likely, but generally it is considered a feature. :) Moving a note spatially above another note (or from left to right) does nothing to actually re-order the note in the outline. It would be too difficult for Tinderbox to try and guess what you mean by the movement. So if you have never organised anything in the outliner, you might find it is a huge mess.

Depending on how you have things organised, you could maybe sort the map container by Xpos or Ypos---but I'm guessing you probably have clusters of notes where a super-cluster (Act I) might be organised top-down from the next super-cluster, but within the cluster everything is left-right or even in a matrix. In that case, a simple sort will not work.

You could try sorting by Xpos first, and then Ypos second (or the other way around if the case may be) and see if that gets you close enough to save an hour.

Going forward, a good rule of thumb is: If you intend to export in a linear fashion where order is important, then working in Outline and using Map as embellishment is the direction to go. For example, when I was working on a book in Tinderbox, I had things organised primarily by plot thread containers, and then I would drag manually created aliases into chapter containers which were organised in act containers.  So there was one part of the outline that I could export in a linear book-order fashion, and another part that had all of the plot threads in their own order which I could export to check for continuity. I used maps within the book-order container to keep track of non-order related details.

So what I would do is create a structure like this:

- Book
   - Act I
   - Act II
   - Act III

Then select everything in the Act I adornment and drag it into the new Act I container. Likewise for the rest. Then as already suggested, use the existing spatial map as a reference to organise everything within those new containers into book-order. If sorting by Xpos+Ypos gets you close, do that before you drag notes. Use colours (if you aren't already) to make sure that everything is grouped together as it should be in the outline. By that I mean, select everything in Act I and make it bright red in the Color menu. In the Outline view, you'll see where all of those notes actually are in the Outliner. Then play with sort until everything is grouped together. You might have some other attribute that is more useful. Say if you have titled everything numerically "1. This is chapter one"---then obviously sorting by name would be useful.

If sort doesn't work out, you'll just have to do it fully manually. With 100 notes, it shouldn't take longer than an hour or so.

Once you get everything organised into the proper book-order, select the "Book" container, create a Nakakoji view, make sure "Book and contents" is selected on the left, and choose an appropriate export template. The default will just give you an indented and numbered outline. Then export and you'll have a file ready for print.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Greg McQueen on Mar 16th, 2008, 7:03pm

Hi John,

I've had Tinderbox for a while, but still consider myself a newbie! This is partly because (like yourself) I started using the Map View exclusively for notes and writing scenes and chapters. I used Tinderbox like a visual brain storming tool, creating Adornments and Container Notes to gather my writing "on screen" as though arranging physical bits of paper. This approach made me drop Tinderbox a couple of times because I found that once I had lots of notes they became overwhelming to look at. I found that I started spending time moving them around, trying to arrange them so they made sense visually. I wasn't using Agents, Prototypes, Attributes, or any of the stuff that actually makes Tinderbox such a great tool for writing! Switching to Outline View was the key--it isn't as constricting as you might think. That then encouraged me to figure out how to set up Attributes and Prototypes, which then put me onto using Agents to gather stuff for me. Here's my set up for the novel I am currently revising:

I have different Prototypes for Notes, Reminders, Chapter Containers, and Chapter Drafts. So, the Container for Chapter One has the Rough Draft of that chapter, plus the Revised Draft, and also the Final Draft (three versions of the same chapter). Each draft is colour coded using a Prototype. I have Grey for Rough, Green for Revised, and Red for Final. Those prototypes also have a numerical Attribute called ChapterNumber too. This is because I have set up Agents to gather each draft. The Rough Draft Agent is set to gather any note with the Prototype of Rough Draft, and arrange them in order of ChapterNumber (and the same goes for Revised Draft etc.)

I have the body of my novel in a Container marked Manuscript, and inside that are all the Chapter Containers with the actual chapter drafts inside them. As I am revising my novel, I'm restructuring it, so the Manuscript Container actually looks really messy because I am moving the chapters and notes up and down the outline as I revise. If I were doing this in Map View, I think I'd have lost track ages ago! I'd also probably be on the verge of going insane! But, because I am using Outline View in combo with Agents, Tinderbox is keeping me sane because my Rough Draft Agent is keeping my initial draft together, and I can see and compare it to the emerging structure of my Revised Draft because that is displayed in an Agent too.

As far as Notes (as in my notes) and Reminders go, I have those in a Reminders Container. Other than that, I haven't put any order on that chaos yet--it is just a hit list of things I need to remember.

I am also using Display Expression (thanks to Mark's great advice!) to display word counts for each draft, and an approximate page count.

Go Outline View, John. You won't look back once you do!

Kindest regards

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Bernstein on Mar 17th, 2008, 4:39pm

I think it's important to mention here that you can work BOTH in map and in outline view.  

In fact, you can keep a bunch of different windows open on the same document at the same time.  So, even when I'm brainstorming in maps, I can keep an outline of my references handy (and automatically alphabetized, so I can find things).

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Greg McQueen on Mar 19th, 2008, 9:21am

Actually I've just tried out having my Reminders Container in Map View under my Manuscript Container in Outline View. That way, I have a window where I can just write ideas or reminders as they occur like scribbling a Post-it. I realize that's not a ground breaking discovery. But, I just wanted to share what I've done after reading Mark's posting on using different views in Tinderbox together.


Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by John McDonnell on Mar 25th, 2008, 11:02am

I have another very basic question about Views. The adornments that I create in Map View, which contain scenes and acts for my novel, are not visible in Outline View, right? Unless I'm missing something, I can't find Act I, II, etc. when I switch to Outline view. Would I need to create a prototype in Outline view to do this? I think the problem I'm having is that I did most of my work in Map view, and now I have a jumble of notes in Outline view with no structure to them.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Anderson on Mar 25th, 2008, 11:34am

Adornments are indeed citizens of Map view only. Assuming your Act adornments are setting a user attribute such as ActNumber, then you could make an Agent for each Act on outline view. agent for Act 1 would use query:
depending on how you set the attribute's value as a number or text.

You can still use your map adornments to (re-)set the Act whilst the outline view agents will automatically hold a list of aliases to all the relevant notes.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Greg McQueen on Mar 26th, 2008, 8:06am

Hi John,

In Outline View you can set a note to be a Separator. I indicate the end of Acts with Separators, or sections of the narrative that I feel need to marked. I also use a Separator as a "bookmark" to show where I am in the novel as I am revising it.

You make a Separator in Outline View by creating a normal note, call it say End of Act One, then click a tick in the box that is called Separator (just under and to the left of where you pick the colour for the note when you create it.) As with Adornments in Map View, Separators are only visible in Outline View.


Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Anderson on Mar 26th, 2008, 10:13am

If you'd like your separator to just be a simple line, that's OK too, just leave the note title blank and accept the warning about dupe names if you use more than separator this way.

A tangential note of correction - separators are actually visible in all major views except Map view (i.e. Chart & Treemap as well as outline) though they don't have any useful visual purpose outside Outline.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Bernstein on Mar 26th, 2008, 11:10am

Actually, Tinderbox won't give a warning about separators with duplicate names.  (And separators in charts and treemaps are probably npt useful; they may well be hidden in the future.

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Anderson on Mar 26th, 2008, 12:31pm

Mea culpa - faulty memory. I should have done an explicit test!

Title: Re: Very basic question about novel organization
Post by Mark Anderson on Mar 26th, 2008, 4:37pm

Separators are indeed gone from Chart and Treemap views in v4.2.3, just released!

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