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Notes For A Novel, revisited (Read 12840 times)
Mark Bernstein
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Notes For A Novel, revisited
Sep 30th, 2011, 6:13pm
 
One of the best Tinderbox Forum threads of all time was kicked off by Jeff Abbott’s  query about "Notes For A Novel"

    http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/forum//YaBB.pl?num=1199812821

I'd like to revisit this again. Have you been using Tinderbox to plan a book or story?  What works for you?
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #1 - Oct 4th, 2011, 9:54am
 
I'm surprised there has not yet been a response to Mark's request to get this topic started again. I wish I were writing a novel and could comment on the process. I will make this remotely related comment and inquiry, however:

I have a project in which I have to take a fairly long manuscript for a nonfiction book and -- well, make it actually readable. This original manuscript reads like a collection of research notes pasted together in chronological order, with transition provided by well-worn cliches. My task, as I see it, is to change the timeline to give the narrative more dramatic punch, and to re-write the weak sentences.

My original workflow concept for this was to parse the manuscript into its valuable information nuggets (because the original author is a historian and knows the subject well -- he's just not a good writer) using Tinderbox, restructure it in Tinderbox, then export to Scrivener for the polishing of the writing. However, I remain fairly intimidated by Tinderbox's export functionality, and I am not certain I can quickly and easily get all those individual pieces (there will be hundreds of them) into Scrivener in the order I want them. So I think I can do this job almost as effectively just using Scrivener from start to finish.

My question is, does anyone use Tinderbox as I originally intended for this project, and can you describe your method in some detail?

Thank you.
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #2 - Oct 4th, 2011, 9:56am
 
I should add that the original manuscript has a lot of redundancy -- quotes from participant basically rehashing the same details. So I will also need to be able to choose the best quotes and or bits of information.
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Mark Anderson
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #3 - Oct 4th, 2011, 10:57am
 
Steve, since 2008 I think TB -> Scrivener export has got a lot easier not least due to a number of incremental improvements to Tb's OPML export. You might want to try this demo TBX (unzipped TBX so a right-click 'Save As' might work best for download). I can't comment directly on Scrivener as I don't have the latter!
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #4 - Oct 4th, 2011, 1:10pm
 
First, compared to the work of editing a large and difficult manuscript like this, even manually copying the edited text from Tinderbox to Scrivener would be a small chore.  A tedious afternoon or two is your worst case scenario.

As Mark Anderson says, you won't have to do even that; we've got some good techniques for exporting to and from Scrivener via OPML.  If the off-the-shelf solution doesn't do what you need, I expect you'll find lots of willing help here.

And -- much as I hate to talk about unfinished features and research projects that might not pan out -- we're working on some new links to Scrivener. Not ready yet, but I think they might well be ready in plenty of time for your book.
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #5 - Oct 4th, 2011, 2:13pm
 
Okay. I'll trust that I can get the manuscript successfully from Tinderbox to Scrivener. I'm also interested in knowing if others have used Tbx in this way and what strategies they used. For example, would it be wiser to rely upon attributes to classify the manuscript chunks, or to drop them into containers?

I guess what I'm thinking is this is a gradual narrowing process, which is probably going to require a combination of containers and attributes, with the help of agents. I'll have to have some broad organization using containers as I start, just to keep the chaos manageable. But I'll also want to have attributes to track things such as time-frame and point of view. I'll also want to have an attribute to rate the narrative value of each passage.

So I'm also looking for any insights, if anyone has any experience with this type of project.

Thanks!
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #6 - Oct 4th, 2011, 2:35pm
 
I've done some work like this, and prefer to use a mixture of attributes and containers.  

I often use agents both to set attributes I might have overlooked, and to create ad hoc lists of related notes.

Over time, as the work's shape becomes clear, on gradually moves from attributes to containers. Avoid starting out with too much infrastructure, though; getting your hands on the text is important, and you can always add more formal structure later on.
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Derek Van Ittersum
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #7 - Oct 6th, 2011, 8:45am
 
I wonder if Tom Webster's screencast on qualitative analysis might yield some useful methods: http://brandsavant.com/processing-qualitative-research-data-with-tinderbox/

His task is to take huge amounts of interview data, locate important chunks, and derive meaning from initially disconnected bits.

I've had a lot of luck with this "smart adornment" method, even taking it further to use adornments to tag notes, and then whisk them to some other area of the map to prevent clutter.
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #8 - Oct 6th, 2011, 10:20am
 
For things like reviewing relative values (if the narrative value attribute is numerical) remember container plots. If you're thinking, "But I'm using a map - there's no container", don't forget an agent is also a container.  Set a query to find the notes of relevance, sort as required and you're ready to plot the data.
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Hugh
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #9 - Oct 6th, 2011, 10:36am
 
I'm "between outlines". By that I mean that I used Tbx to plan a piece of longform writing some months ago, and I'd like to use it again for the same purpose with a different piece of writing in some months' time. Meantime, I'm writing the work.

And that's an issue. My use of Tbx wasn't especially sophisticated last time round, and, given the capabilities of the software, I'd like to advance my understanding next time. But given also the time interval, I've now forgotten quite a bit of what I learnt. This, I fancy, must be different for whose who use the application every day.

Hmm...
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #10 - Oct 6th, 2011, 12:36pm
 
The hard part is learning to think about the work, to express those ideas in maps and outlines, and then to get those maps and outlines into prose.

Once you know what you're doing, the mechanics are easy -- and they'll come back faster than you think.
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #11 - Oct 7th, 2011, 2:48pm
 
Derek,

Thank you for the link to Tom Webster's screencast. That is extremely helpful for my project. In fact, it actually makes me enthusiastic to tackle this thankless job.

Steve
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #12 - Oct 8th, 2011, 8:25am
 
I'm trying to implement some of the techniques demonstrated by Tom Webster in his screencast, but I'm running into a problem. I can't get the outline view to scroll downward, so I am not getting access to any of the notes that are not at the top of the list. Is there a practical limit to the number of notes that can be handled in the outline? I must have a couple of thousand, each of which has a title of a sentence to five or six sentences. Would this cause the problem?

Thank you.

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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Notes For A Novel, revisited
Reply #13 - Oct 8th, 2011, 9:06am
 
At present, the total height of an outline is limited to 16383 pixels -- about ten feet.  That amounts to ten feet of scrolling and once seemed ample, and for most purposes it is: scrolling is a lousy interface for such long lists.

But it's possible to hit the limit, as it seems you have.

Just tuck your outline into a few sublists and collapse the ones you aren't using right now. You'll have an order of magnitude (or more) of extra working room. (Zooming out to a smaller magnification is another option).
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