Designing for Writing (Plottr then Scrivener)

Plottr: Screen Capture of a story design – The chapters (across the top) have been renamed to the Seven Points. And along the “Main Plot” (line), each one’s description has been entered.

Plotters plan a story’s major events, then they write using that guide. (Pantsers, on the other hand, simply jump right in to the writing and “see where it goes.”)

I’ve mentioned the Seven Point System in other posts. For additional details, use the Search box (at to find all the links.

The screen capture above is from a story-design tool called Plottr. It provides a nice visual representation of a story’s structure. In the above screen capture, the top row of boxes are the “points” in the Seven Point System: Hook, Plot Turn 1, Pinch 1, and so forth. And in the second row, I’ve sketched their contents into the “Main Plot” line. (“MC POV” means “Main Character’s Point of View.” In the “Narrator POV” scenes, those will be told by an outsider observing the action.)

At this point, I haven’t decided on anyone’s name so “X” is the main character, “Y” is the object of his lust, and “Z” is his wife.

When I’m rsatisfied with the design, Plottr will “export” a Scrivener project. Here’s the result.

Scrivener view of Plottr’s “export”.

In Scrivener’s Outline View (click the fifth icon from the right in the top row), this is what you get.

In the Binder (left-most column), I’ve expanded the “Manuscript” to show each of the Chapters (Hook, Plot Turn 1, Pinch 1, etc.) and, in each, the scene is from the Main Plot line from Plottr.

For this story, my gut feel is it will be short, a few thousand words at most. Definitely not a novel (typically 70,000 or more words). By convention, short stories usually don’t have chapters. Instead, they have one or more scenes, but that’s the only division. (These sometimes are shown as extra white-space between paragraphs but, other times, there’s no visible division.)

To represent this, I moved (drag-and-drop) all the scenes in the Binder up to the Manuscript folder and then deleted (moved to the Trash) all the Chapter folders. Compare the Binder in this and the previous screen capture to see what the result.

Scrivener Corkboard View after Rearranging.

This view, the Corkboard View (sixth icon from the right in the top row), shows the 3×5 cards for the Seven Points. The title boxes from Plottr generate the top, bold-face line in each card, and the descriptions (from Plottr) show up as each scene’s Synopsis in Scrivener.

FYI: In the Notes folder (middle of the Binder in the left-hand column), the titles of the Character, Places, and Notes folders also came across from Plottr. These contain additional details I typed up in those areas to Plottr. In the future, I’ll probably promote the “Characters” folder to the top-level and add quite a bit more detail including names and pictures for the characters as well as their personal ticks and aberrations.

I’m ready to spew some text into Scrivener.

Scrivener in “Scrivening’s Mode” and ready for my writing of the first draft.

Here’s the Scrivener’s writing interface I prefer. It’s called “Scrivening’s Mode.” (Seventh icon from the right in the top view AND “Manuscript” selected in the Binder.)

In the central editor, here’s a dashed divider line between each of the (currently empty) areas for the seven scenes. I clicked the mouse in the first one as that’s where I’ll start writing. Notice that, because of that click, the first scene in the Binder is indicated (light-grey background) and, on the far right, the Inspector shows that scene’s title and Description (from Plottr). I’ll begin writing the body of that scene after reviewing the Synopsis.

When I’m done with that scene, or if inspiration pushes me to a different place (scene) in the story, I’ll click the cursor into that scene. Scrivener will, similar to above, indicate the scene (in the Binder) and display its title and Synopsis in the Inspector on the right.

Most of the time, I write from front to back. But every now and then, a thought will come up and I’ll jump to a different spot in the story to jot down a detail before going back and finishing a scene.

After the first draft is written, I’ll put the story down for a couple of days and then re-read it. I’ll start adding (Scrivener) Comments that’ll be visible to me but not in the print copy, and then following up with changes, insertions, deletions, and so forth.

As a general rule, I’d say that for this work, Plottr facilitates the first part, about one or two percent of the overall effort. The writing of the first draft in Scrivener will fill the next twenty to thirty percent of my total effort. And the remaining time (seventy to eighty percent of my time) will be spent in the edit and polish stage.

For a novel, those percentages will change. Plottr will still be a useful first step but, in the overall measure of effort, while its contribution is significant, the time I’ll spend with Plottr will become tiny, the first draft time will shrink, and the edit time will balloon.

Plottr helps. Scrivener helps. But, as with reality shows on TV, it’s all in the editing.

4 thoughts on “Designing for Writing (Plottr then Scrivener)

  1. I’m not sure the seven point system was in the original edition of Syd Field’s Screenplay, but it had midpoint and plot points. I think it had pinch points, but those might have come in a later edition. That was first released in 1978. (I’ve seen references to both 1978 and 1979.)

    The Star Trek roleplaying game mentioned is the second one: not FASA but later. (Decipher maybe? I’ll post a follow-up after I’ve checked. I can’t be sure — I haven’t read that one either — but I think there’s a pretty strong case for the seven point system being some iteration of Syd Field’s paradigm.

    • Looking at the revised (2005) paperback edition, Syd Field mentions the two major Plot Points several times. He wrote, “The Plot Points at the end of Acts I and II are there to hook in the action and spin it around in another direction” on page 151 in one such reference. And on page 212 he says, “The Mid-Point … occurs around page 60 [the middle of a screenplay].”
      However, the two pinches in the Seven Point system are not specifically mentioned, nor are the Resolution or Hook named in that book.
      (Mr. Field also places great emphasis on the “Inciting Event,” so much so that I added to my personal system. I try to make it appear in the first paragraph or, ideally, in the first sentence. Were it numbered, that would be the first of [then] eight points.)
      In Star Trek: Role Playing Game, Narrator’s Guide (first printing, 2002) the Three-Act Model appears on page 52 in a box at the bottom of that page.
      (I quote)
      Plot Turn 1
      Pinch 1
      Pinch 2
      Plot Turn 2
      (end of quote)
      The accompanying text provides more detail.
      Unless I’ve missed it, however, the authors provide no reference to the origin of this structure.
      But after taking Syd Field’s advice to critically watch several movies, I can attest to the commonality of the structure and the placement of the two Plot Points. It would be hard, therefore, to deny the significance of Mr. Field’s contribution.
      If someone finds an earlier source of some or all of the so-called Seven Points, I welcome any amplifications or corrections.

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