A Roadmap For Your Private Wonderland

I really coulda, shoulda, woulda finished the first scene of Part Five, Chapter Fifteen last night, but I didn’t?  Why?  I was crashing hard by the time I made it just past a thousand words for the evening.  I had perhaps a few hundred more words to go before finishing the scene, but when your head is in danger of falling onto the keyboard, you recognize your limitations and stop what you’re doing.

Today is another travel day, however–I’m heading back to The Burg in about four hours–and I’ll have ample opportunity to finish up at one of my two stops along the way.  Maybe after I finish the scene I can work up the names of the five students who are suppose to be in the Advance Spells class using the Name Generator in Scrivener.  I know two of the students; I need three more.

That’s a great feature in Scrivener, and the newest release–just out a few weeks ago–has a time saving feature that will save your life if you write ebooks:  Scrivener has made it easy to create a table of contents.

I’ve had to create table of contents for two books, one of them a novel, and it is the one thing that I’ve truly, truly hated.  Now, you don’t have to throw a table of contents into your ebook, but if you are a writer who comes up with insanely long stories–slowly raising hand, I am–having to build the links by hand could turn into an enormous pain in the ass–as it was when I built one for Her Demonic Majesty, and spent nearly a day and a half getting it right.

How easy is it to build a table of contents in Scrivener?  Being that I’m a nice girl, I’m gonna show you.

Lets start out with a quick look at my binder.  To start out you need to set up a file, probably up in the front after your copyright notation, that your readers will find right away.

Right up there under the Big Red Book.

Right up there under the Big Red Book.

Nothing fancy in there:  keep the margins, the font, and the spacing the same as the rest of scenes.

Since I’d like a lot of scenes for my example, I’ll table up Act One, because if there ever was nightmare fuel for a writer, it’s dreaming about having to build the table of contents for that one hundred and fifty thousand word monstrosity.

Whatever gave you the idea there was a lot here?

Whatever gave you the idea there was a lot here?

Given how many scenes you have in your story, you can either start building from your binder on the left, or from outline view in the middle of the screen.  What you need to do here is open up all your folders:  Acts, Parts, Chapters, Scenes under Scenes–you have to be able to select everything you’re going to use to created your Table of Contents, because programs are funny in that they do exactly what you tell them to do, and if you select an unopened folder, then that location is all you’ll get in the ToC.

Right now I have every folder in Act One of my story open.  What I do now is highlight the first item I’m going to select for my Table of Contents:

Act One seems like a good place to start.

Act One seems like a good place to start.

And then, with a bit of magic almost worthy of my students, scroll down to the last entry you want to put into your Table of Contents, hold down the Shift Key, and use your mouse to highlight that last entry.  Everything in-between gets selected.

Yes, I really did want all that.

Yes, I really did want all that.

While you have it all highlighted, go up to your menu.  Select Edit > Copy Special > Copy Documents as Scrivener Links.  With that little act you’ve just saved yourself about five hours of misery–or at least I have.

Really, it's just like magic.  Or something close to that.

Really, it’s just like magic. Or something close to that.

What do I do next.  Go into the text file I’m going to use as my Table of Contents.  Open it–

Table empty--

Table empty–

And now Paste what you copied.

Table Full.

Table Full.

Now, you’ll see there are a few things in the table that appear to be duplicates.  This is because I’ve also selected folders along with text files:  remember, you’ll grab everything when you do this copy.  So how do I know what I want to keep and what I want to delete?  Simple:  click on the link.

I certanly don't want this--

I certainly don’t want this–

As you can see I clicked the first Act One, and what I got was the folder itself, showing me the filed under.  Scrivener automatically went into split screen mode when I clicked, so no need to do that yourself.

Since that first link isn’t the title page, I’ll click the second one:

Yeah, this is more like it.

Yeah, this is more like it.

Since I don’t need that first Act One, I can simply delete it out of my table.  And since I set up my story in an Act, Part, Chapter, Scene format, I’ll know that the first of every duplicate is a folder, and I can delete them.

There, all nice and clean.

There, all nice and clean.

If you’ve ever wondered why I put a title on every scene I write, it’s for two reasons.  One, it’s metadata giving me a hint as to what happens in the scene, and two–it’s there to help build my table of contents.  Which Scrivener has done for me.  And I know the links work because I can click on them and the program takes me to where I want to go.

It's almost like getting a Special Invitation.

It’s almost like getting a Special Invitation.

The last thing to do is, if you are of a mind, is to pretty up your Table of Contents by indenting your entries.  I usually set them a quarter of an inch inward based upon what they are:  part, chapter, scene.  You can even indent the subscenes if you want to roll that way.

There we are, all nice and neat.

There we are, much prettier, don’t you think?

The great thing is I can leave this Act One information in place, and add Act Two later.  Or, since I intend on splitting the novel into three separate stories as ebooks, I can set up individual Table of Contents for each act/book, and then combine them later when I decide to release this monster as one novel for people who just wanna read it all in one place.  After all, that’s the nice thing about ebooks:  one novel or three combined, it all looks the same on your reader.

But getting from place to place in that incredible wonderland you created is a lot easier if you have a good roadmap.