Organization

Da
David G.
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Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:47 pm Post

Organization

I am posting this here in case someone else can share ideas about some of the things that are troubling me about organization and writing.

By organization I am referring to external structure rather than organizing my writing specifically. I have an extreme amount of difficulty with sequencing and memory. This is from several head injuries I received years ago in the service. I have to relearn a systematic approach to the things I am working on an then, learn how to follow the approach.

I was just introduced to a new idea called “stop notes” where you put a sticky note on your written page saying what you were thinking and also what you are thinking of doing next in the idea. I am also working hard at creating and maintaining a key file with tags that tell me what each tag is doing and why and where I would want to use it. There may be other ideas that I am open to hearing about.

I write new thoughts more quickly in a journal that is almost always with me, but I do most of my work on the Mac. I have been using programs that are good at finding things using tags, HoudahSpot, and Leap. I have a license for DevonThink although it has felt too complex to use for some time, I am trying it out again. I recently got a license for NeoFinder but I may have done that too soon, as NeoFinder does not appear to be very good at rendering text previews which I find to be a deal breaker.

I tried building my own database app once long ago. My hope was to have a single app where I could work on a project from start to finish, keep stop notes in, and stay focused on my book. I finally gave up as it was taking way to much time and focus to learn the database structure.

I am wondering, if such an app exists? At least I am currently tracking the project I am now working on. But keeping track of other projects, forget it. Setting realistic goals means leaving crisis management to not forget where I am in case I have to take a break and come back to it (happens all the time of course).

I guess what I am looking for is some sort of writers management and goal keeping tool. Has anyone heard of any such animal or, has anyone else had to tame this beast besides me?

And, full disclosure, I have had a license for Scrivener now for several years. I have used it when I was trying to track everything until it got out of hand due to my own thinking processes. That really wasn’t the best use of Scrivener. I am using TaskPaper for my writing as it helps me put together ideas and sort and combine them very easily. I am also using Nisus, a Word Processor for drafts I am sharing with others. I know that Scrivener can do a lot, that is why I have kept up its license over the years. Perhaps there is a way to do some of what I am asking if I start learning to use Scrivener for my writing. I am open to that conversation as well.

Thanks.

St
StarDog2
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:34 pm Post

Would Microsoft Word's ability to annotate your text be useful? I'm a Windows guy, so I don't know what the Mac versions are capable of, but that is the direction of thought your post has sent me.

I like Scrivener for Windows for planning, but I prefer to write with something else,

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kewms
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:50 pm Post

I'd suggest having a look at an application called "Agenda," It's fundamentally a "journal" application, but it has a lot of features for tagging notes, organizing them into "projects," assigning future action dates, and so on. I use it as a combination idea file and organizer, with notes about people I need to interview. topics I want to research, and so on. It's got lower overhead than either Scrivener or DevonThink -- both of which I use and love -- and seems to me to have a better interface than Evernote, which is probably its closest competitor. Mac and iOS.
https://agenda.com/

Katherine
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kewms
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:00 pm Post

Scrivener itself has a lot of metadata features that you may find useful. For instance, I use inline annotations extensively for notes to myself about things I need to check later. One way to implement "stop notes" might be to create a new document in the Binder when you're ready to stop, with the notes stored in either the Synopsis or the Document Notes field. Between keywords, the Status field, and custom metadata, there are lots of ways to keep track of what kind of "thing" a particular document is and what you intended to do with it.

I agree that DevonThink can be overwhelming. One under-appreciated feature that might be relevant for you is its support for Wiki-style links. You can drop such a link wherever you like, and DevonThink will automatically find and link to the relevant document if it exists. It also has a very powerful "See Also" feature: just select some text, and it will find any other documents in the database that are "similar." Their forums are full of very helpful people who can probably offer more detailed suggestions.

Katherine
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lunk
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:31 pm Post

Agenda is a really clever app. I have used it since the start and it has made my life a lot easier. Their next step is to integrate it with Apples Reminders app, which will make it even better! I use it extensively for part of my professional work, for everything that is closely related to calendar appointments.

But I am not using Agenda as my to-do app. For that, for keeping track of my planned projects and such I use the 2Do app, also available for both Mac OS and iOS. I used to use Wunderlist, which is a much cleaner and simpler to-do app. I also used Scrivener for a while for keeping track of project ideas etc, but I sometimes need to be reminded about stuff, and that's what I use 2Do for. Not day-to-day reminders like of "Call Tom" but more like "work on this project should start 1 August and be done by 31 October". It has tags, notes, start dates, due dates, have projects organised in lists, have subtasks, etc., and it has a rather sophisticated search engine built in. So in a sense it's kind of a database for projects.

https://www.2doapp.com

Maybe that's what you are looking for?
I am a user, writing non-fiction and science, using:
* Mac Scrivener 3 on a Macbook 12”, MacBook Pro 13”, and iMac 27”, all running Mojave.
* iOS Scrivener 1 on an iPhone 11 Pro, iPad Air 9.7”, and iPad Pro 12.9”, all running the latest iOS

Da
David G.
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 10:00 pm Post

Thanks for weighing in. I am now testing Agenda, we shall see how it goes.

I am looking at Scrivener again and I am surprised that I feel more confident in using it than I did the last time. I enjoy writing out my draft ideas using TaskPaper. My first book has gotten large enough and clear enough that it is time to put it into Scrivener - to see of Scrivener will work out for me.

I still need to keep several sections as separate categories within my book. And at the same time, I need to keep en overview of the overall story to make sure that everything is sticking together

I am resisting looking at too many Scrivener features all at once. I think that has been a downfall for me in the past. Not just with Scrivener, but learning in general to take things in bite size pieces.

It could turn out that Scrivener itself will aid me in my quest to organize - at least with a written project. My mistake with Scrivener in the past was to try and use it for organizing everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING. For me that was not a great use of Scrivener. Now that I am focused on a single book and I am actually hard at i, Scrivener makes more sense.

Who knew. ;-)

mb
mbbntu
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Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:30 am Post

@David G. Just so you know my background (which does not necessarily mean what I say will be useful) I have a PhD in psychology, some training as a counsellor/psychotherapist, and long experience of undergoing psychoanalysis/psychotherapy.

Everyone has to find what works for them, and I believe that the process of finding what works is very valuable, because I tend to see the "writer/hardware/software/tasks-to-be-undertaken" as a sort of system in which all of the components interact with each other. (Sorry if that sounds needlessly complex, but I think it is part of the reason why other people's recommendations don't always work out for us -- their system is inevitably different.) So I would say don't be afraid to think about what makes up your particular system, and don't try to use someone else's "off the shelf". I don't want this to sound too high-flown, but in a sense in this process you are as much creating yourself as you are creating written works.

I find that lists don't work very well for me, because I need visual elements to help me. This may be partly because of the Picture Superiority Effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_superiority_effect. This leads me to make use of mind maps for organisation, and here I find iThoughts particularly useful because it offers functions to insert timings and priorities: https://www.toketaware.com. You might also find a use for Ghostnote, which allows you to attach stickies to almost anything on your computer: https://www.ghostnoteapp.com. Finally, if you want some ideas about organising and keeping track of work, you might find it interesting to look at the Zettelkasten site: https://zettelkasten.de. There is a lot of very deep discussion about the whole problem of knowledge work, and even if you don't use many of the ideas, the contributions are though-provoking.

Best of luck with it,
Martin.

PS: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/11/22/the-act-of-drawing-something-has-a-massive-benefit-for-memory-compared-with-writing-it-down/
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

mb
mbbntu
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Fri Apr 19, 2019 9:01 am Post

@David G. You may also find this discussion useful: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=257842#p257842
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

Da
David G.
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Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:39 pm Post

Thanks for weighing in. I will take the time to digest your suggestions.

It is very true in my experience that, as you say, we all learn differently. My collected experiences and what I have been able to understand and overcome from understanding my own limitations is a large part of what I am writing about. From this POV, what I am aiming for is more of a Road Less Traveled book idea than an autobiography.

As my primary TBI (head injury) is closely linked to a major traumatic event, it has been extremely challenging to face, overcome, and relearn organizational lessons that, prior to the accident, I was extremely good at doing. I have been working with several OTs (Occupational Therapists) to get a better understanding of some strategies that I can try out, keep, or discard. I am learning my own learning style.

I find that I do best when I take the time to write things out, and then edit like crazy. The more I write out what I have not wanted to face, the more cathartic a process this becomes. The more this happens, the clearer my thoughts become.

Because this is my current process, TaskPaper https://www.taskpaper.com has been invaluable. TaskPaper was not really made for the way that I use it. It was made as a text based calendar and todo app. I use it because it allows me to put in tags and create searches easily as well as to collapse and expand sections of my document to focus in on for a section without distraction.

My TaskPaper document has gotten large enough, mature enough, that I am now moving it to Scrivener. This is a first as I was moving to Nisus as my word processor at this point.

But, as I mentioned, Scrivener, like most things, seems to work best when you have a purpose in mind that you want to use it for. When I first got a Scrivener license, I knew that I was a writer, but I was still years away from understanding the blocks within myself I had to overcome before I could do that.

I seem to do best when I have a large whiteboard in my creative room. Right now I have a small one with a few dry erase markers. I think I am going to put up a very large one similar to the ones I have seen in businesses. I find that feeling the freedom to write by hand and not worrying about writing mistakes (dry erase is easy to correct), does give me that, hand to eye, eye to mind, mind to memory symmetry that is good for memory. If I leave it up on the board for a few days, that is OK too. But when I write out an idea like this and it stays in my field of vision (and it was an important idea) then, I will put it into my Mac, and erase it from the board.

When I enter things into journals that I usually carry, I have to remember to open the journal to look up what I put in it. For some reason, for me, this is very difficult to do. With my TBI, out of site is literally out of mind.

I am writing a draft for this post in the app that I most often use for day to day notes, NVAlt https://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/. This is been a great little app for being able to do fast searches for notes.

Oddly enough, I have been unable to appreciate the mind mapping software that I have tried on the Mac. Several apps I have can do this, Scapple https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple/overview, Curio https://www.zengobi.com/curio/, Xmind https://www.xmind.net, etc. For some reason the linear part of my ability to understand a thing is not functional - at least not on the Mac. I seem to think in patterns and I am quite good at seeing associations that others were not seeing. Mind mapping is an example of this. Even when using visual cues in a mind map, I am still creating a linear structure. When I write large on a whiteboard I will use mind mapping some times as I very much enjoy thinking visually.

There is a concept here that I do not have a name for but the idea is that, it is very hard to multitask to the point of trying to understand how a piece of software works can completely destroy the reason I was trying to use it in the first place. That is, when I start using Scapple or other mind mapping software, I have to start remembering the rules it uses to function - even the simplest of rules. As soon as I do this I am way off the point of just picking up a marker and starting to draw on the board what was occurring in my mind in that moment. Maybe that is why I enjoy outlining by writing out my ideas and then sifting through my words to find the actual outline. Writing, happens. Little or no distraction between the insight and the idea arriving on paper, on a whiteboard, or on a mac screen, is best.

So far it seems that only by writing out my thoughts will things start to become evident and then, order starts to emerge. I am not complaining. I am glad that, after so many years of struggling, something is finally working.

“Allow yourself to go to that sacred place within yourself where you keep the treasure that is called by your name”. - Virginia Satir

hu
huguatrix
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Thu May 02, 2019 5:04 pm Post

I've been intrigued by your question, David, and everyone's thoughts. (Of course I'm playing with Agenda and Ghostnotes now too...)

I'm wondering if something like a writing log in a single document might be an idea. I use a research log to track my research explorations so that I have a bit of a trail of what and where I've searched, and what I've found. (I still get lost!)

I found an old Scrivener file called Masterlist that I'm pretty sure I got from this site, eons ago. It was developed to keep track of writing projects, notes and ideas, as well as submissions. It's quite straightforward and easily adaptable.

I adapted it slightly and added a Daily Log document, with instructions on how to view the log as you write. My thinking, based on my getting lost and having to retrace my writing and research steps and thoughts, is that a single log document might be the most helpful.

I also added a Keyword Log document, in case that's useful (my particular bugaboo: I'm having to corral way too many synonyms for the same concept (!)).

Masterlist.scriv.zip
An adapted version of a file from LitnLatte, from eons ago?
(294.75 KiB) Downloaded 40 times


Another thought I had: I use brackets to note points as I'm writing, for something I need to investigate or think about later, but when I need to keep writing. Scrivener annotations are very nifty, but often I just like to type [NeedsName] or [TK (to know)] or [Whatever] and keep going. Then I can scan the document quickly, or do a Project Search for "[TK" (or just the bracket "["). (I'm writing fiction, not code or anything using brackets in other contexts.)

So, within your text you could make a note like this: [May 2 12:45 pm: wrote re: xxx; next = zzz]. Or something like that. Including the date and time might help you with placing, and later searching for, the note and your thoughts. If you wanted to get fancy, you could copy that bracketed stop note into your log document so you have a running log.

Since this is old-school and without the automation that Scrivener's annotations or comments afford, you'd have to manually find and remove the bracketed notes. Scrivener's annotations/comments can be printed or hidden on command.

I'd be curious to see what system ends up working for you. All best.

-Marianne

Da
David G.
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Thu May 02, 2019 6:10 pm Post

huguatrix wrote:I've been intrigued by your question, David, and everyone's thoughts. (Of course I'm playing with Agenda and Ghostnotes now too...)

I'm wondering if something like a writing log in a single document might be an idea. I use a research log to track my research explorations so that I have a bit of a trail of what and where I've searched, and what I've found. (I still get lost!)

I found an old Scrivener file called Masterlist that I'm pretty sure I got from this site, eons ago. It was developed to keep track of writing projects, notes and ideas, as well as submissions. It's quite straightforward and easily adaptable.

I adapted it slightly and added a Daily Log document, with instructions on how to view the log as you write. My thinking, based on my getting lost and having to retrace my writing and research steps and thoughts, is that a single log document might be the most helpful.

I also added a Keyword Log document, in case that's useful (my particular bugaboo: I'm having to corral way too many synonyms for the same concept (!)).

Masterlist.scriv.zip
Thanks for weighing in. I will download and look at your MasterList. I think what I have learned is, as you mentioned, to keep a log. Not daily perhaps, but at least a key file so that I have a handle on all the ideas that I have so that my searches can become more consistent.

I am learning that, the way I write, and the way I think, is up to me, and only me. This applies not only to content but to the way I used tools to achieve my goals. I recently learned this again the hard way from posting here on the Scrivener forum, I posted that it would help my way of processing much better if the various style menus for formatting were all in one place such as the side bar or in a floating palette. I did not gain a lot of sympathy for my position. Instead, the thread was filling with little arguments and criticisms for my even mentioning it so … I had to drop it. We all work the way each of us works.

It did help me to realize that Scrivener is not the end all of writing. I have learned that Scrivener is not always used by everyone for output for editors and such. I had not been aware of this. Scrivener is something I am seeing as a good tool for writing and, it may not necessarily be a good tool in the way I want to be able to use it for formatting and output.

I have learned that it is up to me to have more than one app that can help me with what I need instead of keeping hoping that someday I will find that one magic app that can do it all. Scrivener seems to be good at writing by allowing each section to be accessed in the Binder and then developed fully. As I complete sections I will start to get a better understanding of how it will all fit together.

My first Mac program was “ACT!”. It was a PIM program (Personal Information Management). I later customized a Windows version of ACT! for an organization I was doing team bulking with. I had a custom background and set up some custom templates so they could create new RFPs for client’s (Response For Proposals) and track all their calls, letters, and tasks as well as have all the contact information for the company in one place. I suppose this is the idea that I would like to see fulfilled in my organization with my writing and my many other projects.

TaskPaper will likely remain my favorite tool for brainstorming and collecting an idea.
Scrivener is now at the middle point of my writing process.
When I get a working draft I will probably copy it into Nisus and format it the way I like it.
NVAlt is my go to app for keeping notes.
BusyCal is my calendaring app where I put my appointments and create custom lists for calendar sets.

NVAlt can be set to save it’s individual notes as text files which allows me to tag information that can always be found using Houdahspot. I have been using HoudahSpot for a long time and I like the way I can build and save custom searches in HS. By building a menu system within HS I have started to get a better handle on what needs to be done.

I have had a license for DevonThink for a while now, although I have never taken to it. I tried using NeoFinder, but it too was lacking for my needs. HoudahSpot is good as it does searches in real time as opposed to DevonThink and NeoFinder and other cataloging apps which need to be updated regularly.

I find that, the way my brain likes to work, I have to be careful to set up systems so that when I have again forgotten why I opened them up, it is easy to go back into the process I was using the last time. That was why I was suggesting putting all the formatting tools in a single place would be helpful. For myself, this kind of accessibility of features is a necessity as this really is the way my brain works. But, it seems that this is not the Scrivener way, and so it goes.

There may never be just one app that can do it all. Oddly enough, I think that in the long run, I will find my self keeping track of things less electronically and more visually in my work environment. But, this is still a work in progress, that’s for sure.

PS: The Master List is very nice. Thanks. I think I can make use of it.

mb
mbbntu
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Thu May 02, 2019 6:46 pm Post

David G. wrote:I am learning that, the way I write, and the way I think, is up to me, and only me. This applies not only to content but to the way I used tools to achieve my goals.


This was really the main point that I wanted to make above, though I may have obscured it with too much other stuff. The process of discovering what works for us is very important. It *may* be shortened by listening to what other people do, but on the other hand it can easily be *lengthened* instead.

David G. wrote:I have learned that Scrivener is not always used by everyone for output for editors and such.


No, indeed. My approach with my thesis was to export a very basic text and then format everything with Nisus Writer Pro. It worked very well. But when Scrivener first appeared all those years ago, it took some people a while to realise it was not a word processor in the manner of MS Word, which was intended to make flyers, advertising sheets, brochures, business letters and all the rest. I get the impression that plenty of people still struggle with this. For me, I never had any trouble with conceptualising writing and formatting as two different processes that probably ought to be accomplished at different times with different tools.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

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lunk
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Thu May 02, 2019 8:51 pm Post

David G. wrote:I seem to do best when I have a large whiteboard in my creative room.
- - -
I find that feeling the freedom to write by hand and not worrying about writing mistakes (dry erase is easy to correct), does give me that, hand to eye, eye to mind, mind to memory symmetry that is good for memory. If I leave it up on the board for a few days, that is OK too.
- - -
when I start using Scapple or other mind mapping software, I have to start remembering the rules it uses to function - even the simplest of rules. As soon as I do this I am way off the point of just picking up a marker and starting to draw on the board what was occurring in my mind in that moment.

I can totally understand this and I use my iPad for that stage, together with the Apple pencil. Depending on what it is I am trying to sort out in my mind I use either of three different apps on the iPad:

Notability
Paper by WeTransfer (formerly Paper by 53)
Cardflow

Notability is basically just another notebook app, but it is very easy to draw simple sketches in it and to shrink, enlarge, move and copy them. Or change color.

Paper is more of a drawing app, with a few simple choices for pens and such, a bit more artistic (you can color with watercolor...).

Cardflow is like index cards, but you can choose between different templates for the blank cards - blank, with lines, like story board cards, and a few more. You can draw on the card, type in text and use colors. You can also put links between the cards.

I use all three but for different things. And sometimes I might start in one app and at some point copy it to another. I might e.g. start in Cardflow, move the cards around until I have the linear flow I want, copy and paste it in Notability to "get it on paper", so to speak.

The new Apple pencil together with the new iPad Pro is better than pen and paper, because my notes, thoughts, ideas, drawings, etc don't get lost. I can always find them on my iPad. And Notability has a good app for Mac as well.
I am a user, writing non-fiction and science, using:
* Mac Scrivener 3 on a Macbook 12”, MacBook Pro 13”, and iMac 27”, all running Mojave.
* iOS Scrivener 1 on an iPhone 11 Pro, iPad Air 9.7”, and iPad Pro 12.9”, all running the latest iOS

hu
huguatrix
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Fri May 03, 2019 4:11 pm Post

David, I'm glad the Masterlist doc may be of use. Again, I don't know who created it. I can see that having some sort of map or filter for Scrivener commands and techniques would be useful (or for any app). I find myself resorting to searching in the Help menu to find that command whose steps I've forgotten.

It's so interesting that writing means learning how one works best, and that it's so individual. I'm so intrigued by what works, for me and for others. I'm continually learning how to find my best process, how to find and use the systems that support my way of writing and thinking, how to unlearn some really old and unhelpful ways of thinking. Though I appreciate how useful DevonThink can be, I have never clicked with it. I love Scrivener; some I know have dipped in and as quickly dipped out.

Of course I now must go explore all these apps you're all mentioning. Thank you so much. ;-) (Sometimes this, er, explorative bent is a strength. Really.)

Happy writing and flow explorations.

Da
David G.
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Fri May 03, 2019 4:45 pm Post

mbbntu wrote:No, indeed. My approach with my thesis was to export a very basic text and then format everything with Nisus Writer Pro. It worked very well. But when Scrivener first appeared all those years ago, it took some people a while to realize it was not a word processor in the manner of MS Word, which was intended to make flyers, advertising sheets, brochures, business letters and all the rest. I get the impression that plenty of people still struggle with this. For me, I never had any trouble with conceptualizing writing and formatting as two different processes that probably ought to be accomplished at different times with different tools..

Yes, I went off course a bit not understanding Scrivener. For someone who needs to see the big picture to understand a thing, Scrivener was just a little too complex for me to grasp. To have suggested that gathering formatting tools into a single pallet or side panel was an anathema to others who follow the Scrivener way.

I noticed right away that Scrivener has a compile feature so naturally I assumed that writing AND formatting were an important part of the Scrivener writing experience. Why else would Scrivener focus on how a document is compiled, with proper formatting, etc.?

I take your point that writing and formatting - or worrying at all about formatting while in the writing process, are separate issues. I depend a lot on visual order and I have had some years of writing to spec (specification) using Word. Breaking old habits which inform me that formatting does matter, is easier said than done.

Another use of formatting in Nisus or any good word processing application is to use styles to create a table of contents (TOC). I have a very difficult time with sequencing things. Creating a TOC was one way of helping me with my organization and order as my project grew.

I am concentrating on the Binder with Scrivener. I am using the Binder to continue to develop my ideas. This allows me both to fully flesh out an idea, a section, and it helps me to not get lost in my sections essentially, doing what I was doing using a TOC.

I can't say too much about the compile feature as I have only tested it briefly. But I suspect that your way is the right way. When I get this all put together and it is time for shopping it around for an editor, I will move it to Nisus and, like Taskpaper that was so instrumental in the inception of my idea and has now been put into dry dock, Scrivener will also go into dry dock - at least for my current project.

I would still like to find everything in a single app but, short of getting out my old rusty database tools and starting from scratch (a complete waste of time as I learned in the past), I will continue to learn which apps will serve which phase of my writing process. And then, I have to stick to that process, as the old saying goes, come hell or high water.