Scrivener Integration

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Tue May 26, 2009 2:34 am Post

I am nearing the end of the first wave of development for Story Arc view. There are still several tasks that need to be completed before I put out another release - mostly better integration between the two views (maintaining hot tags, selections etc. as you switch views) and some minor interface quirks, plus a lot of bug testing.

Once that is complete, by far the greatest hole in the software is its integration with Scrivener
and equivalents. So that I can move straight onto that development when the Story Arc view is completed, I thought I would canvass ideas and suggestions about Scrivener integration now.

My basic idea is to have a 'non-linear narrative': it would act something like a flat cork-board, where
you could drag and drop events into narrative order (as distinct from timeline order), and associate extra information such as Point of View and Notes. Each plot point would be tied back to an event in the timeline, but not all timeline events need to be represented, some could be represented twice, they can be out of order etc.

This narrative would then be exportable to a writing application - in the case of Scrivener, I would envisage one binder item per plot point, and the synopsis would contain:
- The event date, duration, title, label, and notes
- The list of participants
- The extra data associated with the plot point, like POV.
The Scrivener label might come from the Aeon label, or the assigned POV, or the Story Arc (this might become a user option on export).

But at this stage, it is an idea without any real implementation specifics. I am looking for suggestions on the following:

1. What should the interface for this 'non-linear narrative' look like?

2. What additional information would you like to associate with a Plot Point?

3. Is there anything else you would like to see by way of Scrivener integration - changes to the idea, new ideas altogether.

4. Can you think of any mechanism that would allow Aeon to keep synchronized with Scrivener as things are moved around the binder, or to import information from Scrivener into Aeon?
(This is the least likely to go ahead, as it will require a lot more development effort, and so would require an extremely good idea to get Keith interested!)

At this stage, I am just looking for any ideas and suggestions. Some of it will be dependent on Keith working on the Scrivener end, but I would like to minimise the effort required from him wherever possible.

Keith, if you are reading - feel free to join in if you have any ideas of your own!


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Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:12 am Post

I don't know if Scrivener integration is really necessary -- except as maybe a kind of "Aeon Timeline Visualizer" plugin.

I mean, it would be great if I could have the timeline in the research section of my Scrivener Binder, and not as just an image or a PDF, but as a "native" .aeon file, i.e: the timeline would look in Scrivener exactly as it does in Aeon Timeline (including the ability to switch from "timeline view" to "story arc" view).

Of course, this would be a "read only" kind of thing. To adjust any events or entities, you'd have to open the file in Aeon Timeline (though it would be great if any changes you made in the "read/write" file could automatically sync back to the "read-only" file in the Scrivener binder).

Other than that, I don't think we need any more integration (and honestly, we probably don't even need that). As a user of both Aeon Timeline and Scrivener, I'd prefer you concentrate on making the timeline and story arc views the best they can be rather than on working on ways to translate the information into the paradigms of another program.

Looking forward to seeing the next iteration of Aeon Timeline. I've tried a bunch of Timeline programs, and it's the only that's lasted on my computer more than a few hours :-)

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Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:05 pm Post

Hi kyle,
Thanks for your feedback. I find it quite interesting, because I have always seen Aeon Timeline as a first step planning option, but with all of the notes and other meta data that can be entered into the timeline, it would seem a pity to have all of that information locked away when you are actually writing.

I guess in some ways, it depends whether you are using it for planning at the start, or for keeping everything updated as you write, which probably have two different use cases. But I would be interested to see others' thoughts on just how much information they want to get out of Aeon Timeline and into their writing application.

As for having the two views of Aeon displayed in Scrivener - I think that two separate PDF exports, one showing each of the two views, is probably as close as we could get.


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Sun Jun 14, 2009 2:59 pm Post


Here is what I would like to see implemented in Aeon Timeline (AT) to make it a close companion to Scrivener (SCR).

1) A quick way of exporting a story's outline from SCR to AT. As you know, if you select all items in SCR's Binder, you can copy all document titles as if they were items of an outline. It would be nice that copying these to AT could immediately generate the same number of events, each one with the same name of SCR's Binder items. This would save a lot of time when wanting to do a quick and dirty arrangement of events, not yet associated with specific times in SCR.

2) A more precise way of exporting a story's outline from SCR to AT. This time, I would like that date/time stamps contained in each SCR's document (as a line of thxt inside a synopsis, or as a dedicated field in a future version) were used to place events in AT. Again, AT Event titles would be taken from SCR document titles. Also, Labels and Status should be considered, maybe converting the color of the first ones to AT Event colors, and the seconds as a tag in AT. Person type Entities could have been matched by Keywords in SCR's documents, and these could be converted as intersection dots.

As for text, what should AT read from a SCR project? I suggest just titles (to be converted to Event names) and synopsis (as attached text, if you will allow for this, as if it was the back of an index card).

3) A way of exporting scene titles, date/time stamps, scene colors, and characters involvement in each scene from AT to SCR. The work I would do in AE is this: rearranging scenes/documents/events along a timeline; editing scene/event names; assigning tension/conflict colors to scenes; assigning a color to characters; editing intersections to assign characters to scenes.

How could you do this?
- Event names could be saved as SCR document names (by changing the original ones, if not new).
- Date/time stamps could be saved as a line of text in the synopsis. In case SCR had a dedicated "Scene date" field in a future release, you could use that.
- Scene colors would be saved as the colors associated to Labels.
- Character colors are currently impossible to match in SCR, that only has a single set of colors; so I would not find a way to export this data to SCR.
- Intersection with Person Entities would be saved as Keywords into each SCR's document.

I wouldn't change the order of scenes in SCR, since AT deals with actual time, while SCR deals with narrative time, and they not always match.

Best regards,

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Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:58 pm Post

This might be unique to the way I'm using Aeon (as you said, "keeping everything updated as I write"), but here goes.

At the moment, I use my Aeon labels for the following:
1. Shown in Novel
2. Deep Background
3. Mentioned In Novel
4. Might be Shown

The labels are pretty much self-explanatory: the first is for events that sync up 1-to-1 with scenes in my novel; the second is for things such as the birthdays of my characters and events that I need to know about but that my readers probably don't; the third is for events that are mentioned in the novel, but that don't have the 1-to-1 sync (i.e., Character X meets Character Y for a cup of coffee, but the text only refers to it obliquely); and the last is for those events that still lie in the great unwritten.

Anyway, to get to the Scrivener Integration point, it would be nice to have a hot link between the events in the Timeline and the specific text file in Scrivener. For my usage pattern, I would like to be able to have a drop-down menu in the Aeon event inspector (and "Add Event" sheet) that automatically populates with the scenes in the Draft folder of my Scrivener project (which would involve somehow setting a direct association between the Aeon file and a Scrivener project). There would also be an option at the bottom of the drop-down menu to "Create in Scrivener" which would add a new text document in the Scrivener project's Draft folder (using the Event Title as the document name). Next to the drop down in the Event Inspector would be a kind of "Go" button, which would take me to the document in Scrivener. Since I am active in Aeon and Scrivener at the same time, adding and changing on the fly, this would be most helpful, giving me instant access to the specific event as it appears in Scrivener.

Just a thought :-)


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Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:36 pm Post

TBH, I think that all I want in the short term would be something similar to Scrivener's 'Compile Draft' screen, where you can select individual events to export to a format that can then be imported into Scrivener as a series of documents (with synopses filled in, as you describe).
Elizabethan fantasy novels The Alchemist of Souls, The Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies by me, Anne Lyle, out now from Angry Robot Books!

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Sat Jul 04, 2009 1:24 pm Post

Yeah, I am thinking about doing this initially, and will look to include

Select the events to export, based on a filter (characters, or story arcs, or tags, or just include everything). And then, depending on another selection, turn them into something that can be imported elsewhere (such as XML), or a table, or an image.

And select what information you want included in the export (dates, durations, notes, characters, etc).

This will be achievable quickly, and fill the basic need for exporting. And then I will look into adding some of the extra stuff in a later development.


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Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:01 am Post

Okay, this is rather odd, as I replied to this topic yesterday but my post seems to have been eaten; I even searched the forums to check my addled brain hadn't made me put it in the wrong place, but nope...

Anyway, here is my rather random thought on this topic:

What if you designed an NSView subclass simply for reading Aeon Timelines? You would just do something like [ATView readFromFile:aeonTimelineFile] and the view would show most of everything it needed in its -drawRect: method, but the user couldn't interact with the data in any way. What I am thinking is that you could then make this viewing class publicly available to developers. In Scrivener, I could then implement an Aeon Timeline viewer in the same way as there is a PDF viewer or an image viewer - the user could view the timeline inside Scrivener, but click on "Open in External Editor" to open it in Aeon and edit it; in other words, Scrivener could import the entire timeline file.

I'm not sure how feasible this would be, and obviously in the longer term I'm sure a lot of users would prefer more integration, with events becoming documents. (I have plans to rewrite the Scrivener file format using more custom XML rather than the standard Apple property lists later in the year, so that may make it easier to export to Scrivener.)

Anyway, just a thought.

Hopefully this post actually gets posted this time... Weird.

All the best,

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Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:29 am Post

As Aeon Timeline forms the control interface for the first functional time machine we will inevitably notice more temporal glitches surrounding this topic as we approach the moment of singularity. Don't be alarmed.
Re-examine all that you have been told...
dismiss that which insults your soul.
- Walt Whitman

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Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:00 pm Post

RTJK wrote:As Aeon Timeline forms the control interface for the first functional time machine we will inevitably notice more temporal glitches surrounding this topic as we approach the moment of singularity. Don't be alarmed.

Weird. I replied to this post next week.
Complete and utter NOMsense.

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Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:42 pm Post

Okay, that's really weird, because I moderated the off-topic stuff out of this thread eight months ago!

Now I've got the creeps.
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Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:57 am Post

Why do I feel like I am one "sub-space anomaly" away from the next Star Trek movie :roll: