Bee Docs' Timeline + Scrivener integration...?

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KB
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Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:42 pm Post

Hi all,

There have been a number of requests for Scrivener to add a timeline view (StoryMill has one, etc etc). I've thought about this, but my conclusion at the moment is that just because Scrivener offers different ways of viewing data - as a corkboard, outline etc - this doesn't necessarily mean that a timeline fits into it. In fact, I think it doesn't; a decent timeline - like a decent mindmap - is a massive undertaking, at least if it is going to offer the sort of flexibility and features many users would desire. Trying to shoehorn one into Scrivener seems pointless and self-defeating. One the one hand, would never be as good as a dedicated app, and on the other, it would be very awkward finding a way for it to represent documents in the same way as index cards and the outliner do.

Anyway... As luck would have it, Adam, the creator of Bee Docs' Timeline, contacted me today about finding some way of providing better integration between Bee Docs' Timeline and Scrivener. This seems to me as though it could be the perfect solution for those who want to use a timeline with Scrivener.

So, what I would like to know - with no promises whatsoever - is, if you use both programs, what sort of integration would you like? i.e:

• What sort of information would you want to get out of Scrivener and into Bee Docs' Timeline?

• Vice versa - what sort of information would you like to get out of Bee Docs' Timeline and into Scrivener? How would that information come in - as a long set of blank index cards, or what?

Basically, any ideas, information or feedback you can give will really help me and Adam find a way of providing some sort of integration between our applications (no timescale, obviously!).

All the best,
Keith

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Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:30 am Post

See attached.
:)

Dave
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Timeline001.jpg
Timeline001.jpg (38.75 KiB) Viewed 5364 times

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Tue Mar 11, 2008 2:55 am Post

I just bought Timeline and played with it a little. It's pretty, and it's easy to enter data. But I was disappointed that it could not import an RTF file I'd already written for my novel, a simple table showing year dates in the left column, and columns to the right representing three characters and events in their lives.

Instead, Timeline will only import a Tab-delimited file set up in the format of Label, Start Time, and Stop Time. It sets only one time scale, which is not useful when you want to see the lives of characters lining up across a range of years. And if I decide to change a character's age, I'd hope to see a dynamic change in the data file and display.

If the two developers can agree on some basic templates for input (Scrivener) and output (Timeline), we'd be on to a very useful integration. Timeline does have Automatic Importers, from Address Book, iCal, and the like, but we don't usually record data there on fictional characters!

At the moment, the timelines appear only in horizontal form. It's also possible to see time vertically, as a series of years from 1830 to 1920, and then in columns that express events, places, or people. These are early impressions, and I'll continue to explore Timeline more.

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Lord Lightning
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Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:53 pm Post

Hi Keith,

I think I would use it in a very straightforward way. I would set out my story beats along the timeline. This would let me see the main plot points mapped by time over the story arc.

I use 30 or 31 beats (Main plot points for a story - film). So I would set those plot points out - named as beats, so they occur at certain times. It is a double check that your story plot points are happening in a proper sequence.

Day 1 - hero gets in the 'nure
Day 1 - (3 hours later) hero discovers his true love is about to be blown up by the villain
....
Day 12 - hero meets somepne who knows the plan of the building.
Day 12 - that night hero breaks into underground inspection tunnel.
...
Day 15 - hero .... etc

PS I would love to see a real beat sheet layout in Scrivener - I use my own version, which is a bit agrarian. I nice shiny beat sheet table would be spiffing. Yes I know about chapters and so on. It is what my beat sheet is built on - as I said, a bit agrarian.
:)
Lord Lightning

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When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

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antony
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Tue Mar 11, 2008 2:28 pm Post

dafu wrote:See attached.
:)

Dave


*Applause*
Antony Johnston
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KB
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Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:20 pm Post

What I'd really like feedback on is the sort of information that you see go back and forth between these apps, though. As in, how would you see a file from Timeline getting imported into Scrivener (as a single document, as an outline, a list of documents), and vice versa - what should be exported out of Scrivener and taken into Timeline? How exactly would that become a timeline.

Best,
Keith

P.S. LL - I'm not sure what you mean about beat sheets. If you want to elaborate, could you please create a separate thread? Thanks.

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Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:09 pm Post

Somebody else might have an ingenious suggestion, but for myself, the only thing I can think of is perhaps stripping all the character names entered into a timeline, their dates of birth/death, and creating a document for each character with this info (maybe include any notes as well, dunno). If there was any intention of importing each timeline event as an index card, for example, I'd certainly want the ability to turn it off ;) As I could foresee a nightmare of logistics involved.

Honestly, I just want the timeline app. So long as it can produce a PDF that I can then import into Scriv, I'm happy :D
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Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:16 pm Post

Whoops, double post, sorry. Server was playing up a bit.
Last edited by antony on Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:29 pm Post

Hey Folks,

This is Adam Behringer, the developer of Bee Docs' Timeline. Thank you for your suggestions so far. I look forward to hearing from more people!

How do you track chronological information in your stories now?
Do you use Scrivener or a spreadsheet or ...?
Is anyone using iCal or Address Book to track events and characters?
In general, do you use Scrivener to track this type of research and planning?

Understanding how writers deal with chronological data now may help us develop some innovative ways for improving and supporting the process.

Thanks again,

Adam Behringer
http://www.beedocuments.com/blog

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Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:15 pm Post

Hi Adam,

Great to see you here. BDT is a great-looking app, and if it only did the stuff I need for fiction timelines, I'd have bought it by now :)

There's a lengthy thread about timelines, and what some of us who are fiction writers would like to see, over here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3483

To answer your question, I currently just use a plain text file in Scrivener, combined with some hand-drawn notes and charts. I have used a spreadsheet in the past for a very complex timeline that involved 30+ characters over the space of about 200 years, but it was unwieldy, clunky and ugly.

I use iCal and Address Book extensively 'in the real world', so I wouldn't want to risk confusing things by using them for fiction and timelines. Plus, as detailed in the above thread, iCal is only useful for real world dates, and that's not enough for me :)
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Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:15 am Post

adamb wrote:How do you track chronological information in your stories now?


Fishbone chart.

If in a future version of Bee TimeLine if you added a decent FishBone Chart, I'd buy it. Until then, I'm paying $100 for a Java-based outliner that does this. It doesn't need to be a "mind-map," just a left to right outline chart that allows for topics and subtopics, minimizes space so it all fits neatly and in as small a space as possible, and division lines for labeling acts/chapters/dates.

Also, I almost bought Bee TimeLine when it was on special for $20 on MacZot and MacUpdate - what a deal! But I missed it, since they were 24-hour specials. Any plans on similar mass-deals in the future?

(What a GREAT way to get lots of new users!!!)

adamb wrote:In general, do you use Scrivener to track this type of research and planning?


I use Scrivener for research and writing the final or near final draft of work. If we can just get a good timeline alongside somehow, we'd all probably use Scrivener for everything start to near finish.

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Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:10 am Post

scrivener-user wrote:Fishbone chart.


Exactly what is a fishbone chart useful for? I'd never heard of them until you mentioned them last week, and all I can find on the net is references to their usefulness in science and logic. I'm not being adversarial, I'm genuinely curious - how are they useful for writing and plotting?
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Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:38 am Post

I track pertinent dates--birth, death, marriage, events significant to the story--in an Excel spreadsheet, simply because I have Excel sitting there and am minimally familiar with its use. It isn't graphic, it's a screen- and resource-hog, it's probably capable of greater granularity than the broad brushstrokes I'm using now, if I was willing to invest the time in learning how to make a complex tool do something seemingly simple.

But I get the sense investing that same learning-curve time in a graphic timeliner would be far more useful for my purposes. Trouble is, I haven't found one yet that seems sufficiently deft at displaying many things happening at different times. I need to look at a screen and say, Ah-Ha. So-and-so couldn't possibly have married such-and-such on thence-or-then, because he was off the coast of Erehwon heaving a harpoon at a Bandersnatch.

Excel can do that, with some piddling. But I feel like an an accountant every time I click its Xy little icon.

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Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:35 am Post

Comes from the area of business studies called Organisational Psychology and it is used to map ...

Well, take a look at this.

http://www.smartdraw.com/specials/cause ... awodgmBtCw

:)
Lord Lightning

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When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

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Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:35 pm Post

That's exactly the sort of example I said I'd already found, LL. It still doesn't explain how they're useful to the likes of you and I.
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