Tuesday, July 26, 2016 No comments

Tech Tuesday: Getting Your Outline into Scrivener (pt 1)

Part 1 of a two-part series

I’m a pantser by nature. I like to get the story started, then let the characters tell me what happens. But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes, in the heat of composition, you get ideas for side-stories, sequels, and completely different worlds. You can sometimes placate the plot bunnies by giving them a little attention, taking down a few notes and promising to come back when the story at hand is done. Of course, an outliner is one of the best ways to organize notes and plot a story—in the 8-bit pre-DOS days, an early vendor was pleased to call their offering an “idea processor” (and an outfit called Axon uses that label for their mind-mapping tool today).

Scrivener’s Binder pane can be used as a crude outliner. But when you’re trying to bang down some ideas before you forget them (or get distracted by a family member), you want the speed and smooth operation that you get from a dedicated outliner or mind-mapping tool1.

Fortunately, most outliners and mind-mappers support OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), a very simple XML document type—and so does Scrivener, at least for import. So you can knock out your outline in your favorite outliner or mind-mapper, export as OPML, and pull it right into a new Scrivener project with the hierarchy in place.

Tweaking Scrivener

Before you import, though, you should review Scrivener’s OPML Import settings to make sure they’ll work the way you want. Open Scrivener’s preferences and follow the red numbers:

There’s not much to change. Creating a folder is needed only if you’re importing notes rather than your story line. If you have a “root” entry, with everything else as a lower-level entry, then you already get what amounts to a new folder.

Dealing with notes may or may not be an issue for you. The commercial OmniOutliner added a “note” extension to OPML, for reasons unknown to me, and other outliners (including Tines) now include at least token support for it. Creating a note, and telling Scrivener to import them into the main text of each document, is the only way to pull in content (other than chapter and scene names) using OPML import. Other options are to put notes only in the synopsis, or add them to document notes.

Pulling It In

Maybe an example would help. Thus, a generic story called The Importing, a slightly filled in outline (Trevor McPherson’s StoryMap for Freemind, converted to OPML for this job). I added a note to the first scene in Tines, using an experimental OPML-centric configuration file:


The note content is at the bottom of the screen. Internally, notes use a _note attribute, in parallel with the entry text. Imported into Scrivener, we get something that looks like this:


As you can see, every entry in the outline becomes a document. Notes are extremely limited for writers who want to put in more than one line of content in a scene. I don’t know about anyone else, but I often want to add bits of dialogue, maybe some descriptions of the setting, who’s making an appearance, how the scene wraps up… you get the idea.

Fortunately, there’s another way to get your outline into Scrivener, one that lets you include all the content you feel like adding in the outliner. We’ll take a look in Part 2.


1Think of a mind-mapping tool as a graphical version of an outliner. Each entry is a bubble, centered around a root entry, and can be arranged to suit your needs. Freemind is an open-source example, and runs on all platforms (needs Java though).

Saturday, July 16, 2016 2 comments

Going Court-ing

You can sleep through your own hearing
when you’re a baby. ;-)
We had another hearing with Charlie on Thursday. Big V had dropped her Motion to Intervene a week prior, so it was fairly routine. (Big V tried telling us we didn’t have to show up at the hearing, but… uh, we decided to verify that one, skipping right past the trust part.)

This went pretty routinely. Splat had been doing well for a while, living with the father in law and helping on the farm. I had taken him to Gainesville for a drug test in late May, and he was clean and green—splitting up with Badger Boobs helped with that. Thus, he had been seeing Charlie pretty regularly.

All that changed about two weeks ago. Wife took him to the Social Security office to replace his card, and then to the DMV to replace his driver’s license… and he hasn’t been seen since. There was some talk about him getting back together with BB, but she’s in the clink for a probation violation. He had expressed some interest in getting into rehab, but that seems to have gone by the wayside. On the upside, he’s working for a landscaping company. The Boy tells us Splat has been working very long hours, and comes “home” (for whatever “home” he has at the moment) exhausted. Such is the power of the Book of Face, a book I’ve managed to not delve into much as yet.

Some of this came out during the hearing, some when I talked with The Boy Thursday evening when they came to get Mason for the weekend. (Did I mention that he’s back with his wife, and they’re expecting a girl in late September? Yay, another grandkid! At least we won’t be raising that one, we’ve got our hands full as it is.)

But I digress. DFACS is happy with how we’re taking care of the little butterball. :-) As the picture above shows, he slept through the whole hearing. He’s been congested since last weekend, and that’s been rough on all of us. Fortunately, he’s showing signs of getting past it, and I managed to sleep the last couple nights even if the wife didn’t. I’ll take tonight’s shift, if necessary. But even at his worst, he tried really hard to be good-natured.

On the other hand, DFACS is still probing Big V’s ability to take care of Skylar. It isn’t helping her cause that she let Splat stay with her for a while (bad news, letting a known druggie in the house when you have custody of a rugrat… even if Skylar is said druggie’s rugrat, and he hasn’t been using recently). But the judge asked DFACS to train us to recognize when someone is high on their happy-juice of choice, so we’ll be learning some interesting stuff soon. At one point, someone asked if we wanted to let Splat stay with us… the judge said, “I’m seeing a ‘no’ from both of them.” (We hadn’t been sworn in or anything, but she saw us shaking our heads out in the peanut gallery.)

It’s heartening to know there’s plenty of backup available if we get into some kind of health issue… first Daughter Dearest, then BB’s family, are willing to take Charlie if we’re incapacitated. Although as much as Charlie sees FAR Manor as home, they might have to move here.

Saturday, July 09, 2016 4 comments

Charlie at Six (Months)

He’s a little behind, which is to be expected given his not-so-stellar origin story, but he’s catching up quick. He’s quite the chubby baby these days… and happy!

Jiggle his leg. Gets a grin out of him every time.

Look Granddad, I'm multitasking!
In the last week or so, he has mastered the trick of rolling onto his back. I find him in bed that way most mornings now, either playing with his feet and chattering quietly, or grumbling about the slow service around the manor. He still makes that growling noise, sometimes in two notes at once (sounds like a sixth, not terribly melodious), and it can either mean “I’m content” or “I need some attention over here!” depending on context. But he’s added singing to the mix, especially when he’s ready for a nap. (But that going down for a nap thing requires at least a token nip at the bottle.)

He’s not much for toys just yet. He much prefers people… I think because they do stuff without him making it happen. Playing with his feet—or at least one foot—is something he does often, though. The pediatrician asked, “does he pull it up to his mouth?” and the wife replied, “his legs are too fat for that.” Mostly true.

He’s kind of lazy, though. He likes to slouch with shoulders slumped when we sit or stand him up. We have to press on his back to get him straight. Someone made a scary noise that sounded like “scoliosis,” but he’s Bonnie Common Charlie, not King Richard III. :-P His legs are strong enough to hold all his weight now, which is good, and he’ll scramble up to a crawl position when we put him on his stomach. (He hasn’t mastered forward propulsion, though, still scooting backwards.)

Play time!
Mason, meanwhile, has really gotten into the surrogate big brother thing. Charlie absolutely loves it when Mason capers around and makes weird noises. I’ve never heard a baby laugh the way Charlie laughs when Mason’s playing with him, a soft “haw haw haw haw” with shoulders shaking.

As for Mason, asking him to play with Charlie is the easiest way to get him off the iPad for a little while. This morning, when Charlie was sitting in his bouncy seat and grumbling about nobody being around, Mason brought the iPad over and sat with him. Charlie quieted immediately and watched what Mason was doing. Now if Mason’s own babyhood is any guide to the future, we can expect to see Charlie soon wanting to “help” by bopping the screen at an inopportune moment…

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