Scrivener can have a high learning curve. Aeon Timeline 2 (AT2) can be tough as well. Here are some tips for using them together, that I’ve gleaned in the time since Scrivener 3 (Mac and Windows beta), Scrivener iOS, and AT2 (Mac, Windows, and iOS) were released:
- Syncing between Scrivener projects and AT2 timelines only happens between desktop versions. iOS Scrivener and iOS AT2 don’t interact. If you are an iOS-only user, you’ll need to build your AT2 timelines manually. If you have both desktop versions, your changes in iOS AT2 and in iOS Scrivener will coordinate when you run a sync in desktop AT2. The rest of these tips presume that you have desktop versions of both apps.
- If I can’t see it in Scrivener, I don’t bother. I use AT2 when I need a time-based view, and to do massive “time when things occur” changes. Things that I can add to AT2 but which I can’t sync to Scrivener [Examples: Character entities (neither names nor notes), Place notes, Arc notes] I don’t bother with. Instead, I create “events” from my Scrivener notes on these things, and place them on the timeline at the point they first appear. I use Scrivener keywords (AT2 tags) for character names.
- If I don’t have a use for an AT2 field, I don’t bother. This may seem obvious, but if I see a field in a template, I assume I must fill it in—that it serves some purpose I don’t know about. I spent hours, for example, wondering what to do with the Tension field, coded as a percentage. But it made no sense to me, so finally I deleted it. It was the same with Participants/Observers; first they force me to use Character entities in AT2, which don’t sync except as names of Participants or Observers. Second, I get almost all of that info by simply tagging/keywording events with my character tags. So I don’t bother with those, either.
- Use AT2 on iOS to make Scrivener keywords available. iOS Scrivener doesn’t allow access to keywords from the desktop apps. If you’re setting up an AT2 timeline anyway, accessing and changing your Scrivener keywords comes along for free—see item 5 below. (Mind, I wouldn’t recommend iOS and desktop AT2 for this alone—but it does let you work around an occasionally annoying iOS Scrivener limitation.)
- Structure your Scrivener project to help AT2. AT2 gives warnings when a Scrivener item isn’t connected to an AT2 event during sync. These can run into hundreds for a large project! AT2 can also be set to ignore both folders and non-text documents during sync. To use this to your advantage, set up your Scrivener project to use a document and not a folder as container for anything you’ll want on the timeline. (For example, you can change a chapter folder to a text. It will still contain its scenes, but it will be easier to put the chapter itself on an AT2 timeline and track it there. For clarity, I’ll refer to such a changed folder as a “document group.”) You can adjust your global Scrivener preferences to treat all document groups as folders (see section B.4.5 in the Scrivener manual). You can also adjust your project settings to treat document groups the same as folders during compile (see section C.2.3 in the Scrivener manual.) Conversely, use a folder for any container you’re sure you don’t want on the timeline. In this way, you can make AT2’s sync warnings when a Scrivener item is not connected to an event fewer and more useful.
- For Scrivener 3 (Mac, and Windows beta), set up your date fields in Scrivener before your first AT2 sync. Use the Custom Metadata feature to add both a Start Date and an End Date field to your Scrivener project. Make these fields plain non-wrapping text fields. My experience suggests that using the Scrivener date field type option (which will be used if you let AT2 automatically create these) is fraught. Any change—to Scrivener, to AT2, even an OS update—may result in dates being misinterpreted. Text fields are safe.
- Make use of Scrivener’s Title, Status, Synopsis, Keywords, and Labels metadata. These can all be synced with AT2. In general when syncing, a Scrivener thing (text, folder, document group) will connect to at most one AT2 event; you can set various Scrivener built-in metadata to sync with that event’s properties. Scrivener Labels sync to Colors in AT2, Status to Complete, Keywords to Tags. Scrivener’s Title will be AT2’s event name. Scrivener’s synopsis syncs as the AT2 event’s Summary.1 This gives you a pretty darn complete outline in AT2.
- When you create your timeline file, correct the Complete property format. AT2 creates this as a simple checkbox in the Fiction template. Before your first sync with your Scrivener project, change this to a single-line text field. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Properties) Then AT2 will automatically offer you the opportunity to sync AT2 Complete with Scrivener Status.
- Use AT2’s Arc and Location fields. When you set up AT2 syncing with your Scrivener project, you can have AT2 add these to your Scrivener project’s custom metadata. Use ad lib.2 Note: AT2’s default Arc and Location fields are single line, which would mean that an event (scene? Chapter?) could belong to only one arc, or take place in one location. If you like to make your scenes do double-duty or your chapters take place in more than one location, change these to multi-line fields before your first sync with Scrivener. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Entity Types, check “Allow multiple per event.”)
I hope these tips help you use Aeon Timeline with Scrivener effectively!
- Partly because I use Aeon Timeline, and partly because Scrivener Document Notes (Scrivener manual section 13.2.2) are only visible in the Scrivener Inspector (which I often leave closed on my Mac, and only appears in a popup on iOS), I choose to stuff all of my document note-type things into the synopsis, which I artificially limit to 453 characters. If I can’t describe a scene in about three Tweets, I haven’t figured it out yet. ↩
As of this post (Mar 30, 2019), there is a bug in AT2 that prevents it from creating more than one metadata field in Scrivener at a time. To work around this, you can either create the fields in advance in Scrivener, or create them in several passes in AT2 by repeatedly tapping the gear icon in the sync panel.
To create fields in Scrivener in advance, I recommend using a text without wrap field for dates, and a text with wrap field for such things as Arc or Location, which might have multiples for a single event. ↩