Self-edit Your Novel (Part 1C)

In this multi-post series, you’ll discover techniques and technology to help you self-edit your novel by using Scrivener’s Custom Metadata.

Consider these reasons to self-edit:

  • A professional edit can fix many issues, but unless you’ve hired a ghostwriter, the editor will not rewrite your story.
  • A self-edit:
    • Tightens loose structure,
    • Fleshes out underdeveloped characters,
    • Fills plot holes,
    • Clarifies theme, and
    • Lowers the potential cost of a professional edit.

I recommend using:

And to illustrate the editing techniques, I’ll base examples on a Cozy Mystery, but the methods will work for other genres.

Structure (Part 1C): Custom Metadata

Today I’ll show how Custom Metadata can help you:

  • Add, update, and track essential story information.
  • Perform a scene-by-scene content review.
  • Enhance the bond between readers and characters.
  • Avoid distracting readers with the author’s voice.

Custom Metadata are text fields that you can view and edit in Scrivener’s Inspector and Outliner. These fields are used to record essential information. For example:

  • For each scene, you can validate the story contribution by recording the intensity, plot, timeline, point of view, problem, and solution.
  • Scene beats move the story forward: 
    • The HOOK beat offers something new or references the foreshadowing established in a prior scene.
    • The SETUP beat provides brief information regarding the character and current location.
    • The TRIGGER beat forces the scene PROBLEM to the surface.
    • The WRANGLE beat shows hero reflecting briefly on the choices and actions required to deal with the problem.
    • The ACTION beat advances the character from the scene PROBLEM toward the scene GOAL based on hero’s choice and action.
    • The CLIMAX beat shows the outcome of trying to achieve GOAL.
  • Scene content includes conflict, hero’s need, symbols, motifs, settings, weather, and well-developed characters who mirror human emotions and senses. Cozy Mysteries contain clues, red herrings, foreshadowed events, surprises, turning points, and stakes.

Imagine the overwhelming task of creating sticky notes for each data field. Where would you post all those notes? How would you track them?

The Keywords field can be used to note the plot or subplot tied to each scene. In the example below, the color-code red denotes the main plot (Murder).

Scrivener simplifies the task of recording and tracking by allowing you to define and order the data fields.

Custom Metadata
An example of Inspector’s vertical view of Custom Metadata

The Inspector side-bar sets next to your scene, allowing you to scroll the view and update as needed. Scrivener’s Outliner can show and edit each data field, similar to an Excel or a Numbers spreadsheet. Note: For this example, the Inspector’s vertical column was split into two side-by-side columns to show the entirety of the data.

Identifying and recording the metadata sparks creativity, empowering you to make edits that might have gone unnoticed. And it prepares you to do Deep POV editing, which is the next topic in this series.

For more information, view the Story Scene Beats and Custom Metadata descriptions.

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