William Butler Yeats thinks of time not as a line, but like a circular staircase. We move through time not by walking a straight line, but by going up and around an event or a series of events as if going up a circular staircase and looking down (or up, who knows). For Yeats, nothing ever happens just once. Read The Second Coming, his “widening gyre” poem: “but now I know/ That twenty centuries of stony sleep/ Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle/ And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Put another way, we go over and over the same place or event many different times both physically and mentally. It’s part of the human condition. Our understanding of it—to say nothing of our grasp of life in general—grows as we go over the same ground. And each time we consider the event, it is from a different vantage point because the place is different and we are different and what we know about the place and life are different. And the same is true whether we’re talking individual life or collective consciousness. At least we hope so.
It’s the same widening gyre thing going on when writing a novel with scenes from different characters’ POVs. Two or more characters can go over the same ground with different points of view and/or at different times in the story, and shed more light on an event. It makes the story more interesting, or compelling or deeper. At least we hope so.
This duality presents an editing challenge. We need to make sure that the scenes match where they need to. And it’s so easy with Scrivener’s Toggle-Split Button. At least I think so.
Using this special Scrivener command, I can see two different scenes in the same Editor, and edit both of them at once. (For a wonderful overview of the Scrivener window, its commands and shortcuts, see the Scrivener Cheat Sheet)
In the example below, I’m writing two different scenes (very rough drafts). The scenes take place simultaneously in the novel’s time and almost in the same place. One character is locked in a cellar in one scene; two other characters are standing outside the cellar window in the other scene. Here’s how to use Toggle-Split to edit both scenes at once:
- Make sure the cursor is placed somewhere in the scene you are writing, preferably near the part you want to reference.
- Click on the Toggle-Split button in the upper right-hand corner of Scrivener’s Editor. In the image below, it’s that two-tiered rectangle to the right of the Up and Down arrows in the Editor’s title bar.
- The Editor splits into two iterations of the same scene. And the Toggle-Split icon changes into one rectangle. (See the image below)
- Place your cursor in either the first or second section of the Editor window, the scene you want to change.
- In the Binder, find the second scene you want to add to the Editor and click on it.
- The Editor splits and now both scenes appear, making the Editor like a double-decker bus, and you can move from one scene to another by clicking the cursor from one section of the window to the other.
To go back to editing a single scene
- Make sure your cursor is placed somewhere in the scene you want to continue writing.
- Click on the Toggle-Split Button.
- The button changes back to a two-tiered rectangle, and the Editor displays one scene.
Photo: One of my editors in action