Color Coding Early Drafts with Scrivener’s Show Or Hide The Color Panel Command
It’s first draft time in my head, a fun place to be because characters, in the early stage of their self-development, are cooking up the plot.
Don’t create stories my way because my process is such a jumble that it’s even difficult for me to describe. Even when push comes to shove, I’m unable to untangle the plotting from the character development, the outlining from the actual writing.
But most times I start out my novels by jotting down thoughts, scenes, vignettes, in my computer’s notepad so I can also revise these early building blocks on my smartphone as well as my computer and/or tablet—whichever I have to hand. Through the magic of the cloud, all three contain the same notes. (Yes, it’s what techies call the ecosystem, hooking us into either Microsoft or Apple or Google, but I love it.) At a certain point, when I have enough in my notepad, I turn to Scrivener, copy in the information, and begin the writing in earnest.
In Scrivener, I revise as I go along, probably writing and revising the first four to eight drafts of each scene before progressing to the next scene in the storyline.
And in this early stage, I color code the scene. My system is simple: black for storyline; red for backstory. If it’s a character’s backstory, important, because lots of my characters appear in several of my books—I bold the name and underline a phrase.
To help me color the text, I add the command, Show or hide the color panel to my toolbar.
Here’s how to add the command to the toolbar:
- Right click on the toolbar. A dropdown menu appears.
- Click on Customize toolbar … and this beauty appears
- Find the command you wish to add. In this case, it’s the icon of a multicolored ball. Drag it into the Space square.
- Click Done.
- The command you’ve added appears on your toolbar.
Now when I click the color ball in my toolbar, the Color Panel appears (see the image below.)
Here’s an image of my color-coded scene. Please don’t read it—it’s horrible first-draft stuff begging for the refining fire. Or even more likely, oblivion. I’ve chosen the scene because it contains a mix of main plot and backstory.
There’s black text (storyline), red text (backstory—some of it, underlined and bolded), and Scrivener’s Color Panel, which I’ve elected to view as a crayon box. No highfalutin hex lingo or color wheel for this chick.
There’s some relationship backstory which includes the main character’s core conflict; there’s also character backstory folded into the action. Again, this is first draft stuff. Some of the backstory will be moved; much of it will be deleted.
In this early stage of the writing, color coding helps me to spot backstory I might want to move to another scene. And it also helps me not to repeat backstory.
During the final stages of self-editing, before I’m ready to send it off to my editor and beta readers, I of course change all the text back to black, taking away the underlines and the bolds.
Photo: Ellis Island. An Italian family at Ellis Island. Lewis Hine, about 1905. Public Domain.