Syncing with Scrivener

Did I read the release notes correctly that we can no longer sync Aeon Timeline with multiple Scrivener projects? One of the great things about v2 was the ability to put all the books in my series into one Timeline and see where all the threads between the books are as well as syncing plot arc and other metadata.

This will be a mess to untangle and put into separate files.

Hi Andrew,
Yes, that is one of the changes we made to accomodate the more automated syncing between Scrivener and our new narrative feature in the timeline.

Being able to support multiple Scrivener projects again is something I would be happy to explore further, but it will be a fairly difficult feature to get right. Syncing is hard enough to present clearly and in a usable interface when there are conflicts from two possible sources, let alone from 3 or more.

I would imagine it would involve something like specifying the order in which the books (i.e. Scrivener projects) in your series should be arranged, and then effectively making one giant binder hierarchy that combines the manuscript across all Scrivener projects.

It would be possible, but I suspect there is a lot of devil in those details.

One alternative that I do know some users do is to keep all of their books together in a single Scrivener project, which would achieve a similar effect to what I describe, but work with the current version.

Matt

I have a successful and working sync between Aeon Timeline v2 and Scrivener v3. My entire project is laid out on a sequential basis. I would not expect to work on a Structure for my novel until I had completed the vast majority of my writing. Now I find that I can’t sync unless I define my Structure ahead of time. I’m not quite sure how to actually solve this issue because at the moment if I use my existing timeline as a structure that will seemingly end up an mess. Any suggestions?

Hi Nicwg,
This grew into quite a long response. Please let me know if it helpful, as it may make sense for me to convert this into a blog post instead.

My entire project is laid out on a sequential basis. I would not expect to work on a Structure for my novel until I had completed the vast majority of my writing.

One way to think about this may be to simply consider the Narrative View (and Outline View) as a visual representation of what your Scrivener manuscript folder looks like.

Let’s talk about your flow in Version 2 for a second.

Data
Initially, you would have some combination of the following items:

  • Some events in your timeline that you will want to bring into Scrivener now
  • Some documents in your Scrivener project that you will want to bring Into your timeline now
  • A bunch of events in your timeline that you do not want to sync to Scrivener (yet, or ever)
  • A bunch of documents in Scrivener that you do not want to sync to your timeline (yet, or ever)

Actions
From there, you would perform the following actions:

  • Move events from your timeline to Scrivener by dragging them into the sync panel
  • Move documents from Scrivener to your timeline by dragging them into the timeline
  • Ignoring all the rest

It is likely that this process is going to create a fairly messy, unstructured Scrivener project. But that is okay, that is just the stage of the project you are up to.

Let’s look at the parallels in Aeon Timeline 3

Like I said at the top, you could think of the Narrative View as:

  1. A visual representation of your Scrivener binder (either what it is now, or what it is about to become)
  2. A kind of staging area for you to make those changes

Most importantly, treat the narrative inside your timeline as the equivalent of your Scrivener binder. With the exception of some basic front matter stuff (title page and the like), if you want it inside your Scrivener manuscript, you want it inside your timeline narrative.

Then you are applying the exact same decisions as before:

Data
Initially, you would have some combination of the following items:

  • Some events in your timeline that you will want to bring into Scrivener AND your narrative now
  • Some documents in your Scrivener project that you will want to bring Into your timeline AND narrative now
  • A bunch of events in your timeline that you do not want to include in Scrivener **OR your narrative
  • A bunch of documents in Scrivener that you do not want to include in your timeline, but that will be included in your narrative (because the narrative is a representation of the Scrivener manuscript folder).

As you can see, you are dealing with the exact same categories and decisions, it is just the place that you are making the decision now changes slightly.

Actions
Now, the narrative acts as a kind of staging house/buffer zone between Scrivener and your timeline.

  • When you make a change in your Scrivener project such as adding a new document or rearranging the order of some documents, Aeon Timeline will detect that change automatically and indicate you have unsynced changes.

    • Aside from some front-matter type content like title pages that you may choose to ignore, you should sync most of this straight into your narrative (because the narrative is a reflection of your Scrivener binder).

    • Once you have synced the document into your narrative, you can then choose to:

      • Assign it dates so that it will appear in your timeline file; or
      • Leave it without dates so it exists only in your narrative but not your timeline
  • When you have an event in your timeline that you want to move into your Scrivener project:

    • First, drag the events into your narrative. This is the place for you to work out the order you want to tell things in your story, or possibly organise them with some structure if you are ready to (but it is fine to leave it unstructured)

    • Once you make the change in your narrative, Aeon Timeline will again indicate that things are out of sync, and you should hit Sync as soon as you can to reflect that new structure in your Scrivener project

Summary

When you adopt this mindset, the changes are less significant than they may first assume.

The key benefits are:

  • The new approach automate a few more things, and prompts you as soon as there are changes, which makes it easier to keep things in sync throughout the project lifespan.

  • The narrative view and outline view can be nicer, more visual places to organise things than trying to drop them into the narrow Scrivener binder.

  • By doing your main narrative organisation inside the timeline, you have access to all of the rich data and relationships directly as you work

A final word on messiness

I would not expect to work on a Structure for my novel until I had completed the vast majority of my writing. Now I find that I can’t sync unless I define my Structure ahead of time. I’m not quite sure how to actually solve this issue because at the moment if I use my existing timeline as a structure that will seemingly end up an mess.

You don’t need to fear messiness.

Of course your narrative is going to be messy to start with. It will probably initially be a few key ideas dragged into a vague order, with no idea what structure the actual story may take around it.

That is fine. Start with that. Sync it to Scrivener as a flat list of documents. Write out a few scenes. Sync them back again. Repeat a few times. You can build an entire story that way.

The Narrative is not there to force you to create a complete structure ahead of time. It is a tool to help you find and build the structure when you need it, from whatever material you have available by then.


I hope something in here is useful and helps give you a few ideas. As I said, it will help me to understand which parts resonate (if any), and if there is anything that needs expanding, or culling.

Matt

Thanks for the reply here Matt. One other question on syncing with Scrivener. Does Aeon Timeline sync with the .scrix project or to the external sync folder? I was under the impression, however wrong that might be, that it synced with the .scrivx project itselt. However, after working in Timeline, when I return to Scrivener it will always indicate that changes were made in the sync folder and asks if I want to sync with the external folder.

This tripped me up too, when I started working on the beta. Two things have helped me make the transition:

  1. Aeon 3 is SO MUCH MORE flexible that I find I am making quite a bit of my “mess” inside of the Aeon program itself. I used to use Aeon to set dates and relationships, then sync in to Scrivener and start pushing things around. For the past several months my workflow has been shifting increasingly towards Aeon, in the structuring/drafting stage.

  2. I have created three folders in the “draft” section of Scrivener. One folder is titled “STORY” and that folder contains all of my story documents in the order that I would like them to appear in the screenplay/novel. One folder is called “UNPLACED SCENES” and that folder contains all of my… well, you probably guessed. And the third folder is called “BACKSTORY” where I keep all of my off-narrative backstory. When I compile, in Scrivener, I ignore those last two folders. And it’s very easy in Aeon 3 to create a “filter” that hides the backstory and unplaced scenes folders, so I can really use the narrative view to focus on the actual narrative.

:slightly_smiling_face:

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As far as I understand it, the external sync folder is just a place where your scriv file sits, so there’s really not a difference. (I might be wrong though)

You are correct, we work directly with the scrivx file.

I am not 100% sure what the sync folder is, but I assume that might come from edits on iOS?

Either way, we don’t touch it.

Thanks Matt!

Thanks for the explanation.

The external sync folder is designed for syncing with IOS (or eventually other platforms) and to give users the ability to edit an .rtf file with a readable (and therefore easily editable) name.

In the .scrivx\Files\Data folder are files with names like “2DAB3C0E-21D6-41F0-8C12-54EAFE09253C\content.rtf”, as we know. The upside of the external sync folder is that it contains .rtf files with names like “Someone is in my room.rtf”. The downside is that it must be set up by the user within Scrivener and so not everyone does that. (I set it up because I’m paranoid about losing data and it’s another place the data is automatically updated.)

The sync folder allows you to edit individual files from any word processor that supports the .rtf file format. Changes in the sync folder are then synced back to the Scrivener project the next time it’s opened.

What I’ve noticed is that every time I open the Scrivener project after working on it in AT, Scrivener reports changes in the external sync folder. Now that I’m assured that AT uses the .scrivx folders, I know I can safely ignore those messages.

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for that explanation. I had assumed it worked that way for iOS, although I wasn’t aware of the separate mechanism for self-editing.

The only files we edit are the scrivx file, and if the user configures it, the synopsis files. We potentially read from the main documents if required to extract the adaptive title (if title and synopsis are blank), but we do not write to it.

I gather from you asking about the scrivx file that you are working on Windows, since that file is somewhat hidden inside the package on Mac?

I remember now: The external sync folder is kind of a relic of the time before there was an iOS version of Scrivener. It is just like a folder where Scrivener puts copies of all its documents so you can edit them with some writing app from (e.g.) an iOS device.
So I guess, whenever files are changed, they must also be changed in the external sync folder. The notification seems just to confirm that the changes made by Aeon are transferred to the external documents.

Hi Shelley,
Thanks for posting this.

I have already referred one user directly to your post in response to a question they asked via our support email and it proved useful to them.

It may be helpful for us to extend this out into a little how to guide or blog post down the track.

Matt

So glad it was helpful! Took me a minute to wrap my brain around it when I started using the beta. Once I did, I never looked back. Congratulations on a wonderful piece of software. Makes brainstorming a dream. I was trying to explain it to my scientist husband last night, because it’s that good, and I had nobody else to talk to about it :slightly_smiling_face:

I have a new problem. I started a project in Scrivener 1 and synced it with Timeline 2. Recently I updated to Scrivener 3 and continued using Timeline 2 quite nicely. I have just upgraded to Timeline 3 and converted the files and everything went across well.

My problem is that I am now converting my Scrivener project to make use of sections to aide my compile process. Before, using the way that I worked, the distinction between folders and files in Scrivener didn’t matter much to me. Both folders and files were added to the timeline as events. Now the distinction really matters.

I’ve reset my Scrivener layout to clearly define levels of folders (for parts and chapters) and files (for scenes and front matter) and they work well … until I sync with Timeline which continuously resets my folders back into files. In Timeline they continue to be marked as events which is what I presume is the problem.

I’ve looked at Narrative Folders in Timeline but I don’t think that’s the answer to the problem as I can’t add a date to it and position it on the timeline.

Is there any way that a folder I create in Scrivener can be added to the timeline in Timeline and remain marked as a folder?

This looks like a use case that wasn’t considered when implementing the syncing design, so we will take note to have a look at it and see if there is a way to contain the folders/files in Scrivener when desired.

I have exactly the same problem (v3.0.11 on Win10). My external sync folder in the Scrivener project is on OneDrive which is active when I use Aeon. No activity is seen on its dashboard when I use Aeon, when I sync the Scrivener project, and when I close Aeon. Next, I start Scrivener 3 and always get this message (which never appeared with Aeon v2 after a sync wich Scrivener 3):

Changes found in external folder. This project is set to be synchronized with files contained in the external folder located at ‘C:/Users/Myname/OneDrive/Mydir’. Changes seem to have been made to files in that folder since the last sync. Would you like to sync now?

I would like to sync, thank you: All files, hundreds of them will get synchronized which takes ages. But when it is finished, the Updated Documents search filter does not show any file to be changed. I observe OneDrive daemon from its dashboard and it is processing every single file, also.

I quit OneDrive, closing it completely and try again, first Aeon with a Scrivener sync. Close Aeon. Start Scrivener. Same message. Full resync, of all files.

Thanks.

My workaround at this point is to leave the folders as files and manually set the section relationship in Scrivener.

I am sad to advise that I have given up on Aeon Timeline v3 and returned to v2.

During my time with v3 it removed all my Scrivener scenarios, it then only partially imported some of my characters deleting the rest of them, it then gave entirely different color labelling to the characters within a Group compared to individual colour labelling…and then it arbitrarily designated my POV colours across Narratives causing a complete shambles with defining relationships. Thankfully I retained backups but just be aware that if you have a mature Scrivener project using v3 may not be as straight forward as you hoped.

v3.0.12 on Win10 did not fix the issue with the external files full and forced sync. All of them

New issue for me relating to folders and documents in Scrivener that I want to ignore in AT3.

I’ve learned how to set the ignore function for a new document created in Scrivener, however, when I updated my project from AT 2 it automatically added some documents into the narrative and even the timeline that I do not want to sync anymore.

I’ve searched everywhere but can’t find a way to unlink a document from syncing.

Thanks.