Workflows with Markdown

Thanks for the book recommendations. I will check them out. To be fair, I actually fall somewhere in between planning and pantsing.

Story is king for me. Structure is more of a way of making sure that story can be told in the most effective manner.

I use Truby’s book to work through my premise and my designing principle for a book. Then once I have an idea of the general story and the characters and themes I want to deal with, I use Coyne’s Story Grid method to build a basic skeleton. I tend to have the big scenes in my head and place them into my scene list. But I don’t necessarily know every single scene in the book before I start writing. I have a good idea how the book will end, what kind of self-actualisation the main character will go through. But there is still plenty for me to discover during the writing process. And of course things can change during the whole process.

I use Aeon to keep tabs of my overall structure and to check I’m including the necessary elements in scenes, that scenes are turning and creating character change in meaningful ways. And I use it to edit scenes I’ve written, as a kind of checklist to ensure a scene deserves its place in the overall book.

So my system leans towards planning (I write quite complex thrillers with many layers to them so a good handle on plot and genre conventions is important) but I also enjoy the discovery that some level of pantsing can bring.

Like most writers, I suspect. I mentioned those books because nearly every book you see about craft advises how to plot and structure; very little suggests techniques for writing organically. I think it can be useful to see both sides, however far you are to one end of the spectrum. Sadly, I have noticed that they are very rarely available cheaply, even used paperbacks. He writes in a particular style, which I find grating except in small doses, but you can see what you think with the Look Inside.

But I think Aeon comes in handy for pantsers as well. My first novel wasn’t planned at all and this led to a lot of rewriting and editing. It’s particularly hard to keep an overview of such an organic and somewhat chaotic piece. I used Aeon after the first draft, not for planning ahead, to keep track of the storyline.
Meanwhile I plan much more, because I feel it makes my writing much more effective.

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I’m not entirely sure that makes you a pantser.
But, yes, structuring can be done at any stage and often more than once.

Having thought about it, I’m entirely agnostic.
I’m happy with multiple separate .md documents.
I’m happy with one .md file with all content separated by headings of various levels.
I’m okay with doing it through Scrivener, even though that is an extra step and imposes its own constraints.
I agree that narrative ought to be part of it.

Having tested Timeline 3 more, and thought about my workflows in real life, I’m not sure that there is any overlap in function.

  • Mindomo is a variety of multicoloured shapes available on all OSs. Very useful for freeform brainstorming about anything.
  • Plottr is simple and visual; applies a narrative sequence but does not imply the existence of a timeline - also available on all OSs.
  • Timeline implies a strong underlying timeline structure, with links to the freeform elements. Less visual, not on Android.

I expect that, if there’s a timeline, I would use Timeline for everything except the writing; if there isn’t, I wouldn’t use it at all. Having started, I might find that there are features in the other programs I want to use, but I think I’d do that without recourse to moving data around.
Lack of Android would be an issue if I was doing a lot of work on mobile and I’d have to rely on the other programs then.

The biggest friction would come from Mindomo. I’d be using it at initial concept stage, nothing worked out, and might generate a fair amount of content in the process. Nothing else is as free, so they can’t replace it for that. But it’s export capability is good and it would be quite straightforward for me to put it into any other program. Once I’ve done the Mindomo stage, I usually have no need to return to it.

So no gaps (and I’ll let you know if I spot any) and I’d like a markdown export of some sort, but I can cope with export as it is.

I pantsted back then, but I wouldn’t consider me a pantster anymore.

Hi @Dormouse ,

I just wanted to say I have bought both of Steven James’ books and have started reading his first one, Story Trumps Structure. It is an interesting read so far, and in a lot of ways, it reminds me of the Story Grid method and John Truby’s book, both of which highlight the need for good storytelling over rigid structure. And Truby’s book is very similar to James’ in that it works through the elements needed to tell a good story. Such as setting the character in their world initially and not rushing through that part too quickly.

The second of Steven James’ books looks interesting also.

So thank you for the recommendations. I always like to have as wide an appreciation of books on Story as possible. Ultimately, a lot of these books work through the same principles packaged in a slightly different way. James is more of a pantser than Coyne and Truby but Coyne suggests only a brief skeleton needs to exist prior to the act of writing.

Whether pantser or plotter, Story is in my opinion the most important element of fiction. So I think Steven James and I will get along just fine.

I don’'t write stories, nor novels or romans… But I do use Timeline for research and I use Markdown for all my research logs, research journals, research plans and Research notes… Yes I do split them…

Research journal

  • Research Logs
    • Research Notes
  • Research Plans
    • Research Notes

What I would like was a Text Editor/Markdown Editor that just opened my linked Markdown notes, and only “attacked” them when exporting a project/timeline.

I use Obsidian and Foam for VS Code + Joplin (for some tasks) as Markdown Editors because of the graph view, that is a really great way to find hidden links and relations in both structured and unstructured text only using the simple wiki-link syntax [[this is a link|with a alias]], I am also starting to look at Athens Research for the same reason, but that is still alfa.

If it was possible to link those markdown files in the existing folder structure, and edit them as files, I would be able to both use Aeon and my Markdown editor of choice to edit my research notes regardless of software… I also attack those files as media to other research software I use, and I have a work flow that includes Zotero…

To be able to view and edit those notes or creating new ones on disk in directly Aeon, would have been an excellent feature… No need for a lot of fancy stuff, all of that is already in Obsidian an other MD Editors…

To import those Markdown files as a narrative or timeline, would not benefit me and others that use markdown as research tools or writers tools and use Aeon as a research tool also much… Because we would end up with having to edit the same text in multiple files…

This is what the great Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe etc) always said he did. Except he never really said how he did it, despite explaining it often. And of course, he had aeons of prior experience. And most of these writers/methods seem to assume genre writer, and the writer knowing the genre inside out, so there’s an automatic underlying structure.

Maybe. It’s certainly the most important element in many areas of fiction. And the simplest way to get a reader to go from A to B to C. But in some SF it comes behind ideas, but ahead of character.
The most interesting description I’ve ever seen of a writer’s method, comes in Virginia Woolf’s diaries, and she wasn’t interested very much in story at all. Written as a personal record rather than for anyone else to read, and the method becomes apparent only in dribs and drabs written over decades. I suspect she would place the ability to write as the most important element, but we all know many writers who are excellent story tellers but poor at writing. And much of what she struggled with was meshing the structure of a novel with her (selected) audience’s comprehension of what was going on. Story had less need to be important because she could rely on the ability of that audience to read and persevere.

Anyway, glad you are getting something out of Steven James.

I do research too. Sync would mean that edit needs to be done in one file only. Import/Export is just a manual way of achieving sync.

Maybe this is a request for Timeline to sync with .md files?

The difficulty with syncing would come in recognising the difference between a new file, a deleted file, and a renamed file. In Scrivener or Ulysses, every document has a unique ID, so we can distinguish the difference. That doesn’t translate easily to files on disk, where none of those markers exist.

I recall above someone mentioning an app that keeps a JSON file to map those files on disk, which I assume is probably trying to address some of that concern.

With an import or export, it is a momentary transaction, which means those problems are less of a concern. Until you want to import twice and update data, which takes you back to syncing :slight_smile:


Yes, but with an import you need to reimport every time you have done an update of the file, and it can trigger a lot of problems… and if you do an update in Aeon, you will need to export back to your files on disk… possible causing other errors…

At the moment this was just a comment, I Don’t need sync, but if there was an editor that just opened-edited-saved markdown notes stored in a folder structure, it would be helpful…
It didn’t even have to render the files until export to pdf or other formats… and for that Pandoc already exist :slight_smile:

You don’t need to “sync” a file on disk, since it is just one version of it, you can open it, edit it in an embedded editor and save it…

It would be the same as when I first create a file in Foam for VSC, save it and then open and edit it in Obsidian and save it again… Obsidian has a auto push of new edits of the file in near real time, same has Zettlr (another great markdown editor for scholars etc. focused on writing).

The import of the files to your Aeons own file format could be done in export and as an option, because you don’t always want to send your Research Notes to other people… but it often is of great help when using multiple tools to only have one set of research notes…

User would need to add those files manually, but I think the benefit would be greater than the work of adding files manually… and in addition for new files added in Aeon, you could just set a “Markdown file root folder” and a folder picker for saving…

PS. this is nothing but a comment and a thought for a useful feature, no feature request or similar…

We may be talking about different things here, I suspect.

I am picturing something similar to what we do with Scrivener or Ulysses syncing, but using markdown files instead.

The syncing isn’t necessarily about the contents of the text files (although it could be), but if it is expected that those documents are linked to items in the timeline or narrative, then syncing is necessary to keep those things appropriately linked… so that we know which file corresponds to which timeline item, etc.

And this is a frequently encountered problem with the sync solutions that exist.
The WriteMonkey3 json+attached file solution might work - it works for WM3. I have had no autosave clashes even with same file open and being worked on in a number of programs concurrently (not quite simultaneous use, since it’s just me using them). I’m unsure whether it could be worth it: is there a real need to have all the written text, and ability to edit it, in Timeline? I don’t know. However barebones it was designed to be there’d commence an avalanche of feature requests. Of course, integrating WM3 would suit me perfectly. :grinning:

This is what was in my mind.

I don’t expect we would go that far. There are better text editors than anything we created would be, and I don’t anticipate moving in a direction that competes with those.

But the problems described apply if you just want to represent those documents on the timeline… you still need to be able to establish, maintain and trust those links.


Yes, I think there is differences, because you describe syncing object to a file and folder structure containing markdown files, while I’m just talking about Viewing/editing a manually “attached” markdown file in an embedded “notes editor” alá replace the multiline text field in properties with an embedded markdown editor, or allowing Text objects to be Items, and stored externally…

If you think syncing is easier regarding markdown, there is no “problem” storing ID’s and “update dates” in a markdown file, just add them as YAML…
something like this:

aeonID: Note123456789
aeonsyncdate: 2021-09-30T23:23:56
{body of note here with formatting}

my point as a researcher was that for me, the best benefit was if I could reuse my notes in multiple software, but only have the need for one file for it, and also only need to edit one file, not 2-3 different copies and re-copy text or re-attach or reimport the file every time I did an edit in the file…

Of course a full sync of Notes would be great, but to utilize them, you would need to map both YAML keys and the note body, if it should be useful, while if it was just an editor opening to read or edit a file on disk, all you need is a editor with a view for a linked file, the editor itself would be an “item” of type text or note maybe…

I stopped using Scrivener when they was not interested in adding support for a plugin for bibtex/csl-json or Zotero, so I have not used the sync function in Aeon. It’s way easier to just use markdown and be able to use Zotero with very little extra work…

ut as I wrote, this is not an request from me, just an idea in a discussion… I will just link the files I need, clicking on the link will open it in the default view I hope, and then I can edit it and save it, as long as the filename is the same and not moved, the file will be “in sync”. but it would have been great to see the Notes as text in the “inspector”.

As of now, I just create item types for my research journal structure, add 3 multi line text fields to them and copy the text I need to those fields, a lot of extra work, but doable…

I do the same for Citations one citation item linking between any other object and the source item…, then I create a multiline text field and copy the citation string from zotero, and in the source I copy the bibliography string… I also am also going to add a few document items, like agreements, crew lists manifests of ships, legal documents for companies etc. this documents will be childs of the source item…
Then I just have to find some workarounds to get thing working… including my zotero library, my markdown files, and “other stuff”…

I have been considering my own workflow, and think that I can manage perfectly well without any sync.

  • If I do a lot of planning pre-writing, then export via Scrivener into a single document, gives me a text which contains the name of all scenes, characters, locations, events etc. I can individually enclose all those I want in Wikilinks and Obsidian will then create new blank files for them.
  • If I don’t do much planning, I can just do this manually.
  • I can then put links to those files into the appropriate places in Timeline, allowing me to open and edit them directly while I consider myself primarily in Timeline. Plottr would work in precisely the same way. The file would open in the default editor, though that can’t be Obsidian; WriteMonkey and all the other editors would be possible.

That will do me. I don’t need anything more sophisticated.

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