A novel writing helper ideas? (Split formula?)

I am trying to make a novel writing helper. Sort of a replacement for this app called Scrivener. I am making it so that each chapter is a new section, but I would love to have a section with all the chapter’s text together. Is there a formula for copy/pasting the text from other sections? Or, if I write all the chapters in one section, could I use another to filter to just see a single chapter?

Also, any ideas on automating an outline (with links) of the chapters?

If you have any ideas for what this doc could include, let me know!!

I had a thought to base the doc off of the “snowflake” novel planning method. Basically, you start with a one sentence description of the plot, then expand that into a paragraph, then expand that into multiple pages, then expand that into specific scenes. Any thoughts on how I could link these sections together would be great!

Ok, so I made the snowflake method into a table, each column going into more details than the previous column. But since it is kind of awkward to write a paragraph in different rows for each sentence, I was thinking the first step would be writing the paragraph plot, then translating it into the table. I think the best way to do this is with split formula, but I don’t know quite how the specific formula would look like. Here is what I have right now:

Awesome use case @zoglow! While the formula language can’t access Sections / text blocks in the canvas (can’t wait for us to support this!), you can definitely work through this in a Table as you’ve described (using @refs and formulas to render the paragraph as text in the canvas). You can actually now use the minimalist table features to hide some of the table chrome to make it feel outside of the grid!

Re: your split formula - that’s definitely a way to parse a larger block of text into different components. All you have to do is pick a delimiter (like #) and apply it to your paragraphs. You can then use Split() and Nth() to choose which segment to return in the table. Check out this example:

Does that help?


That helps a ton, thanks! I’m thinking I can use a combo of views and minimalist table features to make adding the initial paragraph very clean. Oh, this is exciting! :grinning:

I’m using Coda now for story writing.

I have a table that’s just scenes – scene title, scene text, etc… and have multiple views of that table, including one that shows the full text of the scene and one that shows just the summary list.

I have a table that’s stories, with story titles, linked to the scene table. I have a formula field for “full story text” that concatenates all the individual scene texts.

I have table with characters, that automatically lists all the scenes where that character is mentioned. I’m currently setting up a similar table for locations.

I have a section of tables with default variables – current scene, current view – so I can easily navigate between everything.

I have a table of questions that need to be answered, a table of to-do lists, all references back to the stories they belong to.

The WordCount workaround is here: Word Count - Word Processing Features

Here’s how I set up my buttons to jump to individual scenes: Create button to go to related record?

I’m planning to make it available as a template once I’m done building all the functionality, but right now, Coda seems to give me everything I need.

The only thing I need to do outside Coda is to create a Word document, and I do this by cutting and pasting the full story text. I’m looking forward to Coda getting “export as Word” or “export as PDF” functionality – that’s all I’m missing before I can move all my company workflow over.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions about specific parts, at maria@korolov.com



For the outline, what I did was have a “section” column in the Scenes table, and then group the scenes by section. For me, the sections are the sections from Save the Cat, but you can use chapters here, or acts, or parts, instead. Or a combo, just by setting up a new field for each one.

What I like about doing it this way is that when you have a grouped list, Coda makes it easy to move scenes around between the sections.

I’ve been looking for a while for a good outlining platform to use for novels, and this is actually the best one I’ve found so far, since Google Docs doesn’t make it easy to move outline sections around or collapse and expand individual sections. (My previous workflow was a custom-build Filemaker database.)


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Another tip – since I’m using the same database for multiple stories and novels, I also have a “Story title” field in the scenes table, link to the appropriate entry in the stories table.

Then in the dashboard, I filter out just the scenes where the story title matches the title of the “current story” in my variables table. That keeps this section from being cluttered with scenes from finished stories, or scenes from stories that I might work on in the future but am not working on right now.

In the stories table, I also have a button “set as current story” so that I can switch to looking at other stories easily.

I started out with the CRM template, and that gave me a lot of what I needed to start with.

– Maria


Hi! Thanks so much for sharing all these great ideas! I actually made a Coda Doc since starting this thread that uses the Snowflake Method to help plan your novel. If you’d like you can check it out here :blush: https://coda.io/d/Snowflake-Method_dA3vj-NjEth/_su2cC

I requested access a couple of days ago, and it looks great, thanks! A different data architecture than what I’m doing, but lots of ideas here!

– Maria

Literally just after replying to you this morning I found out that the guys at Coda were able to make it into a template! Here is the link: https://coda.io/t/Snowflake-Novel-Planner_tVnTLVFxytA

I think I’ve followed all your updates on this in this thread and others, and am blown away by your ambition and creativity. However, I don’t seem to see a template yet available. Is it up and running? Are you still tweaking it? Have you hit unexpected snags? Did you simply not have enough chocolate and coffee to finish it? I’m exhausted thinking of all the work, but hopefully it’s nearing completion. Thanks for your efforts and looking forward to seeing it!