Using obsidian for writing fiction (ZK, IMF)

The general question is, does anyone have any experience with this?

I’m currently reading How to Take Smart Notes, and I’m just discovering obsidian and starting to create some sort of second brain inside it.

So, here’s the thing… I’m a fiction writer. I’ve written several plays, screenplays, short stories; I also direct a lot of my own work, and both being a writer and being a director involves connecting a lot of seemingly unconnected ideas.

My process in the past would be to write free-form, write structure pages, write synopses, character backstories, etc. and somehow being immersed in all that would produce some interesting ideas.

But the main problem with that is how unpredictable it is as to when an idea would emerge. Just to take two examples of my longer narratives: it took me 4 months to write one, and 13 months to write the other, and just by happenstance the first is my opinion a lot better on the conceptual level… It has a lot more to say, a lot more layers, …

Well, then I heard CGP Grey mention that notes should be atomic and the concept of zettelkasten, and down the rabbit hole I went, looking for a solution.

So… the idea is that if you’d use your ‘second brain’ to find connections between ideas in academia, why not use the same thing for creative writing? And then I had an issue with whether I’d want to keep that separate from a non-fictional second brain, and I decided I would keep them connected. There are a lot of different worlds in my brain at the moment, some more developed, because I’ve spent many stories in them, other just tiny areas of a short story, or whatever… But they’re all connected to the rest of ideas I read, it’s rarely that it’s a fantasy world with rules of its own. I like history, so a lot of stories are set in historic backgrounds.

So, let’s say I have a note about a city. It’s more like a main note with ideas, interesting facts, etc. as connected notes. But I keep both real and fictional information linked to the same main note (maybe a MOC of sorts, I dunno).

So, basically my question is, does anyone have any thoughts on this? Any specific experience? Something they might share? Anything really.

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I am developing a 3d animated short and have used Obsidian to help organize the process of capturing ideas and making sure they are dealt with.

As opposed to my experience sticking to sketches with written callouts, using the single note system has been a gift and a curse for me.

I do not lose anything, but somehow, it almost feels more threatening to wrap everything up because the formatting and atomic nature kind of expands everything exponentially.

I have come to realize the best I can do is trust my memory, the search function for recall, and continue to constantly review and restructure everything as it helps avoid forgetting.

I can’t tell you how often I start new vaults as it is kind of embarrassing.

In the end, one thing I know is that everything will be easier and all the functionality of Obsidian will be hugely helpful once I am actually in production with a completely nailed down story and designs.

yeah, but that’s just for developing the concept, right?

It’s not like you have characters in there as their own notes with all the links to other characters, different relationships, secrets, etc.

I might be just trying to do too much with it, I don’t know. I just keep thinking I’ve never really had this anywhere other than in my head, and I’m currently writing part three of a trilogy, where I need to wrap a lot of things up, and having all of it in one place… might produce something? I don’t know…

I think academic writing (at least in my field) is more similar to fiction writing than one may think… OK, instead of characters and secrets, we have concepts and definitions and implications and such, but hey, they basically behave the same way (develop, get hidden / exposed, etc.), and we also wait for that “emerging of an interesting idea”.
I have only recently started to do my writing in Obsidian (had been a quite consistent Scrivener user before that). It’s been doable. There are a few features I miss, but the inter-linking (and esp. the ability to link to a section or even a paragraph) has helped a lot. It’s kind of frowned upon in certain circles, but I keep a separate folder for my current writing project(s), and do most of the “development” in there.

You are right that I am just in development, but I do link and organize everything in all types of complex multilayered organizational paradigms. In a way, this whole process of trying and failing over and over has taught me the software and really familiarized me with my content.

But what I keep finding over and over, is that most of the work feels unused other than what I realize while setting it all up, which should not be discounted. This is not to say it won’t all pay off, as I am sure it will. But what I was trying to tell you is that I haven’t really found that ultimate system I hoped for, but instead found many little helpful things here and there, with the most strength coming from resting assured of quality and quick searches with many quick and effective ways to lay things out when I am ready.

What I also find is that in the end, the most helpful actual documents are the curated notes filled with embeds of all notes in an organized way to be printed out and reviewed. Somehow, I always have this feeling that things are disappearing or are going to get misplaced or forgotten, so this hard copy eases my nerves and works well to be commented on and sketched within during times away from the computer.

I sure do look forward to mobile. Hope your project goes well.


@EleanorKonik is a writer.

I find I write a considerable amount of stuff that is not used in the final story with or without using a wiki, scrivener or obsidian. There is nothing wrong with that, in some ways you may find alluding to a concept is sufficient or perhaps the idea is noteworthy to your hardcore fans that would love to read their favorite authors thought process about writing the story but not valuable to the story itself. Alternatively it could be a valuable asset for a side story or (se/pre)quel.
As to the need to print out. some people just find looking at everything on a screen feels detached whereas physical paper give texture and a sense of realism. For me I find the medium matters not it’s lost in a large cabinet or somewhere on a HDD. I can search faster digitally.
Mobile would be nice but method of entry seems kludgy unless I write only in shorthand and even then it’s debatable.

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I do basically what is being described here. It works pretty well for me.

The main thing that limits me is that I can’t properly interlink prose the way I want to, because then there’s no way to get a clean copy out of Obsidian. I think @Lithou was working on a solution for this? But in the meantime I just make use of headers.

Obsidian has taken the place of Scrivener + Wiki for me (the lack of export isn’t particularly worse than Scrivener, since I’m a Windows user and export was broken for years on the Windows beta of Scrivener). I make heavy use of folders (in a modified Johnny Decimal style) and tags to keep research, to-dos, character profiles (css classes are AMAZING for separating out the styling of each different type of file), synopses and prose all separate.

I find that I can use Obsidian Git to back up to Github and then see everything I need to see in read-only mode, which is fine since I do almost no writing on mobile. What notes I need to take on mobile I don’t particularly want getting mixed into my vault, so I’m comfortable “filing an issue” in my own repository, which I can do on mobile.

@EleanorKonik: thanks for replying to me, but my comments was only meant to put the OP, @daz, in contact with you thinking you and Daz might want to exchange ideas. I like writing but am not a writer.