Tuesday, August 10

Ways to organize (or maybe to waste your time).

     After a crazy weekend of blogfesting my brains out (and no, I’m still not done reading some of the posts), I’m eager to get roaring on my current WIP so I can get around to finishing the biggest edit ever on my first MS.  Yes, I have some great ideas to get myself in a happy place with it.  Finally—whew!!

     My second WIP seems to be in better shape than my first and I think it may be that I actually incorporated a little—and I mean teensie—bit of outlining this time.  The story arc and character arcs are all improved.  Now that I’ve worked out this method of plottsing (or is it pantsotting?  It all sounds weird.), I know how I want to edit my first MS.

     I noticed a few blog posts from writers who were having some trouble finding a system for outlining or organizing their scenes, and though I’m a big fan of the old bullet list, I don’t think anyone else is all that enthusiastic about it.  So I thought I’d look at some creative writing tools to try out.

     I found plenty of programs to choose from.  The most pricey was Dramatica Pro at $200-$220.  From what I read, this software could just about write the story—well, if you can figure out how to use it.  It asks you about a few hundred questions and then maps out the story for you down to the bitty details.  It has just about every feature available in a writing software program including structure templates, brainstorming tools, outlines, reports, conflict, plot and character development tools, and a built-in word processor.  I thought I’d laugh when I read it has no spell check or word count capability.  Sounds like some geeky engineer student oversight to me.

     If you want to save a bit, but still keep most of the features, Power Structure has just about all the same features at $149.95 except it’s reportedly a lot more difficult to use.  It doesn’t come with tutorials so you’re on your own with it.

     If you want to save even more, $29-$99 or so will buy you WriteWay, Power Writer, or StoryWeaver.  These programs give you nearly the same number of features as the other two programs, but for under $100, although the features lean more to the word processing side than to the story development side.  They’re also easier to use for the less experienced writers (like me!) as well.  On the down side, the first two programs don’t work with Mac.  For Mac, Scrivener looks pretty darn good and at such a low price.

     If you’re anything like me and flock to anything that’s free, you could try an open source program.  I’ve found a couple with some good reviews.  Storybook can help with structuring your book with tools to manage chapters, scenes, characters and locations.  It offers several different views of your work and instantly saves data as it’s entered.  You can also export in a variety of formats, txt, pdf, html, rtf, etc.  yWriter is another one developed by a writer and earning positive remarks.  Rough Draft is no longer being updated, but the software is still available for download.  I personally have Celtx, an open source screenwriting program that allows storyboards, etc., but all I ever do with that is play around with it.

     The basic thought behind these programs is that a simple word-processing program is inadequate for longer pieces of fiction and stories with complex plots or characters.  After looking at a bunch of the screenshots, I can see how some of the views might be beneficial, but I’m at my best when working simplistically, often with just a pen and paper.  Maybe I haven’t found the right program for me yet.

     How about you?  Do you have a favorite program you use or do you just prefer a basic word-processing program like Word?  Or is it pen and paper, too?  What’s in your writer’s toolbox?


  1. I found that the easiest way for me to keep track of all the salient plot and character points was to print out every chunk of text that I wrote.

    Doing it this way served a dual purpose: 1) It allowed me to edit during the times I wasn't writing (last project about 95% of the pages had some kind of edit notes written) and 2) it became a very valuable reference tool because there were occasions where I would either misplace or forget a particular plot point with no idea on how to retrieve it.

    Doing it like that allowed me to flip back multiple pages (which was a lot easier than trying to find it in a word document because I save all my stuff in blocks of 35-37 pages) and find where that original plot point was (very necessary when you have four distinct plot points going on at the same time).

  2. Thank you so much for adding my 100 Followers Contest to your sidebar, Angela!

    Regarding your post, I don't have a system. I just sort of keep it all in my head, and that's overwhelming but I just can't even begin to think of a way to outline something that doesn't really fall into a straight sequence, what with parallel storylines, subplots and such. However, I'm currently taking an online writing course and it's been very helpful. So I might take what I'm learning and use it to create more structure for my next project.

  3. I use a software program called Snowflake and its the best tool I have. It helps me to break down the elements of my story and the layers of my characters. I love how easy it is to keep organized, but doesn't constrain you and dampen the creativity.

  4. I'm very plain, more or less because I don't have the funds to support the fancy things and I'm not even sure I'd understand how to use it!

    I love Microsoft Word, it's perfect for what I need when writing my first draft. I never take much time to write it, normally under 2 months it's complete. From there post-its and the printed out first draft along with my red pen are the hot new items.

    I find it works best for me! I continue to tweak with each new piece written!

    Awesome blog... I'm a new follower!

  5. Lots of good stuff there, going to check em out. Staying organized is the hard part for me.

  6. I've often wondered about buying a program that would help with my writing, but I'm worried it would take too much time to learn how to use the thing. And time isn't something I have a lot of. So, I write the old fashioned way, I outline and write on the computer, then I take it to my critique group for a good blood-letting. Nothing like it. :)

  7. Well, I just use Word. My writer's toolbox consists of writing courses I've taken that contain extremely valuable tips and stuff. ;)

  8. Hello! I love the idea of creative tools to help but I think I'd need time to tinker and learn them, and then that would eat into the time I have spare to actually be creative. Maybe one day when I don't have to work full-time as well and have a super computer in order to play with these things... until then there is my pen, a notebook, and Word!

  9. I got Dramatica Pro as a Christmas gift. It does read as if it will write your story.
    It doesn't, but it does help you organize your thoughts. It helped me flesh out minor characters and really pinpoint motivations. It forced me to outline.
    These are all good things.
    It was really time consuming.

  10. @G: Environmentalists will cringe, but I need to print periodically to catch things I miss on the computer screen. It's almost like stepping back for a bigger view for me. Never thought about doing this scene by scene. I'll have to try it out.

    @Christine & Elizabeth: I'm seriously considering taking courses. Time's the enemy of the moment, but maybe soon...

    @Raquel: I'll have to look at that. Hopefully, it didn't take too long to figure out?

    @Jen: It sounds like we have very similar methods. Sometimes simple is best. Thank you for following!

    @Toemailer: I'm not the most organized (total pantser I am), but I'm learning a little planning helps me keep on track.

    @Kathi: Feedback indicates many of the programs take time to learn. Ya know, I could use a crit group for a good old-fashioned blood-letting. Love that imagery!

    @Jayne: Definitely sympathize about the time. I wish we could all just stay home and write for a living :)

    @Erin: Thank you for the review. It's good to know pros and cons before shelling out for a new system. I was considering it, but I'm not sure the benefit is worth the cost (at least for now). Supportive person whoever bought that for you!


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