What a Tool, part 3.
In Part 1 I talked about the cloud connect with Google Docs. Well, I have been using it with one document, editing it on the downstairs laptop. The synch works fine, the loading of the document is fine when opening it from Google Docs. Tonight I will try pulling the updated document down from Google to my main computer’s writing folder. Which you may recall is the structure I uploaded to Google Docs using their tool.
Today I talk about one of my main tools in writing, I call it storyCreator. It is a homespun application that I wrote several versions of, with the intent of creating a tool that fits me and how I like to write and organize myself. It is meant to be reasonably portable, running anywhere you can run Adobe Air applications. I know it works on both Linux and Windows. There are several main parts of the program: Projects, Encyclopedia, Informational.
Projects are the mainstay of the app. A project could be a manuscript, or short story. I have a book on writing short stories and in it there are several lists it uses to create a framework for the story you are writing. I took the elements of that framework and broke them down into parts of a project. A project in my app contains a summary of the story, conflicts, needs, connections, characters, details, ideas, encyclopedia, scenes, submissions and external files. Characters and Ideas can be copied into the Encyclopedia. Each project has one, and there is a collective Encyclopedia of all the projects.
So I create a new project and fill out the summary page. This is the beginning of a project. As I ponder, research and think of new things I can add them into the project’s framework. At a glance I can tell what the main points of the story are, how they will be achieved, who the protagonist is. I get a very high level view of the project and how it is to fit together. Usually what happens is that I will get so far into a written piece and lose sight of how two factions may view each other or some small nuanced piece will cease to make sense. Here I have a quick way to get back on track.
The Project also allows me to type up to 7000 characters per ‘scene’. I can write a short scene of dialog or a description and keep it for future reference. I also have a tool for excerpts. It functions like a clipboard. I can tack anything into it even without a project selected. Then I can open a project and copy the excerpt into whatever part it fits.
There are several export features too. I can send the entire thing to a .rtf file, just the characters or just the scenes. Again, it allows for me to review the information being put into the work in progress. I can also export the project in XML format and import it into another copy of the program (on a different computer for example.)
Something else I am baking into the app is the ability to transmit the summary of a project, news items and encyclopedia entries to a web application. My hope is to run it on my Google App Engine account.
The Encyclopedia is something I have always wanted as a writer. I take care and pride in crafting characters. To me they are vital. With my Encyclopedia I have a place to store them, search for them and see if there are any known associations. The software reads through the data and creates links when another character’s name shows up. Right now that feature is pretty bare. It requires an exact match to create the link. That would not be bad except that there is no easy way of entering the associate’s name other than typing it out by hand. Though I could probably implement some form of drag and drop from the character list to the character sheet.
Last there is the other functions. I have a news posting form, Thesaurus lookup, Wikipedia Search, Favorite links form. All useful bits, but hardly related to writing.
This tool is used at the beginning of a project. The initial ideas are copied from my notebook and plugged into the application. Then gradually over time characters and ideas are added. Once the writing process starts I have a good framework to refer back to. I am not completely rigid to it though. I do let my writing explore its own direction.
Is this absolutely necessary to create a success written work? Of course not. Is it for everyone? Nope. Would it work for you? Meh, maybe, maybe not. Writing is intensely personal. How you approach it is a trial and error process of self discovery. Is this better than a corkboard and some 3 x 5 cards? Depends on who you ask.
There are plenty of commercial/freeware products out there as post number 2 pointed out. Mileage is bound to vary.
Whatever you do, I suggest keeping it as long as it works and you feel that you are productive. Any tool that hinders the writing does not need to be kept around.
Thanks for reading, and keep writing!