Life After the Word Processor, part two

Ok, so in that previous post I talked how I was dealing with storing information. Because let’s face it, even if I wasn’t a writer, there is a lot of it out there. And usually isn’t very well organized.

But what of these programs for writers? You’ve seen them in the stores: WRITE YOUR NOVEL NOW! and has some author you’ve never heard of saying that they’d not have been able to do anything without Program X.

Now why would I need program X, I’d always say, when I have a word processor? What could it do beyond, you know, typing?

Then I got an email from Mariner Software about Storymill, which is their program X. Since I have and like Mac Journal (using it now to write this entry!), I went and took a look. Now my thoughts were, what can this thing do that Mac Journal or NeoOffice can’t?

The short version is nothing. My word processor and some folders can do anything Storymill can do. My word processor and Mac Journal can do anything Storymill can do. Hell, text edit and some proper file names can do all of this. So why did I find myself drawn again and again to Storymill?

Presentation and packaging which has to be the software equivalent of “Location, Location, Location.”

Storymill provides a single user interface for writing of scenes, which are then grouped into chapters, of character bios, place descriptions, even outside research. All of these can be tagged, marked and labeled with ‘1st draft“, ”final draft“ etc.

This organization allows you to have all your information right there in front of you. ”Now what color was that dudes hair?“ We’ve been there before. You just click on the characters tab and find him and there he is. Scenes can be marked with who is in them, so you can at a glance see which characters are in which scene.

The scenes are then put into chapters. From there you can read through in the chapter the scenes. This makes moving scenes around easier. Decide you want to talk more about the good guys in the coffee shop before you show the bad guy again? just drag the scene order to how you want it.

There is a timeline feature which lets you tag scenes with a specific date and time. Then you can seem then laid out on the time line arranged by character storyline. This will help keep you from having a character in two places at once.

It even has a ‘progress’ meter. Say you have a daily goal of 1000 words, or writing for 20 minutes? You put that in, and the meter up top will let you know when you get to your goal.

My only wish is that it worked better with Mac Journal. I already start small ideas, even have written a short story or two in MJ. It would be nice if i could link say a research entry in Storymill with a journal entry in Mac Journal so it was updated from either program.

Is this better than NeoOffice? in the end it is all about how you work, how you use these things. In the end, the words on the screen are the important part, now how many bells your software has (well, unless you are writing software, but that is another post I suppose).

I can see myself using StoryMill to write and organize, but at the same time it falls into the previous entry’s issue with too many programs taking notes. In the end I still need to be properly organized with my information so that it can be found. (hence wishing it linked up with MJ)

Life After the Word Proccessor?

I’ve been using NeoOffice for the Mac since its 0.0.1 stage. My wordproccessor needs were pretty simple: Wordperfect. Since that wasn’t possible being a Mac and all, I went for a different approach: Free.

NeoOffice, which is a verison of with a whole bunch of Mac-awesome packed in it, has come a long long way since those first experimental patches that allowed it to do things like print. And in that time when I wanted to write anything, stories, newsletters, posts, notes and ideas, I would fire up Neo, write it down and save it.

So what happened? I have all of these files on my computer. A single book idea can take folders within folders, files upon files. Character sketches, outlines, scene ideas, background stories, and of course the work itself.

I started looking into other things other ways of storing information. For my first try I had some basic criteria: portable, cross platform, easy to use. First thought was a Wiki. I set up MediaWiki on one of my sites. This, however, created the need for the internet. So I threw in another requirement: offline.

I found a wiki-on-a-stick called TiddlyWiki. A single HTML file you store on your thumb drive, your dropbox, anywhere you want basically, it lets you do Wiki-ness and Journal-ness. I used this for ideas, characters, research (i think half is just wikipedia links) and ocasional scene writing. This was my scrap paper, my non-linear notebook. One day I’ll show it off.

Later I participated in some Mac software bundle. I believe it was Mac Heist 2, but i could be wrong. I came with a program called Mac Journal, which I have blogged about here as my new ‘toy’. It hooked up to this blog, downloading my content, and letting me upload from it.

I started using it for a notebook, weaning off of the TiddlyWiki slowly. It was Mac only, so I still had that portable itch, but it was good for notes and research for sure. Without the Wiki-ness it didn’t have the internal links (like linking a charater’s name from an idea to the page of his sketch), but allowed for more robust entries. TiddlyWiki was a text file only. Mac Journal allowed for images and video as well. Along with some Mac-awesome.

Months later I am only kinda sold. It is a great too to store information. I use it for school, recipes, and general scrap paper. But for writing? When I open that TiddlyWiki to look something up, it still FEELS more useful.

One thing I am trying to avoid is having TOO many note taking programs. I did try Evernote, which helped with the portable problem, but its client doesn’t hook up to WordPress. There was a few others, but in the end I ditched them all, not because they were bad, but because I was spreading myself too thin. Why have files in Google Docs, TiddlyWiki, MediaWiki, Dropbox, harddrives, thumbdrives, saved on my iPod, on my phone… see where this is going? Soon you can’t find anything which is way worse than the inconviences of 50 files per story.

As it stands now, I still use NeoOffice to write my stories. (Next post is about that) but for notes, outlining, etc, I currently have Mac Journal, which is a fantastic program btw, and TiddlyWiki. I think as long as I have the XO, the tiddlywiki will stick around.In the end, quick and cross platform is just too good to give up.