Cue Julie Andrews singing ‘Raindrops on rose and whiskers on kittens…’
OK, it’s not all like that, but it’s similar. Every writer has tools, whether they think of them as such or not. I’ve definitely developed a software toolkit that I use faithfully, so I thought I’d share.
First and foremost, there’s Scrivener. Discovery of this gorgeous, affordable little writing program got me to buy my first MacBook. Honest. Before Scrivener, I used MS Word and, while it fit the bill, it didn’t help me any. And it wasn’t that I was looking for help in defining characters or plotlines, I was looking for organization help. I was writing series books and needed to keep notes on what came before and all I could manage in Word was a separate notes document where I had to search stuff with the Find command. It worked, but it was tedious. But Scrivener was written for writers by a writer and he understands what’s needed. A second big reason he — the author — understands is because he’s got a great forum on his site and he listens to suggestions. Best part, from what I’ve seen of the forum, the people who make the suggestions are very thoughtful and respectful when doing so. Scrivener allows you to arrange your story in scenes/chapters/bits and see the lineup in a “binder” so you can easily jump from place to place. I’ve taken to making a separate “bible” file for a series and that’s where I keep notes on characters, places, and miscellaneous ideas that I need to track. For non-series books, I can keep those notes in separate docs/cards right within the Scrivener document. It’s pretty awesome.
My second favorite tool is relatively new to me, but it was a godsend. Aeon Timeline. Another piece of software written by writers for writers. In fact, I got the link from the Scrivener forum. This is essential for series books or books that span a lot of time. It allows you to not only create events along a timeline, but it also lets you relate people and other “entities” (objects, concepts, ideas) to the events. I was sold when I found that you could not only link a person to an event, but you can get it to show you how old that person was a the time of the event. That right there was worth a lot more to me than the $40 it cost to buy the software. Aeon’s still in its infancy, still version 1. But this guy’s got a forum too and he’s taking notes from suggestions others have made and it looks like he’s got some good ideas for version2.
Scrivener and Aeon are my main tools. They’re the ones I use consistently. Both of them are designed to stay out of my way, if that makes sense. They’re there to help and there are a lot of bells and whistles, but I only have to use those bits I need. The rest of the software stays tucked away so not to bother me while I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is writing.
Just in the last week, I purchased another called Contour. I’m not sure I’ll use this one all the time, but I will give it credit for helping me over a plot hump. It’s designed more for scriptwriting than novel writing, but the concepts are valid. It divides all stories into three acts and prompts you through identifying steps necessary to complete each act. I’m not so sure about Act II and Act III, to me, is kind of self-explanatory, but the overall concept and Act I questions helped me a lot.
Mariner Software, by the way, has other products that I’ve looked at seriously but haven’t yet purchased. StoryMill would be an alternative to Scrivener so I doubt I’ll ever get it, but it does look like it’s got a lot of nice features.
Now, the best part about the three pieces of software I mentioned above? They’re all around $40. I’ve only had to pay to upgrade Scrivener once in the time I’ve had it, and that’s when it went from version 1 to version 2. All other updates I just got. True, everything mentioned above is only available for Mac, although Scrivener does now have a Windows version that I’ve heard is true to the original.