topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • Tuesday October 19, 2021, 3:38 pm
  • Proudly celebrating 15+ years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Last post Author Topic: Really tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing  (Read 3096 times)

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
This mini-review was triggered by two circumstances:
1. I have a project. It isn't exactly stuck, but does feel as if it would benefit from rethinking the structure. Which led to me thinking about how best to do it, which brought me on to 2.
2. I was mulling on a spreadsheet with cards instead of cells, wondered about the Storylines feature in Writer's Cafe, checked Anthemion's website, found there was a new version of Jutoh which included a similar looking StoryBoard feature, as well as an update to Writer's Cafe. Definitely looks a bit like a spreadsheet with cards.

And on investigation:
3. Although StoryBoard and Storylines look identical, the instructions suggest quite a lot of difference under the hood, so comparison needed.
4. And there are other approaches I could take, and other programs. So possibly a wider set of comparisons, so I know where best to turn in future when I need to address something structural.
5. And AeonTimeline 3 is on the horizon. Nice to know where that fits.
6. And worth checking for anything new.
7. And if I'm going to do it, I might as well write it down for future reference, in which case I might as well put it up as a mini-review.

And doing this systematically means:
8. I can learn and try out some of the programs in order to design, structure and write the review.
9. And then test it on my project.

I needed to decide a program for writing and storing the necessary research. The obvious choice for me was Obsidian. So I set up a new folder and made it a new vault nested inside the Scriptorium. Produces a contained space for all the work and research. To record progress, I made use of the Daily Notes feature for the first time. Most of the full writing packages such as Scrivener would have worked too - but none had advantages over Obsidian.
2. Thence to working out what to do. Brainstorming phase. I tried outlining in Obsidian, but found it unconvincing - outlines are designed to be sequential and this wasn't. But the chosen approach needed to aid developing the sequence. I felt a free-form corkboard would work - eg Scrivener's Corkboard, Writer's Cafe's Pinboard, or panes in Notezilla. I decided to try the Pinboard, not having used it previously. It was easy and perfectly functional.
   1. This produced three sections:
      1. Programs or alternative approaches
      2. Important issues and features to consider
      3. The tasks themselves - or Stages of Creation, Organisation or Reorganisation.
3. When away from the computer I needed to do something different. I tried a digital pen and paper with screenshot. That also worked easily and well, but would have been more cumbersome to shift entries around.

My original idea was to categorise the essential tasks and then to prepare a detailed comparison table of the important differences between all the options that came to mind. But I hit a wall of reluctance once I realised that this would mean spending time describing and recording options that I had already dismissed in my own mind.
So, I will simply give my personal perspective of each option up to the point where I stopped looking at it.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Pen and Paper or digital equivalent
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2021, 06:18 PM »
The huge advantage the pen and paper (including digital equivalents) option is that it is the most accessible by far. This is backed up by its flexibility in being abe to be used in all ways for all stages. And has produced more great works than everything else combined. *And* is processed neurally differently to computer based systems or typewriters. **And** it is always easy to digitise with phone cameras.
There are many digital options; I liked Notability on iOS and Squid on Android.

I use it frequently. For anything.
The big weakness with me is that it doesn't integrate easily into detailed planning. Even if I were writing a piece longhand, it wouldn't - the detailed planning would be done in my head with just enough scrawled down to trigger my memory. And this means that reformulation is difficult without just starting again. Moving things around is hard on paper, and not that easy on digital equivalents.

  • For me, the main value is in not losing ideas.
  • And the initial brainstorming, rough thinking part of the process.
  • But it can be used at any part of the process. In organising and reorganising, it's useful being able to think through connections; drawing dynamics into the picture rather than a static diagram. And being able to incorporate notes and details at the same time.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Scapple
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2021, 06:20 PM »
This is Scrivener's equivalent of pen and paper as a Mac/Windows program - Windows, as usual with L&L, being a paler reflection of the Mac version. (Rant - I do wish they wouldn't simply try to slavishly copy the Mac originals; that makes it much harder work for the Windows developers, especially when dealing with functions integrated into the Mac OS, and then doesn't allow them to take advantage of similar advantages within Windows. A simpler, cruder, equivalence target would probably be more effective.)

The big downside is that it doesn't have same advantage of easy availability. Computer only. For me, that doesn't cut it in an age when phones and tablets have apps that will do very similar things (eg iOS Notability, Android Squid - I regard these as digital pen and paper).

The advantage it has is easy extraction of text and easy import into Scrivener. Which makes it a reasonable choice for Scrivener users who sit at their computer all the time.

scapple-main.jpgReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing
« Last Edit: April 18, 2021, 03:33 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Draw.io; Bubbl.us and many simpler mindmapping alternatives
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2021, 06:22 PM »
After the suggestion from KodeZverg, I started looking at Draw.io, which was quite easy and intuitive. Diagram software rather than mindmap, so no outlining or import/export that isn't visual. When I first looked on my tablet, it didn't seem to work very well but it was fine on Windows (I'd note that this is true for the web version of Mindomo too); can be attached to Drive, Dropbox etc as well as local drive option so multi-device sync and availability is there. Shapes and arrows, colours, templates. Passes my quick and simple test and joins my list for trying on my project.

I started by looking at Bubbl.us - I was interested to see what it was like. But didn't grab me at all. Then tried many alternatives. All had faults that made them worse than using a pen and paper:
  • insufficiently intuitive
  • too inflexible
  • visuals poor, making it hard to see what is going on
  • too much effort required to make them function as desired.

I had expected that having the ability to create more impactful mindmaps would constitute a sufficient advantage for at least one of the programs to outdo pen and paper. It's not as if many of them are cheap; Bubbl.us has a free tier but its functionality is limited and only 3 elements allowed. And like many of them it then went to $5 a month. Might be okay if used regularly, but not cheap, and that is standard pricing for the multiplatform web apps. I'd probably be mostly Android, which would be cheaper, but I still didn't see anything giving the advantage I'd need over pen and paper. Far too much work required for them to be helpful with reorganisation.

So I decided to discount the category completely, though I'd be happy to look again if there's a strong recommendation for one program.

Of course, it could be a completely different story if we use a more powerful mind mapping program extensively as part of our writing workflow. If that were the case, then it ought to be easy to look at the the main mindmap to look for clues to what could be done to make things work better.

Maybe I ought to look at at some of the better programs to see see how well they would work. The downside is the cost: they are mostly subscription and not cheap; I doubt if free works well enough, from what I remember. Hmmm.
No, of course I should. I have always known that this type of visual approach would work best for me in many areas, but nothing ever has in practice. Pure mindmapping doesn't work with its central node - that makes it just a visual outliner, and text outliners don't work for me either: I need multiple links and multiple starting points. Diagramming works, but it's only a visual overview - the link with text, notes etc is still required in practice.
So back to my eternal quest to find a mindmapping/diagramming program that suits me. If it's good enough price won't matter. Cross platform is essential, web might do. Interoperability is essential, preferably linking with .txt and/or .md files. Easy is also needed - too complex and much of the effort expended is producing little gain in output.
(I note that this is an interesting comment on the Obsidian graphing, which I don't use much; what I'd really like is a graph view where I can draw the graph and the notes and links are then created. I will check to see what already exists in that way.)
Maybe a second best will do.

But using a new creative framework still doesn't address the need identified in this review.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2021, 06:52 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Writer's Cafe Pinboard
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2021, 06:24 PM »
Simple corkboard with notes (text + images) that can be formatted, coloured, resized and moved around freely (including on top of each other). afaics the content doesn't link to any writing content, just making it a freestanding pinboard for ideas, though copy and paste is easy enough to do.

Simple and easy to use. Useful for brainstorming and early development, but the lack of any structure makes it harder to use for organising etc. I'm not sure it would be worth using if you weren't already using Writer's Cafe - unless it's the only similar option you have.

pinboard_xp_medium.jpgReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing
« Last Edit: April 18, 2021, 12:49 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Scrivener Corkboard
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2021, 06:25 PM »
The Scrivener 3 Corkboard is at the other end of the spectrum from the simplicity and ease of the Writer's Cafe Pinboard. It really is very Scrivenerish. Now, I am no expert on Scrivener, let alone the new Scrivener 3 and some of my observations may be due to ignorance of the precise menu or setting that would have produced a different outcome. Whereas the WC pinboard is only really suitable for brainstorming and early development (and reminders), the Corkboard seems as if it ought to be capable of detailed organisation and reorganisation. There are certainly enough options.

The question, for the purpose of this review, is whether delving into them is likely to be a productive use of my time. And it didn't take me much thinking to know that the answer is 'No!'
To explain - the corkboard has a freeform option the same as the pinboard, but it also has the linking lines as seen in the WC Storylines feature, as well as a grid view option. Relevant controls exist at the bottom of the Corkboard pane, and in Corkboard options under the view menu; there's also an entry on the Navigate menu ('Corkboard Selection Affects'). Whereas the WC Storylines allows cards in the same position on every line, thus giving a freedom of choice about exactly what the lines represent, the Corkboard allows only one; moving them along shuffles them on other lines and will also change the sequence of the linked section in the binder. The analogy is that they represent scenes in a book and two scenes cannot be in the same place on the same page (though while this is true for conventional text books, it would not necessarily be true, for example, in picture books and need not actually be true in text books, though I wouldn't like to format an ebook to achieve this; many textbooks don't have this arrangement either). Additionally there are labels and icons etc etc, but I'm already fatigued.
The point is that it doesn't simplify anything unless you have a book that is already structured on Scrivener lines - and, given the extent of interdependence of the features, being constructed entirely within Scrivener.

And I used to be such a fan of the corkboard!

I have never been assimilated into the Scrivener system, but I have dipped into it at times for individual tasks where Scrivener had especially useful features. I anticipated that ought to be the case here with my project, but I can already see that the amount of work I would need to do to get it in, and the reading and learning I would have to do to use it, is way over the likely benefit. And the lack of flexibility over the 'track' feature makes me doubt there would be any benefit at all.

7-flexible.jpgReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing
« Last Edit: April 18, 2021, 03:31 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Notezilla
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2021, 06:26 PM »
As everyone will know, Notezilla is a sticky note program where the notes can be coloured, formatted, resized and moved around freely (including on top of each other) - just like the WC Pinboard. But it has a few extra tricks in its locker which extend it's range of use.
The first of these is noteboards. So instead of one pinboard there are as many as desired - and notes can be dragged between them. (You can have more than one pinboard on WC, but the process and use is much more laborious.)
Also tags.
And the notes can be attached to windows, so although the text is not directly linked to writing content each note can be stuck to a file in which you are writing.
Word and character counts are helpful. Ability to do reminders, todos etc could sometimes be useful too.

From the perspective of the review, the advantage of the memoboards is that they allow the notes to be structured and organised. They act like folders in a file explorer, thereby giving a hierarchical structure as in outliners including Scrivener. So the notes can be organised in any way, reorganised easily at any time, and the system can contain different types of organisation at the same time.
For example, if someone is writing a novel, they could brainstorm and develop characters, or groups of characters, on one board with places etc on others. Plot, events and scenes could be worked up in a different group of boards. It would be possible to write up those scenes in full on the notes, arrange the folders and sequence exactly as in Scrivener and then export the whole as an HTML file (or CSV or individual txt files) - a full book written in Notezilla; I wouldn't suggest anyone did this - there are too many useful features in editors in writing programs that would be missed - but it is possible.
There's also the possibility of synchronising across all devices ($14.95 pa), making for easy cross-platform use.

For my project, this is looking like a very attractive option. It is simple, flexible and very visual. Organising and reorganising is easy and adaptable. Cross-platform and sync. With the added bonus of CSV import and export, it's starting to look as if Excel, AeonTimeline 3, Mindomo and Notezilla could be the core of a complete creative and organisational writing system for all types of writing.

It wouldn't suit anyone who likes the support of an integrated structured system as is found in most programs aimed at writers. There's no suggested structures or recommendations or pre-existing links between different components of the writing system.

Screenshot_Insert_Pictures_Inside_Sticky_Notes.jpgReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing
« Last Edit: April 19, 2021, 04:51 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Jutoh 3 Storyboard and Writer's Cafe Storylines
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2021, 06:27 PM »
I've combined the two programs into a single review, because they appear to be essentially the same program, with the Jutoh version updated, and somewhat simplified.

Like the corkboard/pinboard programs, there are cards, but they have (optional) straight linking lines (horizontal or vertical) and the background is arranged as in a table or spreadsheet and each card has to be in a cell. In Jutoh, there can be more than one card in a cell but not so in Writer's Cafe. This sounds like the lines option in the Scrivener Corkboard, but, imho, it is much more useful because there can be cards in every cell in a column. The original idea was that rows would represent chapters and rows, but they can be configured and that allows huge flexibility in how they can be used.

For instance, let us imagine plotting a country house murder. The rows could be set to rooms and the columns to times. Cards could represent characters, each character having one card per column; on that card could be written what the character was doing. As the plot was developing, and options were being considered and changed, the cards could be moved around between the rooms, until they fitted. Some of the fit would be designed to provide descriptions when the surviving characters were interviewed - it would be clear who and what they could see at the time in question. Part would be to detail the movements of the murderer and the murdered. Some to grant, or hide, lines of vision. And then to plant red herrings. All this can be done using the cards to check it out and to record the relevant plot details. As only Jutoh allows multiple cards in a cell this would only work with Jutoh; images can be used in both.
Or
Columns could be times again, but the rows could be arcs, giving a description of what is happening with each arc. Moving the cards as necessary to produce the best integration of events in all the arcs. Tags could be used to indicate whether the events were in the narrative, or omitted.
Or the columns could be characters, and the rows too. Reading across, could give the row character's feelings/perception of the column character (including self). Only half the cells would be filled, of course. This use though might best be done on a table or spreadsheet, if there would be no value in changing the position of the cards.
Or or ...

I've gone into some detail of possible usage in an attempt to illustrate the difference between this and corkboards and spreadsheets. It isn't a tool to be used in the brainstorming or early working out stages of a project (other techniques are better for that), but it can be very useful when starting to work out some details. And yet it is very simple and easy to use. The text in a card can be linked to the text in the narrative, and can actually be the primary writing screen if it is preferred.

Unfortunately neither version has a dark mode which will limit my own usage a little - but I can mitigate this by doing most of the Storyboard work in full screen mode (F11) which can hide all the glare. There are a number of differences between the versions, but, personally, the multiple cards in a cell clinches it for Jutoh. I'll use that anyway for formatting.

screenshot-storyboard.pngReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing
« Last Edit: April 22, 2021, 04:53 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Outlining
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2021, 06:29 PM »
In my mind, I was thinking of programs such as Dynalist and Workflowy when I considered outlining as one of the approaches. I've actually used Dynalist for this purely because I have it on this computer and don't have Workflowy. I believe that this is right at the opposite end of the spectrum to Timeline 3, being best for brainstorming and early development. The brainstorming is easy - writing ideas as they come, each idea being a branch from the previous idea or a new one. Complete freedom to go up and down and put new ideas in whenever they spring into being. Once there are enough ideas, they can be shuffled around - potentially many times - until a structure starts to develop. There's nothing fixed about what sort of structure it ought to be and nor, yet, is there a need for a sequential list of scenes. Pictures, photographs and other files can be attached to the appropriate bullet. Focus is improved by being able to fold/hide all the branches that are irrelevant, and Dynalist has hoisting so the single branch can be elevated on its own. Many writers have never felt the need for anything more than outlining for both brainstorming and development. Plottr has templates for beat sheets, Hero's Journey etc, but it is easy enough to do in outlining with the beats as main nodes.

It's never really worked for me. They're useful when I'm in full flow, but simply don't provide me with the stimulation I need when I stutter to a standstill. I'm aware it's just me. I find drawing, mindmaps, diagrams - anything visual - helpful; I find spreadsheets helpful because I can work backwards from target wordcounts into structures and see what is still needed (and what definitely won't work); but, when ideas and words aren't flowing naturally, outlining doesn't trigger them. So they won't help me with my current problems until and unless something else gets things going, and the words flow again. When words do flow, outlining can be good because it's a fast and efficient way to capture the ideas produced (at the risk of requiring a structure that doesn't properly represent the relationships of the ideas).
« Last Edit: May 01, 2021, 02:11 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
WriteItNow Storyboard and Storylines Editor
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2021, 06:30 PM »
The Story Board is very simple and an analogue of the corkboard/pinboard except that it includes chapters (left column) as well as scenes (remaining columns). You can shuffle chapters vertically and scenes within and between chapters. That's it.

It could be quite useful for working things out, it is well integrated into the program, but it's more for minor adjustments than problem solving.

The storyline editor shows who does what, where and when in the story. It' a visual record of where in the story different props, places, characters etc appear. That's it. Personally, I'd remember that for all major players and the display would be far too confusing to try to apply it to minor ones. I accept that it can be helpful to have a record of such details, but I'd question the value of a separate tool to display them.

So, neither useful for my purpose.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2021, 01:37 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
DocxManager+Writage+Word
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2021, 06:30 PM »
I didn't look at DocXManager in any detail because it seemed not to have a dark mode, and I just found it too glaring.
From the little I did see, the corkboard was very simple and the outlining as in a two pane outliner.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2021, 05:55 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Timeline 3 beta
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2021, 06:31 PM »
This seems to be a rebranding of AeonTimeline. imho it is a substantial advance on previous versions in terms of ease of use, but it is still a bit of a beast. Not for brainstorming, not for early development of ideas, but excellent for fleshing out minutiae. Starts being really useful at some point past early development depending on how complex the scenarios are.

Now, like everyone else, I'm not an expert on Timeline 3, but I wouldn't describe myself as more than a dabbler in 1 or 2 either. I dived in when I felt it necessary, for as far as necessary, and then stopped. So my judgement on exactly how complex a scenario needs to be to crank the program up may be awry. If I had it down to a fine art, I might start entering details once I had the initial early basis for the main plotlines and characters, but I can't see that I would ever do it if the scenario weren't complex enough.

So why would I ever use it? Because it's ability to track and manage time is unparalleled. When there are a multitude of events and times and characters and locations, this makes it 'easy' to work it out and tie it together. The way many people start is to input details from a spreadsheet and then add and adapt from there. Historians apparently download detailed lists of events and times and input those as a way of knowing exactly where any event (eg a diary entries they are transcribing from the original) fits into the timeline. It can account for Julian and Gregorian time, and it's possible to devise completely original systems of date and time for use in science fiction. It's useful for legal and medical experts to construct timelines from the masses of bits of disparate information they need to put in order. I'm happy putting together a structure on a spreadsheet once I have all the bones, but changing it when the need becomes apparent is quite hard work - this makes it much simpler, and the spreadsheet view makes it much easier than it used to be.

So will it help with the issues I want to tackle? I hope not. This isn't a highly complex scenario, though maybe not simple either, and I'd hope that something simpler would work. It's partly diving in without thinking through all the detail (I'd hoped I wouldn't have to, or alternatively decide it wasn't worth it and go back to something else). Using Timeline 3 would imply that the issue was purely working out this detail, and I don't think that's true.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2021, 03:30 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Plottr
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2021, 06:32 PM »
Nice looking program, with many nice features. Lots of handholding for structuring and plotting a novel. Templates include snowflake, Hero's Journey, various beat sheets etc. I'm sure more must be available on the internet and it's easy enough to design your own.

It's designed for plotting rather than writing, and having achieved a plot, the idea is that it will be exported to Scrivener or Word with chapters, scenes, characters etc all laid out. It looks as if it would suit new writers who have done some basic research on plotting etc (though what they'd make of Scrivener, I don't know), but also those who follow a fairly standardised genre approach and write series. There's nothing to stimulate creativity or brainstorming - it's purely about plotting. I'm more impressed than I expected because many programs try to reach this market, but I haven't seen one that I believe does it as well.

The main plotting view is in the timeline. This follows the pattern seen in storyline tools above, but with the ability to prepopulate from templates and greater visual sophistication. There is the standard column of arcs on the left, with columns to the right for each chapter. But instead of a single cell/scene, each arc can have multiple scenes in each chapter. I think this is quite impressive as a way or organising and reorganising a narrative. And the templates can be used to give an idea of what the structure ought to be looking like. But I don't think that helps much with either creativity or problem-solving. It's about moderate tweaking rather than anything else.

Where it might help is that it's quite easy to shift to another template. For instance, if you already have a plot but aren't happy with it, you could add a new arc and select a different template. The old arcs would still be there, and you could simply move scenes from those to fit into the new template to see how well that works.

The lack of a proper editor for writing, with all of the associated features, word counts etc is a major lack. It's all very well to have templates for beat sheets, Hero's Journey etc, but they impose a relative word count expectation. You'd really expect to have that feeding back into the plotting to see how well on track you are, but it's not even a remote possibility without doing the writing itself in Plottr. Maybe in future there could be an optional target word count for each chapter taken from a combination of the template used and the overall target word count., and that would work in Scrivener or Word.

And it's not cheap. It's SaaS - $25 yearly for 1 device, $45 yearly for 3 devices and $65 yearly for 5 devices. (It's not actually SaaS, but pricing pages sound like it. Actually a bog standard sales contract where you keep the program but lose access to upgrades -  "If your license expires, you will still have access to the version of Plottr and files you had at the time of expiration. However, you will not be able to download updates and bug fixes afterwards without renewing your license." but still expensive compared to many other programs. Frequent updates though.)

Is it likely to help with my project? No.

After another day, I'm starting to question myself. It's a very simple program; it has a structure and can be played with. Maybe I shouldn't rule it out.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 03:05 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Plottr: Update after trying to use it on project
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2021, 06:33 PM »
I've done more checking out of Plottr during my trying to use programs to take my project forward. I didn't think it would be useful, but was constantly drawn back to see what it would do, which was an interesting phenomenon to observe in myself.

As anticipated, it has nothing to help brainstorm.

For initial organisation, it seemed to offer less flexibility than Jutoh storyboard (where columns and rows could be predefined as desired). One of the problems with initial organisation is that my ideas tend to be rough and provisional and a lot of playing around is needed; once everything is approximately in place, then tweaking leads on the substantive more detailed organisation. There's no scratchpad. Most of what it did have were predefined templates (which can be changed, written and saved). My conclusion was that this was  product designed for genre writers who used templates who write series. My impression was that it would be better at the final stages of organisation.

I then realised that there were features I hadn't examined - story bible features such as characters and locations (with templates). Many writing programs have these as standalone modules; I appreciate their potential value, but there's usually no advantage to having them in the program and I regard them as an invitation to procrastinate by filling in details that will never be used or affect the story - for most writers, ideas evolve and develop with writing (and to a point during plotting) and initially they might as well be Blob 1, Blob 2 etc. But Plottr has a good filtering system, whereby characters and locations can be inspected to see where they occur or co-occur. This can be very powerful. It's a technique I have used myself with spreadsheets, but this is much simpler to use. So what Plottr offers over most programs is that the story bible features are part of an integrated whole. It also does this with user defined tags, which could be useful in the earlier stage of organising. It's something that can also be applied during editing, reviewing, or after first draft. So my current impression is that Plottr comes into its own in the final part of the organisation stage or  when reorganising  - except for the template users whose initial organisation is heavily guided.

Of course, I could write my own template. The structure is one of the first things I do after getting a sense of what a piece of writing will be; crude compared to published templates, but purpose designed. Even if it only gives the number of chapters, it creates a matrix which would make Plottr much more flexible in early ogranisation.

« Last Edit: April 28, 2021, 04:00 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Plottr: Third and final update
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2021, 06:34 PM »
Over the last few days (written 1st May), Plottr has introduced a beta feature that completely changes what I myself could use Plottr for.

Deceptively simple it is described as adding the ability to add Acts to Chapters and Scenes in the cards - a three level hierarchy instead of two. I had been switching between Jutoh Storyboard, Spreadsheets and Plottr as a way of managing the development of storylines, arcs and narrative always hitting usability difficulties or insufficient features. The issues arise from:
  • the need to work on both the event timeline and the narrative timeline at the same time during development;
  • the need to refine the overall structure of the narrative (not so much of an issue for those who follow templates);
  • ease of use in adding and changing chapters, scenes etc;
  • ease of analysing various aspects structure.

The new Plottr feature solves all these problems; with a little subversion.
Chapters and scenes can be left just as they are
But Acts can be used as an event timeline (named either as an Event or as a Date/Time) without any need to upset the narrative sequence in chapters and scenes. Additionally they can be used to split the narrative into sections (effectively equivalent to templates, but designed for specific purpose) with word counts. And neither use interferes with the other. That ticks the first two of those.
It's probably the easiest system for adding and changing. Analysing can be done via tags.
Additionally it has the most manageable view because of the ability to collapse Acts and Chapters (with the ability to view the collapsed scenes in a popout verticle panel on mouseover).
Amazing how adding one feature can change my perspective - I didn't see that coming. Templates can't be used with it, so it must be aimed a a completely different type of writer to the ones I'd thought they were aimed at, though it would be very easy to reformulate templates to fit this new system.
I've also realised that using wiki-links on all chapter and scene titles then exporting to docx and converting to txt means that it can function perfectly well with my usual txt workflow using Obsidian, WriteMonkey etc.

Of course, that doesn't overcome issues over price etc. But it does mean that it seems to have a perfectly usable workflow for this small, but important, part of the creative process.

« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 08:32 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Spreadsheet
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2021, 06:35 PM »
Possibly I like spreadsheets nearly as much as many writers like outlining. I know there are writers who really like them too.

When I think about it, there are many reasons.
  • The concept includes a high degree of structure, yet invites chaos by being entirely flexible in how that structure is used. This means that ideas can be added anywhere and then transferred to their own sheet if that becomes warranted.
  • This creates the potential for a visual approach (quite different to the purely verbal outline) when groups of ideas can be scattered all over a huge sheet.
  • Ditto ability to use colour.
  • They communicate with many programs.
  • They are easily adjusted and reframed.
  • Arithmetical and graphical functions mean that numbers can be used across sections. This means that word counts can be entered and compared with target, reading ages (and changes) can be monitored, pacing can be seen statistically and graphically. No requirement to do any of it, but it's possible if wanted.
  • Any common template can easily be used.
  • The best way I've found of managing a long manuscript with Obsidian is using a spreadsheet derived table with wikilinks

There are cons, of course.
  • Inserting can be fiddly or very fiddly if it's not a whole column or row.
  • The view of the spreadsheet does not shout "Let's be creative!".
  • All the work and the ideas have to come from you.

So, they can be used at the brainstorming creative end but is more naturally suited to helping create the structure once the main bones are in place. And then they are excellent for tracking and monitoring detail and to support editing and review.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2021, 07:07 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Mindomo
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2021, 06:36 PM »
In very slow progress

Part One
After cycling through the Bubbl.us etc options, I realised that mindmapping programs had advanced since I last looked and decided to search for one to try out; this appeared to tick the vital boxes, so I fixed on it for detailed investigation.

My first thought for the trial was to directly tackle the initial problem. I decided I ought to brainstorm options and was about to write them down (pen and paper!!!) when wave upon wave of different perspectives came to me and I decided to sleep on it.
(Possibly a mark of a good tool. A sheet of paper, with a pen, is very simple but what you can do with it is limited only by your imagination - maybe this has the same characteristics.)
But equally implies that it is not a simple thing, and testing it out is likely to take some time.

I don't know if it will be my solution to the initial problem I wanted to tackle, but it will be my backup approach should nothing else work quickly to deal with the problem. And I'll use it for similar tasks until such time as I decide it doesn't work well enough.

I do not, however, recommend Mindomo for the purposes behind this review. It will be overkill and a productivity destroyer unless you are already a Mindomo Ninja.
OTOH, if you are writing the full version of War and Peace with the whole stories off all the characters less prominent in the published version, this should give you the tools to see all the paths through the trees and help you develop a topographical map. It's easy enough for a simple use (once you know how you want to use it), but temptations to delve deeper abound, so you are likely to route yourself through the treacle swamp.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2021, 04:55 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Options with potential for my personal use
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2021, 12:05 PM »
  • Pen and paper and digital equivalent;
  • draw.io;
  • Notezilla;
  • Jutoh 3 Storyboard;

Maybe, if all goes well:
  • Outlining

We'll see if it hits me when I'm working:
  • Plottr

Maybe at a later stage:
  • Spreadsheets (If they ere going to be the answer, it would already be done)

There is also a golden group for heavy duty, longer term projects. Grouped because they can exchange data via CSV or xlsx or opml:
  • Mindomo;
  • Notezilla;
  • Outliners;
  • Timeline 3;
  • Spreadsheets.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2021, 07:04 AM by Dormouse »

KodeZwerg

  • Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2018
  • **
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Flowchart < the most basic expression for your matter?

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Flowchart < the most basic expression for your matter?
I did consider it and I like it as an idea. I use Edraw, which is pretty good with multiple options, and all the programs are usually better visually than mindmapping equivalents (more expensive too).
But they're usually designed to show the final outcome rather than in process development. I've never been keen on the basic principle of mindmaps (the central node starting point), but often the software can produce concept maps which can be a reasonable approximation to flowcharts. One of the initial reasons for choosing bubbl.us was a degree of visual similarity to flowcharts.

Equally, though, I wanted to keep my work to a minimum and only look at one example of each technique (the corkboard and storylines equivalents being an exception because they are, theoretically, designed for the purpose). I decided that mindmapping progs had a more useful range of import options and that they, with pen and paper, offered a sufficient facsimile of flowcharts.

KodeZwerg

  • Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2018
  • **
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
If you like to play with flowcharts, draw.io offers a free online and offline application for that matter with many possible objects to choose from.
draw.io.exe < Windows Offline Version Installer

Flowcharts are not bound to any rules (starting point, middle, end point = all that belong to your own wishes if at all, that way you can visualize more than one idea on a chart),
but yes, software developers use such to have a program flow visible presented. (...to me that step need way too much time...)
The cool thing is that you "can" (but not must) connect each object with another to decide if that way is good or better rethink about it.
For story telling I guess that might be a good alternative method to have everything "logical" tested and that it is comprehensible.

I wont disturb you anymore in here and let you be on your own again.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
OK. You've convinced me. I'll add draw.io to the Bubbl.us segment. Possibly it will take first place. It is what the segment was originally for.
And, have actually added to my list for checking out with my project. Looks good. Thanks for the suggestion.

Mindomo can do disconnected nodes, and doesn't need fixed rules either, except on export. But I don't regard it as a core part of the review - more a consequence. I might use it in future,  but it's overkill for the review.

Which does leave the segment without a good example.

PS I'm not looking for isolation, so feel free to interject any time.
Though I am doing the survey for my own purposes really, with the review only being a record, so I don’t mind being on my own either.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2021, 06:56 AM by Dormouse »

app103

  • That scary taskbar girl
  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2006
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,863
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Notezilla has an advantage you may not have considered, and that is a custom desktop wallpaper designed to suit your own personal organization, workflow, or brainstorming needs.

This is an example of what I am currently using (sticky notes hidden for privacy reasons):

Screenshot - 4_20_2021 , 4_30_31 PM.pngReally tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing

No, it doesn't come with this wallpaper, but it is easy enough to design one in any graphics program. Then just set it as your desktop wallpaper, and you'll be able to drag & drop notes to any column or box that you need to.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
a custom desktop wallpaper designed to suit your own personal organization, workflow, or brainstorming needs.
Mmm.
I was sort of aware of the possibility without ever considering it further.
But now that you've pointed it out, with illustration, I agree, and can see all sorts of extra possibilities:
  • There could be a kanban wallpaper; (I've been looking for wanting an alternative to Trello for some time - I like Trello, but it doesn't really fit any of my workflows);
  • or, eschewing wallpaper, the screen could be tiled with documents and notes attached to those documents. And you could choose which documents you wanted on screen at any one time.
  • brain burned out with the immensity of the scope

It's amazing how many possibilities there are in such a deceptively simple program. Thank you.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,743
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Conclusions
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2021, 01:36 PM »
My project is now obstruction free and pressing ahead, so this large and unwieldy process has achieved success for my personal objective, however limited my software insights. Success achieved mostly by thinking, as was always going to be the case, but I needed to find techniques that allowed that thinking to be progressive and developmental rather than always getting pulled back into the whirlpool.

Program/technique outcomes:
  • I observed that my initial recourse with ideas was nearly always to pen and paper techniques (usually digitally). Never stayed there long (draughtsmanship and writing too poor), but always went there first.
  • I recorded the process, observations, indecisions, problems, intermediate outcomes and, eventually, this post in Obsidian. This was in its own nested vault which will now become just a sub-folder.
The balance between visuals and text turned out to be a harsh and exacting requirement; when it did not feel right, I moved on very quickly:
  • draw.io failed on this (text not good enough);
  • Outlining failed because it wasn't visual enough;
  • as did Notezilla on one task (I couldn't change note shape).
  • The survivor for the creativity brainstorming was Mindomo, which was slick and flexible once I'd got used to it, and had a wide range of visual options and two for text.
Other people may make very different choices.

I spent what felt like an immense amount of time going backwards and forwards between Jutoh Storyboard, Plottr and spreadsheets. This resolved almost immediately when I saw Plottr's new Acts feature (in beta); this transformed it, from being attractive but not having all the functionality I needed, to ticking all the necessary boxes for detailed plotting. Key features of the program for me include sophisticated filters, expanding and reducing sections, powerful tags, story bible, export process to txt/md (including wikilinks), ease of use. I remain mindful that it seems to be in rapid development still and has not demonstrated longevity or financial stability (hopefully aided by the SaaS looking sales model).
I will still use the other programs:
  • Jutoh Storyboard - for playing around with things in grids;
  • Spreadsheets - for tables where cells don't need to change position and for analytical data;
  • Timeline 3 - for complex event timelines.

I will also use Notezilla as a general factotum or go-between. Potentially even as a deputy to pen and paper.

Writing will be done in WriteMonkey, Obsidian or any other program that takes my fancy. I will use Atlantis, Docs, Word, even Scrivener, etc whenever I perceive a specific need. All files and notes will be kept in Obsidian vaults.

This is quite a big thing for me as it feels like a major shift in some of my core workflows. The trigger may have been a fringe project, but I doubt I will maintain alternative approaches to the same tasks.

UPDATE one week later
I've spent most of my time in Mindomo, which is just as it should be. Getting on with the job rather than playing with programs.
A visual/text mix has always been a fundamental part of my creative and organisational workflow.
(I'm still irritated with myself that I have only just caught up with software developments. Some of that is, no doubt, that my internet is now more reliable and much faster so that web apps are no longer completely out (still need the local option though), so I've been able to look wider.)
Still expect to use Plottr for the next stage, though doubts are creeping around in the background of my mind. If the needs are simple, will I need it? Will it be the best answer to any complexity? We'll see.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2021, 05:08 AM by Dormouse »