ATTENTION: You are viewing a page formatted for mobile devices; to view the full web page, click HERE.

News and Reviews > Mini-Reviews by Members

Really tiny reviews for creating, organising, analysing and reorganising writing

<< < (3/6) > >>

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version