Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Got a Mess of a Draft? Or Mess in Your Head?

Part of the NaNo experience is pouring out words, and sometimes it sure isn't pretty. Part of my experience, NaNo or not, is pouring out snippets of scenes, a line of dialogue here and there, before I get there.

So usually I have an absolute mess, either in my document or in my head. Or both. The hardest part for me is holding a whole novel in my head and making sure the arcs keep arcing, and threads don't get dropped.

When things get all messy and confused (usually in my head more than on paper), I use SuperNotecard. This handy-dandy program works on both Mac and Windows, and is light and fast, unlike Microsoft Word.

I use SuperNotecard to create an outline automatically as I write, an outline that sort of trails behind me and creates itself. If you want to outline first, it will do that just as easily; that's just not my process.

First, when you open a "New Fiction Project," you automatically get three decks of cards: Beginning, Middle, and End. (Here each section is titled.) You can create more decks, or delete decks, however you prefer.

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Within those decks, you put index cards. Here is a screenshot showing all the cards in a deck. As you title each card, it creates an outline on the right hand side, as you can see in the picture. You can create subdecks, too, so you can tree your outline as far as you want, and the outline is automatically created with your titles.

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See the little colored tabs and such? They have two features to help you keep track of arcs and threads and characters: "factors" and "categories." I use those so I can see them in my little list, but I don't use the colored tabs.

I can see how they would help; I just haven't had time (after using it to write five or six 50,000 novellas with it, LOL) to play with it.

Well, I was busy writing.

And that's one of my favorite things about SuperNotecard: I don't have to figure the program out to use it. I can just write: no busywork.

Now on to the writing. On each card you write a scene. I use preferences to make my background black because it looks prettier. You have the option of using any color, or letting it be the color of the category:

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You can adjust the font to whatever you prefer.

There is a new feature where you "ignore parent hierarchy" which is where you can just look at all  your notecards without the decks (beginning, middle, end), and move them about as you please:

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When you are done writing, you can "output" the whole shebang into a single, normal document in Microsoft Word (or whatever).

The only thing I wish SuperNotecard would do would be to let me write the scene (or text on the card) with a blank, black screen like Q10 (I'd love to hear those little typewriter sound effects, too, but completely unnecessary, LOL!):

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I love Q10 for it's distraction-free ADD-friendly writing format (and did I mention the cool little typewriter sound you can turn on?). The simpler the better. I'd hoped Liquid Silver Binder would be my answer to both worlds at the same time, but Liquid Silver seems to be too complicated to jury rig into the perfectness that is SuperNotecard.

The simplicity of SuperNotecard just wins for me, at the end of the day. I can't hold a whole story in my head without dropping threads or losing the pacing of my arcs. SuperNotecard organizes me, without trying to write for me.

When I'm polishing, I use Word.

I still use Q10 to start my draft, at least until it gets messy. I sometimes use Liquid Silver all the way through. It has similar features, but if you reorder the "notecards" in Liquid Silver, it doesn't actually reorder your story. (The story is not written on the cards, like in SuperNotecard.

SuperNotecard is free to try forever and ever, with no limitations. You can also buy it for $29.99. It's such a small, versatile, perfect program, it's well worth giving the creator the $29.99.

So what do you use? Do you switch? Do you use different things for different parts? Write longhand for parts? Ever experiment?

22 bonus scribbles:

Amy Nathan 11/19/2008 09:44:00 PM  

The colors! The words! The possibilites!

I'm dizzy! I get so caught up in gizmos and gadgets and doodads that I don't write. So I have to just write old-fashioned like, on a word doc with notes to self in track changes.

Prehistoric, I know, but figuring out something new just sucks me in and all I do is figure it out, I don't write.

Like with Twitter. And Facebook. Just maybe a little, uh huh. Just a bit. ;)

Great post, spy. Now go Twitter it!

Edie 11/19/2008 10:42:00 PM  

This is way too organized for me. I have my story idea in a word file and a lot of scribbled notes on my desktop.

You go, Sky!

Edie 11/19/2008 10:43:00 PM  

I meant Spy, not Sky. Banging head on desk. Sky is my dog's name.

Anissa 11/19/2008 10:45:00 PM  

I'm really interested in this. I have a major rewrite in front of me and wrapping my head around it is daunting. I'm just worried I might get too involved in the software and not actually get the writing done. But at this point, I'm open to trying anything to get the story plotted.

Thanks!

Robin 11/19/2008 11:06:00 PM  

My first instinct is to bury my head in the sand and murmur, "No! Not more technology! Help!", but maybe I'll try it. Right now I use word on a mac.

Eric Mayer,  11/19/2008 11:44:00 PM  

One of the things I find most difficult is that I feel like I need to be able to hold the entirety of the boo in my head but my head's too small and leaky. So, yeah, I have tried all sorts of software but invariably I just end up putting each scene in a separate file and piling up various documents devoted to characters, setting etc. YWriter came close for me. I did find it helpful in outlining the current book.

http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter4.html?yWriter4

The programmer's a writer and seems to think about the task a lot like I do.

Eric Mayer,  11/19/2008 11:57:00 PM  

By the way...looking at the site I see they claim the free version limits your number of note cards. I wondered if I missed something or if if the number is so large you've never noticed or are you using the paid program? It does look interesting. A million years ago I had little metal files full of note cards. I loved buying a new pack of note cards. It was like buying a lot of building blocks.

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 12:18:00 AM  

LOL, Amy! Aren't they fun? I'm sorta the same way, except opposite: I still don't know how to work most of Word's features. I pretty much dig in, and if it's not obvious, I never get around to learning it, LOL.

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 12:19:00 AM  

LOL, Edie. Since I write on the run, I can't keep sticky notes. :-( So this saves me, sometimes.

And I LOVE the name Sky; it's one of my favorite names. You can call me whatever you like. :-)

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 12:20:00 AM  

Anissa, the software is dead simple. You just paste each scene onto a notecard and you're done. It's really simple. It's not real feature-heavy, so there aren't many things to learn.

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 12:20:00 AM  

Robin, easy-peasy, no worries! LOL!

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 12:25:00 AM  

Eric, it's sort of a more simplified and easy version of yWriter, except prettier. yWriter was a close contest for me with SuperNotecard, although I almost bought a Mac just so I could use Scrivener. (Now THAT programs is a DREAM!)

You're right, it does limit the number of notecards, but once you hit that number, it still lets you add more. You just have to click "Trial" on a little splash screen before it will add the next card.

It's a slight nuisance, but it's such a great program, I don't begrudge it. I keep meaning to buy it; I never have the money when I think of it, but I think I'm going to go buy it right now.

It's Only Me 11/20/2008 07:30:00 AM  

Thanks for the heads up on the program. I really need to look into this for my daughter who has horrible organizational skills (makes writing reports near impossible).

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 07:33:00 AM  

I sympathize with your daughter, definitely! You might also want to check out Microsoft One Note, which is wonderful for spilling out the contents of a chaotic mind.

Travis Erwin 11/20/2008 09:58:00 AM  

I certainly could use some organizational help.

Melanie Avila 11/20/2008 10:54:00 AM  

Spy, from the number of times you linked it in your post, I'm thinking you like it? lol. I've yet to venture past Word for my writing needs. Even using that is a huge step up because as a designer I flat out refused to use Word for years. When our account people needed something in Word, I'd pass it off to my underlings. I was "above" it. Anything that needed to be written was done in Quark.

Now that I've broken my code and figured out a few tricks with Word, I don't have the energy to try a new program.

btw, Rocco just kicked Mac's ass.

LaDonna 11/20/2008 11:42:00 AM  

Spy, since I'm so tech-challenged, I pretty much stick with word. And when I bought my new laptop last year, the new Vista had me learning a whole new set of Word rules. Why can't they just keep the basics, BASIC? lol. I'm still fumbling around in there, and I have a notepad on me desk that my daughter outlined for me on how to create a new document file. Seriously, without her I'd be pecking on a typewriter.

Kath Calarco 11/20/2008 12:20:00 PM  

Holy cow! That's a lot to consider. All those screens to stare at, which is totally out for me... :(

Confusion is my normal state. I haven't any system, per se. All my writing is done long hand, and then I transcribe it into MSWord. New technology is so lost on me. Guess I'll always be swimming against the tide.

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 03:38:00 PM  

I need all the help I can get, Travis!

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 03:39:00 PM  

Melanie, you have a Mac!!! You HAVE TO, MUST try Scrivener. Google it. It is the MOST AWESOME WRITING PROGRAM EVER!

I almost bought a Mac, just so I could use that program.

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 03:40:00 PM  

LaDonna, I'm a basics, too. I got the new Word, too, and HATE IT. HATE IT. (Why can't I make those capital letters bigger?) I HATE THE NEW WORD!

LOL! I don't like my programs complicated. Clean and simple, that's my preference!

spyscribbler 11/20/2008 03:42:00 PM  

Wow, Kath. That would take me forever! I admire people who can write longhand. I get too wrapped up in trying to make it look pretty on the paper. :-)