When I was researching scientific information for my novel, I found that
my typical journal technique simply became a mess as I scratched out
ideas that won't work and kept jotting ideas around the margins. I like
neat notes and I like physically writing my ideas, but writing them
quickly became a bigger mess than ever before.
That's what happens when
you write a complicated, detail-necessary work! How do I get organized?
How do I make it easy to find my ideas without a ton of Word files in my
research folder? I'm still trying to find a good solution that works
for me, and during this process, I've come across quite a few writing
tools that sound
interesting. The first one on the list:
is one of a few software packages by Mariner Software that work to help
writers. While StoryMill is dedicated to various aspects of overall
novel writing, Persona (character management) and Contour
(story outline) are two other options that focus on specific areas of
novel development. I'll be honest: Contour is not something I'll try
because I am not the type of writer who outlines in any detail
whatsoever. I have a general idea, pit stops along the way, and an
endgame; however, my characters direct me better than any outline I've
ever done. In other words, you won't see a review of it here because it
won't be unbiased. With that being said, Persona is on my list because
it has what I wished StoryMill did for characters: detail, detail,
This is one of my problems with StoryMill
. The most you have under the
info block is what you see above: role, height, hair, race, weight, and
eyes. You can add photos, tags, links, and blah blah blah, but the
majority of your information is going to be typed in a blank word-like
document. It's not very organized other than being under the name of the
character. This is why I'll be testing out Persona for my characters;
however, if I'm going to drop money on software ($40 a pop!), I don't
want to have to buy something else I would think should be included.
It does have some simple planning features that make Contour unnecessary
for many writers. The main screen for "Scenes" gives you a list of your
scenes and the ability to pull up a timeline of your novel's scenes:
|Scene Main Screen|
In each scene's page, you can write the scene, make notes, add photos,
select the chapter, choose the characters in the scene, pick the
location, and choose the date and time it starts and ends.
When going back and adding the information for my novel, the most
helpful parts for me were the chapter, date, and time. I was able to get
a timeline going and really think about the amount of time that was
passing in each scene and how plausible certain things were in the
scheme of that time frame. On the other hand, the timeline feature is
only so helpful. Rather than stacking scenes chronologically for each
date, everything falls in a line to scroll horizontally no matter how
short of a time frame you select.
Notice above that the first time shows "The Ex....Dealing". This is
because there are multiple scenes in that time period. It would be much
more helpful if it was more of a calendar format where each day's scenes
stacked in a straight line and then you could scroll right for the
The locations option is helpful but still basic. You can add pictures,
take notes, create tags, save links for files or websites, and see which
scenes are related to the location. This is helpful for keeping
together information for each location, but there's nothing special
about it. The research tabs are similar. The only difference is that the
"scenes" tab is missing. You can also create a list of tasks that you
want to complete and use tags for them.
There are a lot of small features having to do with formatting,
exporting, etc., but they are what you would expect from writing
software. A few mop-up features of interest:
- Word Frequency - See how many times you use certain words in each chapter or the novel overall.
- Progress Meter - Set a word count goal and you'll see a meter at the
top of the screen that shows your progress to the selected goal. It can
be progress for the current session or the whole novel's completion.
- Highlight Cliches - Find possible cliches in your writing.
- Snapshot - Take a snapshot of your work before you make big edits or changes.
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