Saturday, August 29, 2009

Let Storyist put manners on your manuscript

Thumbing through my June edition of RWA's 'Romance Writers Report', I spotted an article on software for writers. IT and writing? Might this mean a beautiful merging of my two careers? Sort of.

Weeks of struggling with a second draft of my contemporary novel have proven beyond doubt that my brain cannot hold on to any more scenes and clever quips. This spells disaster for my growing manuscript: she's sprouted arms, legs and, dammit, a mind of her own. Like all teenagers, she does what she wants, and while I don't begrudge her this, it is me who's struggling to manage it all.

But surely the creative process is more organic than technical? Won't my ideas, currently on scraps of paper and my 'can't throw it out' paper napkin, just come together harmoniously on Word? Alas no, this child has my heart near-broken. I forget where I'm going and where I've been. So I look to the all-knowing internet and find the answer to all my problems: Storyist.

Storyist is a creative writing management tool especially for Macs, and is the brainchild of part-time writer and IT veteran, Steve Shepard. His Eureka moment was when he realised there was no software to help him organise and manage his draft manuscript, and the extensive notes and research that accompany this. Shortly afterwards, he set about developing and marketing Storyist.

Storyist is a tool that helps you to work smarter, not harder. All stories, be they in book form or on the silver screen, have elements in common: characters, plots, as well as a time and a place. Throw in a few subplots and secondary characters, and you have yourself an informational nightmare. Writers need to research, take notes, flesh out ideas, and if you're a plotter like me, build a storyboard to arrange scenes and chapters in sequence. How to do that, and tap out a nifty 100,000 words at the same time? Its tricky...

So how can Storyist help? It allows you record your manuscript and its supplementary information all in one place. You can add notes, edit text, type up the manuscript and format it. Storyist even lets you add photos of your characters. A pleasing workspace awaits you: a sidebar on the left presents a tree-structure of your WIP, giving you a birds-eye view of all your notes, categorised neatly into useful headings like 'Character', 'Plot', 'Setting' and so on. On the right, there's an virtual 'pinboard', while your growing manuscript nestles cheekily in the centre.

The pinboard functionality is particularly great - you just type onto an index card (jot down a short scene for example), then add a comment (kinda like a post-it)- this sits alongside the index card, providing extra info or key elements you need to include later. Giving your index card a meaningful heading is smart, since this appears in the tree-structure view.

Like all things Mac, this software is more graphical than text-based. Its interface allows you to simply drag and drop items, handy when trying out different scene sequences. In addition, there are story sheets, character sheets, and template functionality for those who need to customise.

Your workspace too is configurable, but even the default settings I describe above suit this writer perfectly. The company's website claims that Storyist lends itself equally well to screenwriters as well as novelists. The application is clear, intuitive and well organised, with a useful project-wide search facility (no more deciphering of scrawl, or trying to read notes on a grubby napkin. Nice.)

My verdict after just an hour? Brilliant.

This all means that when it comes time for you to tap out 100k-odd words of a novel (or 2 hours' worth of screentime), you can concentrate more on the language and less on the logistics.

A note for any non-writers (and may you never doubt this): Storyist, like all the writing tools I know of, is not an auto-generator of storylines, characters or anything else - in short, it won't write your book for you. However, it makes the admin easier to handle, allowing that creative muse to flourish.
Now where'd she go again...?

(Get the free 15-day demo from the site below - you can use it right away, no fangling or setup required, just a straightforward download. And if like me you love it, you can purchase for a snip-like US$59) (see details of their sponsorship of NaNoWriMo) (Romance Writers of America publishes the monthly 'Romance Writers Report')

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It's like I've waited my whole life...

...for this one homevideo?
Jill and Kevin's wild sashay into marriage has given me the craziest high. I don't know them personally, but they were so kind as to put their wedding video up on YouTube, and man what an entrance!

So much so that two friends of mine have both joked about doing a similar ceremony entrance for their own weddings, one here in Ireland, and the other in the US. And as one of the luckies who'll be bridesmaiding in the former and guesting in the latter, I'd be well on for it (girls, you have no idea...).

Now like all good bridesmaids, I have some concerns. How will delicate dress material stand up to all that pre-ceremony dancing? and how won't I fall on my derriere?

Look at the practicalities - that high upward stretching could so easily tear a svelte silk dress, especially if you're an over-enthusiastic dancer like me. And the polished church aisle would be like an ice-rink to our dainty footwear. The solution? Bias cut dresses with miles of double stitching, and an afternoon's work with low-grade sandpaper.

Not to mention that swinging your fellow bridesmaid about the place could result in a nasty encounter with a pew, or worse, propel her into the ecstatic arms of an unattractive male guest. Still, you could always get away with lots of boxing the air, raising the roof, or the old reliable jazz hands.

For Jill and Kevin's do, thankfully there are no mishaps, only a riotous celebration of love and happiness. Bodies yo-yo about the place with spirit and exuberance - stomping, hopping and stepping in time with each other, and hell isn't that what love and friendship is all about?

Our bridal party slows right down to the lyrics 'Won't let you fall', echoing the sacred promise of commitment between a husband and wife. And on cue, we meet the beautiful bride, sashaying her way to her man, and I hope, years of love, togetherness, and the highs and lows that lie therein. So while happiness is more than a bunnyhop away, at least we know the dance steps to get there.
(haven't you watched it yet? Get over to YouTube immediately