1. Lunqtique
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    Lunqtique New Member

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    The best "virtual index card" software for story planning?

    Discussion in 'Software' started by Lunqtique, Feb 8, 2015.

    I'm an outliner, and I have been looking for a better solution for my story planning needs. In the past, I have used Writer's Cafe's storyline tool, Scrivener's outline/index card tool, and recently have tested virtual index card applications like Writer's Blocks, Throughline, Text Block Writer (almost, but had no fixed grid option, and is quite buggy), and SuperNotecard (which is the one I prefer so far, but it's still missing features I need).

    Basically, what I'm looking for is a software that can do the following:

    -Able to customize the GUI's color (can't stand bright/white backgrounds).

    -Able to customize the cards' size, font size, background fill color, font color, etc.

    -Able to do simple swapping action if I drag a card on top of another, instead of only inserting a card before or after another card.

    -Able to customize layout so I can have columns or rows, each dedicated to a separate storyline or character arc.

    -A split view mode or expanded view feature, so I can see all the content in the card at once instead of being forced to scroll inside the tiny box of the card in order to read all of its content.

    -Freedom and flexibility in creating new columns and rows wherever I want to, such as in-between existing columns and rows.

    -Able to quickly select an entire row or column of cards and then move them all to a new location (whether inside existing columns and rows, or in new blank columns and rows), or swap position with an existing column or row.

    -Able to have titles for the columns/rows, so I can name them by character names, or subplot names, etc.

    -Able to insert separators and name them, so I can visually organize the cards into acts or chapters.

    -Have both auto-arrange modes and manual arrange modes, so I can leave spaces between cards if I want to, or have all spaces automatically filled in.

    Are there any virtual index card software out there that matches my needs? And please don't suggest using real index cards on a cork-board--I much prefer the convenience, flexibility, and speed of software. Having to rearrange a bunch of cards in real life just isn't very efficient to me.
     
  2. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Can I suggest you take a look at Liquid Story Binder? It seems to have a very powerful corkboard, although I never used it despite writing my first novel in LSB. These things just don't interest me at all. Check out the tutorial on blackobelisksoftware.com to see if it comes close.

    If LSB offers what you want, it is often available through Bits du Jour at a hefty discount, which is important because it is no longer being developed AFAIK. Otherwise, you might want to look up other traditional novel-writing applications like Write It Now, WriteWayPro, yWriter, etc.

    But going through your points, I think the swapping is unlikely to exist unless there is a specific command - I think most are likely to default to move; the customization of columns and rows seems to be achievable by careful outlining; seeing all the content represented by a car at once might be a challenge, if there's a whole scene or chapter for a card; pretty sure LSB and others will offer titles and such; unsure about the remainder.

    As I said, I don't work that way so there's limits to what I can offer.

    All the best.
     
  3. CrowOfCalamity
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    CrowOfCalamity Member

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    I use yWriter for everything. I'm what you call a lazy perfectionist. I'm a little slow writing my stories but I want them to be perfect so I love yWriter. You can do anything and everything. Locations, Characters, Chapters, Scenes, almost anything can be organized in a story board. I even use ywriter as a word processor.
     
  4. Lunqtique
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    Lunqtique New Member

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    I have tried Liquid Story Binder a few times before and it never did what I needed it to do. The swapping behavior is not possible, and even the automatic arrangement/sorting is limited, so it's more or less a static arranger you manually arrange.

    I've also tried yWriter before and I dont' recall it having the ability to arrange multiple subplots and character arcs in individual columns, with all the required behaviors I listed previously.
     
  5. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Maybe I would...maybe I wouldn't.;) (Hard to tell from this vantage point. <smile>)
    I've spent the past two days or so looking into yWriter again. I was unimpressed a couple of years ago, but now I think it has a great deal of merit. It seems to me the more you dig into it, the more tools you find (like the near-essential reading of text back to you), and this is a very good thing because you need not dig too far. It's a bit like Write It Now in that regard. It has prompts, but seems to lack a To Do list which I miss badly. But it's free (and can be installed on Linux!) and nonetheless a very useful piece of software.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ow! @Lunqtique, that's a pretty long and specific list of requirements. I hope you're not letting the fact that you can't find the software you're looking for prevent you from actually writing! (That's pretty common. "I can't write because I don't have the software tools I need." Didn't stop anyone from Homer to Hemingway.)

    My question is, what are you using right now? And why isn't it working for you?
     
  7. Lunqtique
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    Lunqtique New Member

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    That would be terrible! Many years would hav ebeen wasted waiting for the perfect software.

    I've been writing ever since puberty (mid 80's), and have been writing "seriously" since the late 90's. I've published graphic novels and non-fiction in the mid-to late 90's and early 2000's. From 2010 and on, I've been pushing towards finishing novels and getting them published, so yes, I continue to write and am not just waiting for the perfect sofwtware.

    I did do a lot of research and testing of writing software over the years though. I started out with Word like most people, using it for everything from manuscript to notes, character profiles, world-building, plot structures, etc. Then from there I explored pretty much all the screenplay writing software out there as well as story structure/generator software (I was doing just as much screenwriting back then as writing novels).

    Off the top of my head, I've tried Writer's Cafe, yWRiter, Liquid Story Binder, Write It Now, Sophicles, Final Draft, Movie Magic, Dramatica, Aeon Timeline, SuperNote Card, Writer's Blocks, XMind, Scapple, Scrivener, and a bunch of other ones I can't recall right now (at least a dozen more).

    For the last few years, Scrivener's been my main writing software. It does almost everything I need, except for the advanced virtual index card features I listed previously.

    For a while I was using Writer's Cafe's Storylines tool for plotting multiple subplots/character arcs, but it's missing some of the important features I need and when working on big epics with large ensemble casts, it became a real PITA.

    Writer's Blocks comes really close, but it does not have the ability to structure the cards/columns with a fixed grid with fixed spacing. That means I can only arrange within each column (a subplot or a character arc), but I cannot match timing across multiple columns, which makes it less useful to actually plan out sequence of events across all subplots and character arcs with matching timing. In order to achieve that, it would require the cards in each column to be fixed to a defined grid with a fixed size for each card (if a card contains too much text, you can scroll inside it), and allow behaviors like simple swapping of positions between two cards, or inserting a card (existing or new) between cards. And for this to be truly useful for planning an entire epic, it also must allow the columns to be moved easily, swap positions, insert new columns between existing columns, renaming columns, and have each column retain autonomy without being affected by whatever changes happen in other columns, but at the same time, if a big event is inserted into the story that will affect all characters, then the software should allow insertion of new cards at a specific spot across all columns at the same time (like how Excel allows you to insert a new row).

    Speaking of Excel--although it has its strengths, it is very unwieldy and unintuitive, and does not have the easy swapping and arrangement features of a proper virtual index card software. Or maybe I haven't explored its more advanced features enough. I should take closer look at whether it's possible to use Excel in the manner I described.
     
  8. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Like you, I find spreadsheets a bit unfathomable most of the time, but they may well provide what you need, except for the card-on-a-corkboard graphics, but from what you've written that seems not to be a deal-breaker. I'd love to offer you pointers, but regrettably, I cannot. I work differently to you, moving through a novel in a linear fashion and backtracking where necessary, and at the moment, following the advice from Author's Salon (6-act structure).
     
  9. Lunqtique
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    Lunqtique New Member

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    After doing more testing and research, it appears there's nothing on the market (or in the world of freeware) that matches my needs currently, so I'm going to stick to this general workflow for now:

    Do all my main brainstorming and planning in Scrivener using the Binder and Outliner View, including all character profiles/arcs, factions, locations, act structure, scenes, thematic overview, etc. I won't bother with the index card view because it's basically useless for my needs.

    If I need to do mindmapping to get an overview of the factions/characters relationships, I'll use Xmind, until Scapple finally implements color-coded linking lines.

    Then if I need to map out all the subplots in sequential order as they would appear in the book, I'll use Writer's Cafe's Storyline tool to do it.

    Until I can get all of that in one software, this workflow will ave to do. Writers before computers wrote great works without all this power and convenience and flexibility, so I certainly won't use it as an excuse to not write.
     

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