In several of my previous posts I’ve mentioned some software I’ve been working on, which has been distracting me from my goal of writing 2,000 words a day. Well, the software is coming together well enough that I’m starting to take pictures of some of the screens and put together some description of how to use the package. Here’s an intro:
When you select a story to work on you are first presented with a screen like the image shown here. The title and one-line story description are shown at upper left, while a character selector (used to populate characters in your story) and current Point Of View (POV) character are shown in the upper right. This upper portion of the screen will be a constant reminder of what you’re working on. (The system is intended to facilitate authors who have multiple project ideas percolating at once. We’ll go more into this background later.)
Below the heading is a collection of eight tabs – the eight planning phases that the tool facilitates. They are:
- Story Summary
This is the where you edit the most fundamental aspects of your story – the title, and one-line description of what it’s all about. Think of this as the text that’s going on the front cover of your book, or in a book list.
- One Paragraph Story Overview
The snowflake process is one of going back and adding detail, as is shown in this step. Take your one-line summary and expand it to a paragraph. The recommendation is as follows:
Five sentences. The first should be the set-up. Sentence two describes the first act, including the first “disaster” which concludes the first act. The third sentence describes the first half of the second act, ending at the second “disaster” (which is probably a result of the main character attempting to fix the result of the first “disaster”). Sentence four describes the second half of the second act, building up to the climactic main “disaster” (which also results from attempts to “fix” things). The last sentence describes the third and final act in which the main character makes his big decision and how things resolve from there to the end.
Note that you may not agree with the suggestions for each of the sections. That’s okay, they are labeled Set-up, Action Part 1, Action Part 2, Action Part 3, and Conclusion, but feel free to actually use them for whatever you like.
- Character Story Overview
At this point in the process it’s time to bring in some characters. This step is where you start to describe the story from the perspective of a POV character (selected in the upper right of the screen). You are asked for the character’s goal(s), motivation, obstacle(s)/conflict(s), epiphany (the big revelation or change that will occur to the character during this story), and a one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline. These will naturally be different for each POV character selected above.
As you write these pieces for each of the characters you may find yourself wanting to go back and revise your earlier notes. That’s okay, although the process has a flow to it, going back and revising is fully expected and extremely easy to do – just click on the tab you want to edit!
- Multi-Paragraph Story Overview
Here’s where you expand the one-paragraph overview to five paragraphs. Don’t remember what you wrote earlier? Don’t worry, it’s copied here to remind you. The five paragraphs are Set-up, Action Part 1, Action Part 2, Action Part 3, and Conclusion, and each has its own tab and editing field to help you focus. (Now you can see why we recommended writing your single paragraph as five lines!)
- Character Synopses
At this point you probably have a reasonably good feel for the rough outlines of the story, so now we flip it again. Here you are asked to write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each of the main characters. You want the stories to be consistent with each other (at least at the points where the characters interact) and supporting of the overall story line. Again, feel free to go back and make changes in earlier work as the ideas come forth.
- Four Page Story Overview
Switching the focus back to the overall story, this is the point where you expand the five paragraphs from step 4 to four full pages. I know, it feels like you’ve already planned this story to death, so why not just get started writing it? Well, if you can’t write your story in four pages, what make you think you can do it in 400? Think of it this way – this four page overview gives you something you can send out to get support from others (readers, editors, agents, publishers, etc.) without sending them absolutely everything (which you haven’t even written yet!)
- Character Charts
This is where you accumulate all those little details of your characters that give them dimension and make them come to life. Please note that if you use the same character in more than one story, edits to its chart in one story will appear in the other story. This really facilitates writing related stories. I’ve talked about what’s in the character charts in other posts.
- Scene List
This is a essentially a spreadsheet that lets you plan and track the actual story writing. It lists each scene, where it goes in the manuscript, the main character of the scene, and gives a description, a status, and a link to a document containing the written scene. Print out all those scenes in order and it should make up your manuscript! (Let’s see how well that works!)
Well, there you have it, an overview of my software project. I know I’ve only put up one picture so far, but trust me (!) it’s coming together nicely. In particular nearly everything I’ve listed actually works, so it’s gotten past the “vaporware” phase to “mistware”. I’m always looking for input, so if you have any suggestions or questions for me, feel free to chime in!