Wednesday, October 15, 2008

StoryMill: Making Writing Fun (Again)

I've been working on a long project for some time, and now that revisions are in order I decided to try out Mariner Software's StoryMill program I'd first heard mentioned in the end pages of a David Levithan novel. StoryMill, which is only for macs, comes with a free 30-uses demo although it's also quite affordably priced.

What makes StoryMill so helpful is that it provides a variety of ways to organize yourself while writing. If you're anything like me, you've usually got notes scratched on a notebook, three ideas rattling around your brain, a couple of links cut-and-pasted somewhere to help write the description of the main character's hometown, and some minor characters whose motivation you need to explore. With StoryMill, you can create character profiles, assign yourself research tasks, input any useful information from YouTube clips to website snippets. When you sit down to write, you can make sure you're surrounded with every tool you need to focus on the writing.

StoryMill also allows you to keep track of your productivity via a ProgressMeter that you can set to a specified word count goal or project goal. Thematically, you can organize your progress through a Scenes tab, or create a timeline of events. StoryMill allows annotation, tagging, and a full screen view to prevent any distractions on-screen.

I'm having such a wonderful time with StoryMill because it allows me to put all my relevant information in one place, and organize it in as many or as few ways as I feel it needs. That, in turn, makes me want to write, which is fantastic. I haven't played around with all of the functions, most notably the timeline, which received a rather negative review here. If anyone else has worked with StoryMill or a similar application, I'd love to hear about their experience.

1 comment:

Lou Lesko said...

Great post about StoryMill. I poo pooed the idea of StoryMill initially because I didn't need anything like it to get my first book published. What I didn't acknowledge was that my first book was based my past experiences. It's not so difficult to keep your personal history organized. Four chapters into my second book I'm drowning in a torrent of ideas, research and images.

StoryMill is wonderful for getting all this stuff sorted. I've come across a few bugs that we're only minor annoyances and it seems like the software author is very responsive to bug reports. That's probably more important than having flawless software out of the box. If one is going to invest in adopting software to manage projects that can take up to years to complete, the enthusiasm of the software creator to keep improving the application is worth almost as much as a book deal.

I used Scrivener to write half a dozen magazine articles. Brilliant software, same enthusiasm from the software creator, but not quite for me. What I'm talking about here two of the same only different. A Porsche and a Ferrari are both stunningly exceptional cars, but ask anyone who has driven both, they have a preference.

Thanks for your post and the space to comment.