Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Phone call from my calling?

"Hello...Oh, hi! Good to hear from you! It's been a long time...where on Earth have you been?"

I know I've spent plenty of meetings yapping about my angst around my writing and I apologize to all of you for having to listen to all of that pablum. Over the past couple of weeks, thoughts of writer support have been flowing anew through my noggin, and I find myself thinking that (perhaps) my calling was one more of providing tools to support the process of being a writer.

I've investigated a number of writing software packages and while there are some good choices available, they are (for the most part) pretty tailored to limited usage. I certainly know that there's no such thing as a magic story maker, or at least that any attempt to create one would create atrocious output,

My software background shows me that tailored software solutions is the right answer and logic informs me why there are relatively few of them. But I also know that a limited number of tailored software packages leaves a lot of space for more tailored software packages.

I do have a couple of ideas for possible tools that would help in some of the situations I've found myself stuck in, but what I'm wondering in here is whether my fellow INKers have ever wondered about software solutions around particular research, planning or writing tasks/problems. I know the biggest tool is the word processor for pounding out the story, but I'm wondering about organization, preparation and planning tools.



Kami said...

Heck yeah!!

My dream software would--
*Translate to and from Word .docs
*Recognize either a chapter marker (as designated by the program) or the word "Chapter" or # for short stories so that with a click I can view how many chapters (or scenes in a short story) I have and what the word count is on each of them.
*Have a word count function that translates a document into 'editor count.' Editors calculate word counts differently. The computer would average word count per line, lines per page and then multiply across the whole document. Because there are some people who use 10 dollar words and people who use lots of short paragraphs or more dialogue or no dialogue with thick paragraphs, this alters how much space the document takes in the magazine or in book form. Being aware of editor word count is important and sometimes it behooves you to use the editor word count instead of actual. It's also a good double-check. BTW some editors eyeball it via Courier and number of pages--that would also be a useful counter to have on hand.
*Character notes: By clicking on a tab I can pull up notes on a specific character.
*Calender: It would be extremely useful to have an adjustable calender where I decide how many days there are in a week, how many weeks in a month, how many days/weeks/months in a year and then I can fill them with cultural festivals, events, and of course story progress.
*Storyboard: Shuffle-able cards with story events on them, with optional outline markers for-->
*Outline: Connects with the document via the chapter markers. I'd like to be able to either write a chapter by chapter outline and then click and have the actual writing document autofill with chapter numbers and headings (and possibly a short description) or alternatively start writing and each time I start a new chapter I can click and the outline opens up and I can enter stuff like "Chapter 10, in which my character screws over his pet muffin." If I should be so bold I can open the Storyboard, shuffle things around, and if I like the order better, click 'Accept changes' and the outline will change its order. With another click I can then "move chapters" and with a warning of 'Are you sure you want to do this?' have the outline go to the document and shuffle the actual chapters in the new order in which I want them.

That's all I can think of for now. Oh, and this would be silly but fun--with character files it would be fun to have a generic bust of the character that can be one of several male, female or androgynous faces in which you can change skin color, hair color and length, and eye color so that you have a snapshot of your character.

C.S. said...

I can't come up with something as cool as Kami has but I'd like something that would easily track submission markets (including rules, guideline info with oddball ms recommendations, editor info, dates, etc.) and actual submission information. I know I could probably do this with Excel and in fact, I remember D. Levine posting something in his journal about his tracking sheet method. I keep meaning to ask him about it but I never remember to do so.

Steve said...

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts - particularly you, Kami, for your extensive shopping list ;-)

I'm not ready to commit to delivering it at present, but it gives me a backlog of potential project material as I'm completing other projects that have gone on far too long.

Please continue to keep this question in mind as you continue with your writing activities. I would love to continue to build a request list for any additional features you guys come up with.