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Plots.Ink | Storyline Tools for Writers

This project needs sponsors!

We really want to build this app.

But we’re building it only for ourselves. Unfortunately, projects that people pay us for always have precedence over the un-funded ones.

Please, write to us today if you want to help out, or even join our team!

We need only a little help and this project will come back to life!

 

Here’s what’s planned…

Do any search for ‘apps for writers’ and you’ll find literally hundreds of text editors, word processors, and other ways of enabling you to put your thoughts into a document.

What you won’t find are very many tools to help structure your writing.

There’s a lot of things lacking here, and we want to fill some of those gaps.

Let’s start with storyboarding.

 

Storyboards

The writing industry is rich with references about plot arcs and dramatic beats. A couple common ones are:

  • Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey was coined back in the 1940’s
  • Blake Snyder’s early 2000’s classic “Save the Cat” gave us a structure of 15 beats across three acts

A fun image by Greg Miller shows both of these lined up against six other story maps, dating back to Aristotle’s from 335 BCE:

Now consider how many of the popular writing apps let you lay chapters in this way? How many let you assign chapters to slots in the narrative structure of your choice? How many give you a way to visualize where your gaps are?

Just a cork-board mode with a few custom background overlays could be a first prototype in this direction.

In this example our author is using Blake Snyder’s system. Besides a chapter title and description, each chapter card also lets the author name the conflict and emotional change that’s going to happen.

A tool like this seems so simple, yet even the high-dollar editors that do have cork-board modes don’t support anything like this.

 

Continuity

Tools for continuity are even rarer.

Imagine a tool that lets you draw timelines for the events in your story, that helps you see you put your main character here in one chapter, and there in another, without leaving any time for them to actually travel between the two places.

There is one singular existing app on the market already geared for this, but it’s so complex to be nearly unusable. That app’s into videos delve within minutes into ‘defining your entities and setting up a graph of entity relationships.’ These are friendly words for computer engineers, but we suspect maybe not so much for an everyday author. But this app’s shortcomings do deeply inspire our own design.

We imagine a better app that – in a simple way – helps track which of our characters are traveling together. We picture an app that lets us visualize which characters are present for a given chapter, and what their current goals might be Or even within a chapter, something that lets us chart beat-by-beat a timeline of who’s doing what to whom.

Modern machine learning has advanced a lot. It’s highly likely that a lot of who-is-where-at-what-moment stuff could be decoded entirely by our computers without any manual data entry. You would upload your manuscript and the output might be a beat-by-beat chart like the one just above.

 

Editors and Beta-Readers

If we’re building tools into our writing system, why stop at structure and continuity? Why not build user experiences that help out our whole creative team?

As authors, how do we invite beta readers to view our early works? We’re not going to send proprietary file formats to every one of our friends. Even more important, how do our friends give us feedback?

We personally know one author who prints out entire chapters, loosely tapes a highlighter to the front page, and hands the whole packet to his friends.

If there is a digital equivalent to this, we can’t find it.

 

Websites

Once an author has used our tools to help write their book, all that data is already in a server and could be trivially rolled into a book-specific website to help market their work.

For example, say an author used our not taking tools to remember biographical data for all their main characters: name, birthdate, adventurer class, etc. From our continuity tools we’ve also established which chapters each character appears in, and some sense of each character’s relations to the other characters. Given all this, we could automatically build a public website for the author’s book, including rich behind-the-scenes details to add value and depth for site visitors.

 

Why Do We Need These?

Mega-author Brandon Sanderson employs a dedicated continuity editor who uses a “massive spreadsheet” (their words, not ours) to track the fine details of every book. He may not need these tools. But most of us are on our own, working all by our onesies to make our books become the best art we can build.

The wikipedia article on Self Publishing states the core problem succinctly:

A saturated market of mostly junky titles: The self-publishing ecosystem has become flooded with titles. While self-publishing overall is booming, most new titles are poorly written or confused or otherwise lacking in appeal.”

A lot of tools for writers look like ways to put words on a page. The tools that don’t exist are ones that give us ways to structure our writing, to help us write non-confusing narratives, or to generally assist us through the whole writing process.

Let’s make some.

Write to us today, let us know your thoughts, and let’s see if we can make this project take off!

Thanks!

~ The Octoboxy Team