Category Archives: yWriter vs Scrivener

MasterWriter Review

Do you ever sit down to write and think, “I’m off to a bad start”? Well, I’m having one of those moments right now. But never fear, for MasterWriter is here!

Except that MasterWriter doesn’t exactly help me start.

Erm…

Okay, well, what does it do then?

It’s actually more brilliant than that, even though an app that helps you start a project is just as cool as anything that helps you improve a project. But helping you improve is precisely what MasterWriter does.

Think of it as stripping out all the grammar from Grammarly or ProWritingAid, leaving behind just the thesaurus. And think of it as stripping out everything from Scrivener but the name generator and manuscript page (and stripping out the actual name generation but keeping the name list). And if you reduce Google down to the search term “rhymes with Google,” then you begin to understand what MasterWriter is about.

It’s an all-purpose vocabulary tool that can turn your average writing into interesting writing. For example, if I write the line “I like pigeons” and think “like” is too simple of an idea, then I could use MasterWriter to find a better word. But because I could just as easily use a thesaurus, or Google, I might decide that using MasterWriter for this task at all might be overkill.

And it very well may be…

But is it though?

Well, here’s a simple Google search for “like”:

Google search for the word “like” (part 1).

And here’s what “People Also Ask” about it:

Google search for the word “like” (part 2).

You’ll see that Google gives me a few decent options. And I could probably use at least one of these options to replace my above example. But does it give me enough? More importantly, does it give me all options?

Here’s the same query in MasterWriter (under the synonyms tab):

Synonym for “like” in MasterWriter.

Now here’s the same query in MasterWriter’s word families, “primary” selection:

Word families (primary) selection for “like” in MasterWriter.

And finally, here it is under word families, “extended” selection:

Word families (extended) selection for “like” in MasterWriter.

So, as we can see, by looking up “like” in MasterWriter’s extended word family, I can change my boring sentence “I like pigeons” into the far more interesting “I drink in pigeons.”

And…okay, maybe that’s too much. How about:

“I flip for pigeons.”

Yeah, I like that better.

What about you?

So, that’s what MasterWriter is about. It’s not a traditional writing app (although it does give you the ability to write your selection inside the program), but it is an app perfect for perfectionists who have to get their words just right.

And it also includes sections for rhymes, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other word types for poets and songwriters (and regular writers for those who like those speech types), as well as names of historical figures, places, famous cartoon characters, you name it, all with an integration to look them up on Wikipedia from directly within the app.

Which means it can still feed you ideas when you’re drawing up short of them.

So, the question becomes whether it’s worth the money because there is a cost. For monthly subscriptions, you’ll spend $9.99 a month. For annual, $99.99 a year. And for two years, $149.99. But if you sign up to their newsletter, or check back during major sales holidays like Black Friday, you’re likely to get a steep discount of up to 50% off (which is why I’m paying just $7.99 a month for my subscription). But is it worth even the $74.99 you’d pay for a biannual subscription during Black Friday?

This is where I’d issue the standard review response: “It depends.”

I’ve had my eye on MasterWriter for years. Because this is the year I’ve decided to up my game in every category from craft to marketing, I decided to add it to my list, even though I’m way over my budget. I’ve been writing for years, and I’m at a point where I want to elevate my resources.

And this is definitely an elevation.

But is it worth the subscription fee? Honestly, if not for the extended word families, I’d say no. Most of what MasterWriter offers, I can easily get in a Google search. For free.

But the extended word families feature changes the game. If you look at the screenshots, you’ll find examples that aren’t easy to come by anywhere else. Is it possible to find a list like the one in the screenshot somewhere other than in MasterWriter. Maybe. But the thing I know for certain is that MasterWriter has that list. So now I have that list.

If you’re a new writer, I’d say learn your craft first. And keep reading. You can improve your vocabulary just by reading books. But the point of MasterWriter is not just to improve your vocabulary but to also access the words or phrases on the tip of your tongue more quickly, and if you want to elevate your vocabulary and save time (because you can sound like a genius on the fly), then MasterWriter is definitely for you. If you can afford it. It’s not cheap. Not really.

And if you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it. Wait until you can. You don’t need it today. Someday, maybe. But today, not necessarily. I held off for three years, and now that I have it, I’m sure I could’ve held off for three more.

It does have a pretty sweet audio stream—

Manuscript and sound file view in MasterWriter.

Oh, never mind. It’s just a place to record your thoughts or import your sound files off your hard drive. If Audacity isn’t good enough…

I guess they can’t all be like Frost Writer.

Anyway, tell me what you think in the comments below. You can also check out my video demonstration on my YouTube page below.

My video review for MasterWriter.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

And if you want new updates regarding all of my platforms delivered to your mailbox (articles, videos, and books), then be sure to also subscribe to my newsletter.

And don’t forget that my official author site will be opening soon. Bookmark it today and check it out tomorrow (or as soon as it’s open) so you can be the first to see it. Thanks for reading and come back for the next one.

The Chill Writer: Using Frost Writer and Virtual Cottage

Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the bells and whistles that Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or other countless writing apps throw at your feet? Do you wish there was a writing app out there that could strip away the distractions and just put you in the mood for writing? Do you wish that such an app was available to you for free?

Well, there is.

Last week, thanks to an article by the Reedsy blog listing eleven apps and programs for writers, I discovered my new favorite writing mood app, Frost Writer. And now it can be your favorite, too.

What is it, exactly?

Well, it’s a website that can store your writing in the cloud. All you do is show up, pick your theme, select a music track if you want background ambience, then get to writing. There’s even an option to save your work as a text file to your Downloads page if you want to transfer your work to another app for formatting once you’re finished or want to start a new project in the same theme.

Image of Frost Writer 3.0's "Room" Theme, with a sample writing.
Screenshot of Frost Writer 3.0, using the “Room” theme.

It’s really as simple as that.

But what it can’t do is store your entire project in any meaningful way, or retain formatting of any kind, at least not as recently as version 3.0. Therefore, my advice is do your distraction-free scene or section writing in Frost, save to your drive (via text file) once you’re done with your current session, then open your note in MS Word or whatever formatting/editing tool you use for revision and storage, make your quick edits to retain your style and/or emphases (italics, bold, etc.) while you’re thinking about them, then go back to Frost, delete the session, and start over again with the next scene or idea.

Or, maybe just copy/paste your Frost writing to your MS Word document or whatever you use for formatting, since saving to a text file will also eliminate your paragraphs, which you probably won’t want to do. You could save to the text file as a backup or if you’re using Frost only to write your tweets before sending them.

It may not be the most efficient way to manage your work, but it’s a darn good way to make sure the work gets done. The music that comes packaged with Frost Writer will get you in the mood every time. Even if you write in your app of choice but leave Frost’s soundtrack on in the background, you can still get in the mood. However, the advantage of writing inside of Frost is you get to use its specialized thematic backgrounds to keep you in the mood. Are you writing a historical novel and need to write directly on the vellum page? Then Frost Writer’s “Vintage” theme is your choice. Or are you crafting your romantic scene and you’re about as romantic as a tree stump? Then select the “Love” theme and discover your attractive side with the pastel shades and romantic comedy score that makes you forget just how bad you are at romance.

I mean, if it works for me…

There’s even an RPG theme called “Room” that gives you a study room background and your choice of four individual or combined sound effects: coffeehouse background, grandfather clock, thunderstorm, and fireplace. Pick one, or pick them all. The choice is yours.

But Frost Writer isn’t the only free app available to those of you who want to write or study in the mood. There’s also a program called Virtual Cottage that you can find on the gaming sites Steam and Itch.io.*

Image of Virtual Cottage, showing how to set up the timer and intended session.
Screenshot of Virtual Cottage, at the project planning stage.

Virtual Cottage is not like Frost Writer. There’s no writing involved here. It’s strictly a background program that sets a timer and plays music while you study, read, do the laundry, or whatever you’re doing that you’d normally find boring or otherwise unappealing. Once the timer expires, it plays a sound effect, telling you it’s time to stop (provided you check the box, which I forgot to do for the screenshot).

The nice thing about Virtual Cottage is that you set the parameters and make yourself accountable to them. Do you want to read for 20 minutes? Then say so on the project page, adjust your timer, and hit “Start.” Don’t stop until the timer rings. Do you want to study during a rainstorm? Then select the atmosphere button and listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops as you hit the books. Do you want 90 minutes of uninterrupted chill music (or is it 15—I can’t remember now) while you organize your filing cabinet? Then click the music note and submerge yourself into that sweet coffeehouse vibe.

And you can do it all for free.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what you really want in a productivity app?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used these apps and how they’ve helped you improve your productivity.

Oh, and if you want to see these in action, I’ve featured them in this week’s video review. Check it out.

As always, like and subscribe below. And if you want to stay up-to-date with all of my latest articles, videos, books, and so on, please join my new newsletter, available now. And don’t forget that my official author site will be live to the public soon.

Thanks for reading.

*To run games and apps on Steam, you need to first download and install the Steam App. Consult the header on its store page for more information on how to do that.

Planning a Story: Plottr Review

If you’re writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, then you probably should’ve started already. But if you’re still warming up to the idea, or if you just want to use November as a warm-up month and go for the main event in December (because why do you need a month to tell you what to do?), then you’ll probably want to start planning for it.

Unless you’re a discovery writer (or organic, or pantser, or whatever your label of choice—it’s all the same), which is perfectly fine, you may want a plotting tool to help you prepare.

That’s where Plottr comes in.

Screenshot of Plottr’s Book Series Page

Have you heard of Plottr yet? I’ve probably mentioned it on this blog already, but in case I haven’t, it works like this:

You “create a book” on a series page, give it a title, tagline, short synopsis, and series number (standalones get “1” as their number), and if you have cover art finished, you can attach it to a 3D mockup. Then you click on the book you want to work on and enter the construction zone (my term, not theirs).

Inside the construction zone, you can begin planning your book by creating a timeline, list of characters and places, and establishing keywords to mark important metadata.

Sounds simple and basic, right?

That’s kind of the point. It’s simple. But hardly basic.

Screenshot of Plottr’s Timeline

Once you enter the timeline, you can create plots and subplots, establish chapters and scenes within those chapters, character arcs, etc., but you can also color code everything, insert characters and places inside the scene cards (while also describing them), and tag to your heart’s content.

And best of all, you can import premade templates from some of your favorite story structure devices, including the Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat!, and most recently, the Snowflake Method. In fact, you can also import your existing Snowflake Pro file directly into Plottr (as of October 23rd). So, if you’d rather use an established method over your own, you have plenty to choose from (at least a dozen different structure and beat types).

For creating characters, you can import a template or create (and save) your own. For places, you can do the same. For items…well, that part isn’t available yet, but Plottr is adding new features all the time, so I’d expect to see that available soon enough. You can actually see their active roadmap here, as well as post your own suggestions.

Screenshot of Plottr’s Places Designer

But since this is a review, I think it’s fair to list some of its problems:

It’s still a work-in-progress, so it’s missing some options that are sorely needed, including custom sorting inside of character and place menus, as well as the ability to update your existing template with new entries without having to create a new template (and forgetting which version number you’re saving to now). It doesn’t have features for tracking items, nor does it prepopulate with expected tags like “inciting incident” or “main character” or any of the elements that most writers would like to have available. And, well, it’s an outlining tool, not a writing tool, so you’ll still need another program to do the actual writing.

But it does have an interactive timeline with adjustable boxes, and that’s probably all you really need, especially if you’re coming from other story development software that maybe don’t have as good or intuitive of a timeline feature. It doesn’t track actual time, though, but I think it’s coming, maybe (check the roadmap to be sure). It also has an outline view that you can export to your preferred writing app, as long as it’s Microsoft Word or Scrivener, so you don’t have to worry about switching back and forth as you write.

And don’t forget to check out Plottr’s templates if you give it a try. The premade templates are there to increase its value and usefulness, and I highly recommend you look into them if you’re not sure how to start.

Screenshot of Plottr’s Outline Viewer and Export Tool

Finally, there is a 30-day trial available, and if you do commit to the purchase (and you should because it’s my favorite story developing app so far), it’s just $25 for the program and a year of free updates ($37 if you want Windows and Mac access). You’ll have to renew that fee after the first year to keep getting updates, but you’re not required to buy it a second time to keep using it. If you’re happy with its functionality by the end of your subscription period, you can keep using that version indefinitely.

So, there’s no reason not to give it a try, unless you’re really, really broke. And if that’s your situation, I hope it gets better soon.

Also, if you want a video demonstration of Plottr, you can check out its tutorials on Plottr’s website (recommended) or my review on my YouTube channel (also recommended).

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and comment below if this article has helped you, entertained you, or kept you from starting your honey-do list.

P.S. I may be uploading some of my own character and place attributes templates here soon.

Here’s the video again:

Planning a Story: Campfire Pro vs. Campfire Blaze

Remember the days when hunters would sit around a campfire inside a cave and tell each other ghost stories while waiting for the bears to leave camp? Yeah, me neither. But the good people at Campfire Technology haven’t forgotten. In fact, they’ve created not one, but two writing apps that can help recreate that lost storytelling moment, in a manner of speaking.

Okay, they’ve actually created one, Campfire Pro, then used it as a template to create the other, Campfire Blaze. But both apps, which are basically desktop and cloud versions of the same tool, can do a lot for your story planning. Probably more than most, actually.

And that’s why they’re worth a look.

Screenshot from the Characters tab in Campfire Pro

Screenshot from the Home tab in Campfire Blaze

But what can they do? How do they differ? Why are they worth it? I’ll highlight their key points below.

What They Do:

Both apps allow the user to create a vision board of attributes for:

  • Characters
  • Character Relationships
  • Character Arcs
  • Timelines
  • Worldbuilding Elements
  • Maps
  • Encyclopedia Entries
  • And More

What They Don’t Do:

  • Bring Order to Chaos*

*This is my snarky way of saying that the interface for both applications is quite messy and may require some handholding via their instruction manuals before diving in.

How They Differ:

Both apps do more or less the same things, but:

  • Campfire Pro is desktop only
  • Campfire Pro is legacy software, meaning it won’t receive new updates beyond bug fixes
  • Campfire Pro has a one-time charge of $50, plus $25 for the world-building pack should you want it (and you do)
  • Campfire Blaze adds a writing tool (so you can actually write your novel)
  • Campfire Blaze is module-based, meaning you only pay for what you’ll use
  • Campfire Blaze works in the cloud, so you can use it anywhere
  • Campfire Blaze has team and spectator modes for collabs
  • Campfire Blaze has a nice overview screen for progress reports
  • Campfire Blaze is subscription-based, with the option for a lifetime purchase (at the three-year price point)

I’m sure I’m leaving things out, but it’s worth taking a look at what each app has to offer. You can check them both out at Campfire Technology.

Screenshot of “Manage Attributes” under the Character Traits selection in Campfire Blaze

My Thoughts about Whether They’re Worth It:

I like what both apps bring to the table. Even though Campfire Pro is made strictly for story planning and world building, the amount of elements it allows you to customize or develop is practically unrivaled among all other writing apps, with its only worthy competitors being its successor, Campfire Blaze, and probably World Anvil, which I have not personally tried but hear is quite robust as a world builder.

Campfire Blaze takes everything that Campfire Pro can do and makes it better, especially the character and location builders. For example, Campfire Pro has four default categories for developing characters. You can add more, but it comes with four. Campfire Blaze comes with a complete flowchart of attributes, probably as many as a hundred, that you can select and populate, then answer inside of the resultant fields. It’s crazy in a good way. Most everything that Campfire Pro does competently, Campfire Blaze tries to improve on, especially in the user interface.

Except one.

Except with timelines.

Timelines in Campfire Pro are tricky to navigate.

Timelines in Campfire Blaze are ridiculous and the kinds of things the Codebreakers of WWII would’ve had trouble figuring out.

I don’t like it.

Not at all.

That’s my main gripe with either Campfire program, but especially with Campfire Blaze.

Screenshot of the Timeline tab in Campfire Pro
Screenshot of a timeline entry in Campfire Pro

Now, it should be mentioned that Campfire Pro is a legacy program, so it won’t get any new additions or updates. Campfire Blaze is essentially its successor, so any new features that Campfire Anything gets, it’ll go to Blaze. So, if you’re interested in either program, you’ll probably want Blaze, but you’ll also want to preview the instructions to make sure you understand how to use it. As far as user learning curves go, Campfire Pro and Blaze sit below Scrivener, but stand above most everything else on the market. Neither one is particularly easy to use, and unless your imagination is wild, I can’t imagine you jumping in without feeling a little overwhelmed by their available options. But if you want a program that really goes above and beyond the norm, I don’t think you’d do wrong with either Pro or Blaze. The choice comes down to how much you’re willing to spend.

Note: Campfire’s selling point above other apps is its world-building features. If you’re in the market for a story development tool but just want one, you should really take a look at its world-building tools before committing to a purchase of any writing app. It may be the game-changer you’re looking for.

Note 2: Because Campfire Blaze is coming out of beta as of this writing, it will still have a few missing or unfinished features (including the research and writing modules). The open beta will be ongoing until the end of October, so there’s still time to check it out for free. If you buy Campfire Pro before Blaze officially launches in November, you’ll also get three months of Blaze free and one module of your choice permanently free (I’d go with the character designer personally). If you already own Campfire Pro, then you’ll get a free module for however many years you’ve had it (so, one module for 2020, two for 2019, and three for 2018).

Note 3: Campfire sometimes has affiliate deals with ProWritingAid and other writer resources for deep discounts. You just have to be subscribed their newsletters to get the offer. You should sign up for any newsletter you can in the indie writer space so you don’t miss anything.

Note 4: I’ve also recorded a comparison video showing off both apps on my YouTube channel here.

Note 5: Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and comment your thoughts below.

Screenshot of the Relationship Web in Campfire Blaze

If you want to check out the video review:

yWriter vs Scrivener Presents: Fictionary StoryTeller, Part 2: Using the Novel Creator

Yesterday, I introduced you to a writing app called Fictionary StoryTeller, which functions as a developmental tool for any writer who wants to see if his or her story is structurally sound before shopping it off to beta readers or actual editors. Its purpose is to provide visual cues to any trouble spots the story may have before any living reader ever sees the flaws.

It works best when the story is finished and imported.

But, it doesn’t require prewriting to be useful to writers.

That’s because Fictionary StoryTeller also allows writers to construct the story from within the app.

Fictionary Blog Companion 4
Starting a new novel in Fictionary StoryTeller

Yes, that’s correct. Building the story from within is just another feature that comes with the Fictionary StoryTeller subscription (along with the feature of paying every month to use the service, but more on that later).

Fictionary Blog Companion 5
The blank canvas of doom in Fictionary StoryTeller

Now, I could spend precious article-writing real estate discussing everything that StoryTeller can do, from labeling scenes, to organizing chapters, to defining characters long before they ever enter the scene, etc. I could also discuss how the savvy writer can label plot points or scene intentions (like establishing setting, character arc, etc.) through metatags within the scene constructor itself. I could even talk about how StoryTeller allows the writer to manage each scene detail through four categories of informative story elements (giving credence to Fictionary’s boast of tracking 38 of them).

But I don’t want to do that because the app’s Web page will do all of that for me.

What I would rather do is to use this article as an opportunity to express what Fictionary StoryTeller can’t do, at least as of this writing, so that you, the writer, have a better idea whether this app is even worth your investment, at least for now.

I should also note that I have a video companion on my Zippywings YouTube channel that not only shows the app’s novel creation feature in motion, but also voices my opinion on what works and what doesn’t, and what the app still needs if it wants to be truly formidable in the war for writing software dominance. So, if you’d rather watch a demonstration than read about it, then click over to my video and spend the 15 minutes it takes to get to the end. And, if you missed yesterday’s article, it’s worth noting that I have a longer video (43 minutes) evaluating the 38 story elements that are already featured in the program (or at least the ones currently implemented).

Now, if you’ve read up on the details, then you should already get a sense of what’s missing, but in case you’re not sure, here are the top elements I believe Fictionary StoryTeller needs to truly stand out as an exceptional program for writers. Keep in mind that these elements are currently missing, or are at least not as well developed as they could be. The app may have improved by the time you read this, so you should still check it out for yourself to be sure. Also note that, as of this writing, some of the 38 story elements may actually be missing or inactive in the trial version:

Scene structure tracking. What Fictionary does well is to track and visualize the story’s global structure, but it does not accurately track how well the scene or scene unit maintains its own five-point structure, in particular when it comes to establishing conflict and resolution or scene beats. It does allow you to set certain “elements” through scene tags, like setting details and mini-descriptions, and even puts them up in a chart, which is a great start, and for anyone who wants a big picture view of his story, it definitely fills a hole that Microsoft Word cannot fill. But when it comes to tracking actual conflicts, polarity shifts, and miscellaneous scene intentions (like scenes that should only establish exposition), the program is good but not yet perfect. When it comes to scene tracking, I still think yWriter and Scrivener allow for a bit more flexibility, even if they don’t handle the visual element nearly as well. What it does track, it tracks well, but it is certainly not complete. Maybe someday it will be.

Fictionary Blog Companion 7
A sample of the many scene elements at a glance in Fictionary StoryTeller

Character tracking. Again, Fictionary StoryTeller has some competency in tracking characters throughout the story, but not at the level a subscription-based app should perform to be worth the cost. What it does, and does well, is to crawl through the entire novel and extract every named character it finds and populates them inside a master character list, which you can then check for accuracy. This character chart allows you to set POV characters, mentioned characters, and combine same characters together (“the chef,” for example, may have a real name later, so both instances would be tracked to the same character). It’s a handy management tool.

But, it has major limitations compared to yWriter and Scrivener, and even, oddly, compared to itself. What do I mean by this? Well, Fictionary’s appeal is in the visuals. The two elements it tracks and converts into visuals are the character’s entrance and exit scenes (which can be accessed from the master plot graph) and the number of scenes that the character appears in. It does not actually chart which scenes the character appears in. An app like this should place dots everywhere the character appears, and allow the user to click on those dots to access those scenes. And, on these same lines, I think the character tracker is weirdly absent of character description. Unless I missed something, all you can do at this stage is to name the character and determine his importance to the story (POV only—not even protagonist, antagonist, mentor role, lover, etc.). So, the character tracker needs a lot of improvement. It also has trouble identifying merged characters as the same character. Even if it lets you combine them, it seems to forget sometimes who those combined characters are.

Character arcs. This is a separate component to story structure, but I think StoryTeller could stand to handle character arcs in the same manner: draw a line along the character’s path toward three-dimensionality. It comes nowhere close to doing this at the present. In fact, as I noted in the above bullet point, tracking any kind of character development is currently low-rate in StoryTeller. This isn’t to say that all characters need three-dimensionality (and that would be an option worth selecting: Does this character need three dimensions?(Yes/No/Let me think about it)). But those that do should have a tracker and visual component attached. What StoryTeller does do is allow the writer to set whether the scene develops the character via a simple “scene intention” tag. It just doesn’t let the writer note how it develops the character. The closest it comes is to identify what the character wants, which is still very important, and very useful. But it does not note how the character succeeds, fails, or changes. Not yet. It needs to.

Fictionary Blog Companion 6
Another scene visual reference in Fictionary StoryTeller

A/B plot tracking. Perhaps a major omission to Fictionary StoryTeller, both in actuality and according to the 38 elements, is the ability to track subplots within the main story. On a similar note, it does nothing to track external and internal storylines. For any writer who wants to see if the A/B plots or the internal/external plots converge at the end of the story, Fictionary won’t be able to tell them. Right now, it’s all about the main plot.

Genre and obligatory scene tracking. This may not be intuitive to writers who haven’t studied story structure or genre development, but any story written for genre still has its particular obligations (like a romance that fails to bring the lovers together at the end is, perhaps, not really a romance), and Fictionary StoryTeller seems to leave these elements out in the cold. Even a quick scan of the 38 elements suggest that this feature isn’t on the planner. But it probably should be.

Element highlighting. This missing feature is arbitrary, but adding it would greatly enhance the user experience. In short, clicking on buttons and dots in Fictionary StoryTeller will open up whatever scene corresponds to the selected element, so that the writer can review the scene for the specific instance he wants to check. Sometimes it will even jump to a point in the scene where the element can be found. However, what this fast-access method grossly lacks is a simple highlighter that draws attention to the element immediately. I’ve found that whenever I click on the visual that opens the scene, I then have to read the entire passage to figure out where the element sits in the prose. It takes time to find it, especially when the text is small. A simple highlighter on selection of the element would make opening the scene much better. As of now, this relates to character names, but as the program evolves, it should also search for embedded tags the writer may place within the scene to identify “important moments” that link to that tag to make searching for these broader-based elements faster and easier.

And that’s for starters.

Now, in fairness, I believe these limitations are simple enough to add within the current architecture that I’d be surprised if Fictionary never addresses them. So, my belief is that this app will become quite useful for every type of fiction writer in time. But, as of my trial period, I was a bit underwhelmed by my cost-to-usefulness ratio. I’d like to see some of these elements taken into consideration before I take in consideration a subscription to the service ($20 a month or $200 a year).

But, you may feel differently, so by all means give it a go if you’re interested. You get the first 14 days free, anyway.

Also, in reviewing the 38 scene elements listed on the main page, I think it’s possible that the current version of Fictionary StoryTeller doesn’t yet have all the elements implemented (I know that’s true of two of the five senses) but will shortly. It certainly seems that some of the elements listed appear nowhere on the app, as far as I could find. Maybe they’re behind a paywall. Maybe they’re on the way. It’s worth keeping an eye on them if they are.

Anyway, don’t forget to check out my video reviews of Fictionary StoryTeller if you haven’t already.

Video 1: Overview and Review

Video 2: Using the Novel Creator

And, if you don’t think Fictionary StoryTeller is your cup of coffee right now, then check out my series yWriter vs Scrivener to see if either of those programs are a better fit for your storytelling needs.

yWriter vs Scrivener Presents: Fictionary StoryTeller, Part 1: Overview and Review

So, remember that time you told all of your friends that you’re a writer, when what you really meant is that you plan to become a writer, someday?

Well, now’s your chance to prove yourself true, thanks to a new weapon in the arsenal, a new tool in the chest, a new float toy in the pool . . .

Okay, that last one got away from me a little.

Introducing Fictionary StoryTeller, the writing app that actually helps the writer track his or her story’s development structure and informs him if he’s on the right track.

(. . . and also makes it fun to stop wasting time dreaming about becoming a writer . . .)

Fictionary Blog Companion 1
The main navigation page in Fictionary StoryTeller

For the next two days, I’ll be bringing you both written and video content about this handy option for the writer’s development needs, the former which you can read right here, and the latter which you can view over at my Zippywings YouTube channel, specifically at this link (but don’t go just yet; you should read on—I’ll repost the link at the bottom so you don’t forget).

So, now that I got your interest, what is Fictionary StoryTeller?

Well, StoryTeller is the developmental tool for writers from Fictionary (see, calling it Fictionary StoryTeller is a lot like calling PhotoShop, Adobe PhotoShop) that provides structural feedback via flowcharts, graphs, and other fun visual things that would make Microsoft proud (or jealous), giving writers an opportunity to spot weaknesses from a bird’s eye point of view.

Fictionary Blog Companion 3
Example of the plot structure graph in Fictionary StoryTeller

In short, it tells writers if their novels or novellas still need developmental considerations.

But, how does it accomplish that, exactly? If StoryTeller is just a piece of writing software, a measly app on the Internet, then how, pray tell, does it inform you, the writer, if your story needs more development?

I know what you’re thinking: The robot apocalypse has started.

While that may be possible, that’s not actually what’s happening here. No, what’s happening here is that you feed the app your story’s information, by scene, and based on your knowledge of structure, including inciting incidents, plot points, scene shifts, etc., you’ll essentially give the program something to track, which it can then convert information back to you via graphs, charts, and other visual matters.

So, it’s not entirely scary. It’s barely even an algorithm.

But, if that’s all StoryTeller did, just feed you visuals on the stuff you’ve already written, then it probably wouldn’t be particularly impressive. Clever writers who moonlight as Excel wizards could probably accomplish something similar on their own, for a lot cheaper.

What StoryTeller does well is convert your manuscript into indexes for easy labeling and makes those tracking adjustments on the fly, so you can always know what your development looks like at every stage of the story, even as you’re still writing it.

And what does it track, exactly?

Fictionary Blog Companion 2
Using the scene editor in Fictionary StoryTeller

Well, Fictionary’s StoryTeller Web page will give you all the details, but the short version is that it allows you to check 38 different developmental categories, from the core elements of story structure, all the way down to sensory details (minus touch and taste, as of this writing).

It also, conveniently, searches your document for all known names and converts them into character lists (in some cases erroneously), which you can also adjust, reference, or delete as needed. Nearly everything in Fictionary StoryTeller that you can click will take you back to your scene of reference.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, it’s definitely heading in the right direction—I’ll say that with confidence.

The question is, is it worth the price? At $20 a month (yep, subscription!), it offers writers the answers to a number of questions, such as, “Is my structure in line with proper story structure?” and “Do my scenes begin and end in different places or times?” but it still lacks the answers to other important questions, such as “Do my scenes follow an internal five-point structure?” or “Which scenes does Fred appear in?”

In other words, even though StoryTeller does track the entrances and exits of characters, and it tracks how many scenes a character appears in, it does not tell you, the writer, specifically which of those eight scenes he’s in, which would be convenient given that everything in StoryTeller can be clicked, whisking you away to the very scene you wish to explore, and this means, ultimately, that StoryTeller isn’t yet perfect.

But, it looks like it’s trying to become just that, so whatever it lacks today may likely appear as a feature tomorrow, or whenever its engineers figure out not only which good ideas need implementation but how to implement them.

Anyway, I offer you a full look at Fictionary StoryTeller in action, through the lens of my novella Gutter Child, over on my Zippywings YouTube channel. Check it out to see all of its strengths in weaknesses, as well as get my full opinion of the program (and whether I recommend it).

Then come back tomorrow for Part 2 of my mini-feature on Fictionary StoryTeller, when I review its capability as a writing substitute to yWriter or Scrivener. There will be a video on that, as well.

Writing a Scene in yWriter6 (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 7)

Congratulations!

Yep, that’s my way of saying that you’ve made it to the end of the yWriter vs. Scrivener series. (You have been watching the videos and reading the articles, right?)

Before I close, I want to remind you that using either yWriter6 or Scrivener works only if you plan to write an actual story or, at the very least, plan a story. If you use them only for pretending to work on a story, just putting them on your screen whenever you have company over instead of writing the story, well, that’s not effective use of either program, nor is it an effective way to tell a story. So, don’t be that guy.

But, I know you’re going to use them to write your story. Why else have you gotten this far if you don’t intend to use them the right way? That would be insanity! Right?

So, to celebrate the end of the series, I want to show you what it’s like to write a scene in yWriter6. Now, if you’d rather use Scrivener, or even Microsoft Word, to write your scenes and chapters, that’s perfectly fine. Part 7 of yWriter vs. Scrivener isn’t really about yWriter6 or Scrivener. It’s about how to turn your outline into a scene by watching me do exactly that.

Yep, this is your chance to see my brain in action. It’s also a way to stand over a writer’s shoulder and watch him write (and justify his choices).

This is, by no surprise, the longest video in the series, but it’s also the one you’ll get the most out of if you care anything about writing, reading, or creating characters out of thin air. So, be sure to take some time out of your day to check it out. It’ll be worth it. Yes, I say that subjectively. It’ll be worth it if you like writing or reading. Hopefully!

Also, please let me know if you want to see more of Pop Goes the Waterbed, which is the story I’m writing in this video. I may make a separate series out of it on YouTube if enough viewers are interested.

For now, that’s it for yWriter vs. Scrivener, but I’ll be back with another article about books and book reviews soon. Subscribe at the blue button below to find out more about that. You’ll be glad you did! I say that subjectively, of course.

Finding and Using Custom Templates on Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 6)

Once you’ve had a chance to explore the differences between yWriter6 and Scrivener, you’ll see where both programs shine, and what both programs lack. It may be that you’ll develop a preference for one of them (assuming you’re not a Microsoft Word nerd who swears by its sexy software-giant sleekness and believes that all other programs are but peons in this vast digital soup), but you’ll certainly benefit from using both (or all three, again, if you’re a Word nerd) in creating your masterpiece (or your disasterpiece if that’s the case—hey, the world needs those, too).

But, in this digital highland, when it comes to versatility—and winners—there really can be only one. Thanks to Scrivener’s template system, I’d say the winner in this battle is clearly decided.

For those who missed yesterday’s article on Scrivener templates, the short version is that Scrivener comes with a few built-in templates designed to help writers format their novels, nonfiction essays, screenplays, commercials, etc. accurately and efficiently. But, what the article doesn’t cover is Scrivener’s network of rock star-level users who have made and uploaded their own templates to accomplish development feats that range from detailed outlines, to character creators, to world-building tools, and to genre fiction beat sheets to name a few choices.

In Part 6 of the yWriter vs. Scrivener series (on YouTube), I’ll show you how to find some of these templates, briefly go over how to use them, and I’ll even show you one of my own templates-in-progress that can help manage a writing career. By the time you get to the end, you’ll see just how much more you can do with a Scrivener template than you can with just about any other document type, including anything you’ll find in that oversexed Microsoft Word program.

Granted, you’ll still have to bring your imagination with you. At the end of the day, it’s still an overview. But, it’s a fine overview indeed.

Just watch the video. You’ll learn something about planning a story if you do.

Also, don’t forget to leave a comment if you have any Scrivener templates you’d like to see. Leaving comments is a great way to make yourself even more important!

The Fiction Template on Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 5)

For anyone who has ever explored Microsoft Word thoroughly, he or she will find that the beauty of Word is not in the user’s ability to type in a bunch of words on a document and hit save, but the ability for him to type in a bunch of words on a pre-rendered template and hit save. For students and professionals, this beauty is a hottie.

But, for the average storyteller, Microsoft Word’s templates are—how shall we say?—quite limited:

word template books

Sure, Microsoft has made the effort to recognize the average novelist by providing a manuscript template that’s great for those who aspire to publish traditionally. For a $300 piece of writing software, it had better do at least that.

But Scrivener has that exact same template, too, and it offers that template because it knows it’s made for writers, not just for business professionals and academics who think a thesis is supposed to be nothing more than a list of three arguable points and a loose interpretation of how those points fit together.

scrivener template example

Yes, Scrivener considers that writers of fiction (and non-fiction and scriptwriting) want the templates to do the job right, but they also want the tools to organize the job so that the scenes and chapters fit into the manuscript format seamlessly. They also want to do all of that stuff while having the freedom to cram all of their research materials (including character and setting sheets and templates) into its own folder where it cannot corrupt the story document, nor can it get lost through the unfortunate process of misnaming the research files and putting them in the same place where you put all of your old college literature critiques from 20 years ago, which you think might be in My Documents 1998_a2_crit lit alpha, but it could also be in that folder you refuse to open because it’s labeled “In the Event of My Kidnapping,” which you created during your intense paranoia stage (or your quarter-life crisis) in the early 2000s (not to imply that I would ever do such a thing…).

But, Scrivener goes one step further: It allows you to compile that manuscript into the appropriate format and includes self-publishing formats for e-books, if you’re inclined to skip the process of pandering to the traditional publishers.

All of this for a sixth of Microsoft Word’s cost.

In Part 5 of my yWriter vs. Scrivener series on YouTube, not to be confused with my Microsoft Word vs. Scrivener series that does not yet exist, I show off the fiction template and how it can help writers stay organized within their chosen parameters. This part will also serve as a foundation for tomorrow’s follow-up video, where I explore other templates in Scrivener.

Exploring and Using Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 4)

Well, so far we’ve learned quite a bit about yWriter6, about how to use it, and about why we should use it. But, I think we can begin to see its limitations when we consider the things it can’t do. For example, it can’t feed the cats for you. Nor can it pay your bills. It also doesn’t do the writing for you, which, I think, most of us want in a versatile writing program.

Scrivener, on the other hand, can’t do these things, either, but it can provide a much larger viewing field with zoom options, more robust tracking analytics, greater visual and tactile control of the story’s layout, as well as plenty of other features to make sure the writing gets done, and that it gets done well.

Conceptually, Scrivener has everything the writer’s toolbox demands. It even has a built-in dictionary for checking word usage and a project manager that can track your writing progress (which is great for participants of NaNoWriMo). The more you explore Scrivener, the more you realize that, even though you never knew you needed this stuff, you know you definitely need it now!

yWriter6 can be versatile, too, but most of its special features are component-based and require additional downloads and spotty success at modding the program to get them to work properly (assuming most writers are as bad at installing components to existing programs as I am). Scrivener provides the majority of these features out of the box.

Scrivener is also the most widely recognized and trusted writing software for budget-minded writers. For $49 (as of this month), the writer can gain access to a complete story management experience that includes having a canvas to actually create the story along with organizing, structuring, and planning the story.

The drawback with Scrivener, of course, is that the writer needs to create his own resources to make the most of the software. But, that’s sort of the point of Scrivener. It isn’t about fixed rules. It’s about flexibility. Its main purpose is to give writers a place to store all of their ideas in an effort to craft the best stories they can. Where yWriter is fairly narrow in its design (you basically fill out the fields to create your story), Scrivener spreads its wings and flies, giving you the freedom to do what you want in your stories.

Really, the trick to using Scrivener well is to learn how to fly with it.

In Part 4 of my yWriter vs. Scrivener video series, I’ll show you Scrivener in action. But, I must deliver a warning: Scrivener has a steep learning curve. I can’t possibly show off everything that it can do in a single 16-minute video. To get the full picture of what Scrivener can do, I’d recommend Joseph Michael’s “Learn Scrivener Fast” to see what you’re not yet doing.

Note: There’s a basic version of Joseph Michael’s “Learn Scrivener Fast” on Udemy if you’re on a budget but still want to learn something useful. I believe the Udemy version is the first module of the complete program.

Note 2: I like Udemy. You should like Udemy, too.

Note 3: It’s my birthday today. Leave your birthday wishes in the comments below if you want.