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NaNoWrimoPrep: Plotting tools

I got an iPad about a year and a half ago, and it’s slowly become my primary writing tool instead of my trusty laptop, mainly due to its portability and the many programs available for writing and plotting. (App, program, same thing. I’m old school.)

I’ve tried a lot of different programs to find the perfect one for use with the iPad. Now, when I initially bought the tablet it was in the hopes that Scrivener for iOS would be coming along soon, but since it hasn’t I’ve been looking for substitutes. My requirements are pretty simple, as far as planning goes: I want a way to enter notes that is easy to back up and search, with a small learning curve and hopefully a visually pleasing layout.

Two programs that I keep returning to are OneNote and Mindly. OneNote is an MS Office product, free with Windows 8, and relatively easy to back up across devices–I have backups to my (Windows) laptop as well as my iPad and my latest toy, the iPhone 5c. While I have lost notebooks due to carelessness, I’ve also been able to recover them.

Mindly is a mindmapping tool. Now, I’m not really a visual thinker and usually plan with bullet points and indents; but I have found for more complicated plots mind maps help me keep track of what’s happening when and to whom. Plus Mindly includes little graphics to add to each new point, and I am sucker for little graphics. The harder part has been figuring out how to make the mind map actually functional. Is it purely for timelines? For brainstorming? Can it be a useful plotting tool?

Yes, to all three. Brainstorm a plot, export the file as a PDF, store in OneNote to refer to later. Or take the scattered ideas from OneNote and use Mindly to make them into a workable timeline. Shape your plots around plot-subplot/Plot A-Plot B, using the date points to connect how Plot B feeds into Plot A. And so on.

(Of course, I still find my best brainstorming takes place with pen and paper. I just think more freely on a physical page.)

What’s your favorite plotting tool? Pen and paper or something more high-tech?

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Two Scrivener templates

A screenshot of the long form templateThis is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and finally got around to doing today. (Procrastination yay?) A few months ago I found or was linked to a plot outline template, intended to help the writer figure out the plot beats for stories that require specific word counts, such as most anthology submissions. I’ve been using it as a plotting tool since then, and found it very helpful — so helpful that I’ve created my Scrivener files according to the beats for my past couple stories.

Today I made the files into templates, so that I can use them again without having to reinvent the wheel each time I start a new story. I thought they might be helpful to other people too, so they’re in zip files and stored in my Dropbox.

Unfortunately I can’t find the link to the original post, where I got the outline from in the first place. I thought it might be Rachel Aaron’s Pretentious Title, but I’m unable to find the entry if it is. I don’t claim to have invented this outline, just created the templates that use it. The outline itself is a very simple version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which is a good plotting tool, too.

The basic outline is this:
1. current situation, 10%
2. change of plans, 15%
3. work toward goal, things go well, 25%
4. things go awry, 25%
5. final push/climax/reaches goal, 20%
6. wrap up loose ends/denouement, 5%

You take your total allotted word count (say, 10,000 words for easiness’s sake), and figure your beats accordingly:

1. current situation, 10% – 1000 words
2. change of plans, 15% – 1500 words
3. work toward goal, things go well, 25% – 2500 words
4. things go awry, 25% – 2500 words
5. final push/climax/reaches goal, 20% – 2000 words
6. wrap up loose ends/denouement, 5% – 500 words

Confession: I have yet to make this work perfectly–I don’t have any denouement scenes that are exactly 500 words–but it’s proved very helpful in any case, since keeping within a defined word count has been a struggle for me. I have yet to use it for a novel, too, but I have the rough draft of the next one all set up using this template, waiting its turn.

Download the long-form works template or the short-form works at Dropbox.

A few notes:

* The label colors are all pastels, my favorite colors. Feel free to change that as you see fit.
* Feel free to add character sheets and other notes as you see fit, too. I don’t have any preferred forms so I just left them out.
* In the long form template, there are no scene files in the chapter folders. I don’t want to dictate that — you just add what you need.
* These files were created on a Windows PC. I assume they will work with Windows and Mac version of Scrivener.
* If you need instructions on using templates, please visit the Scrivener forums or tutorials.