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05 February 2010 @ 02:00 pm
Magnum Opus: Authorware  
Since my brain is currently actively engaged in other matters, my Magnum Opus* has finally decided that it wants my attention, as well.

(Obviously, this only happens when there are other things that Actively Need Doing; I don't think I've really done any serious work on the Opus since I finished my capstone, though I was actively working on other story ideas over the long commute during my three months with the civil engineering firm.)

I'm looking for good software to help me organize my plot -- and just to make it hard on the audience, I'm looking for Ubuntu software.

If I were doing this analogue, I'd get a pack of 3"x5" cards, and write down the Important Plot Moments that Must Stay In No Matter What, figure out what order to put them in, and start "inbetweening", as the animators say: adding the transitions and the bridge scenes and the character development moments that get me from Scene to Scene to Scene.

If the inbetweening process suggests a different order for the Keystone Scenes, I could then start shuffling them around.

I'd like to find software that does this sort of thing gracefully. Wikis don't work (I've tried'em). Mindmap software is kind of close (discrete ideas in boxes on a blank desktop), but the radial paradigm is all wrong.

I'm downloading a few outliners from the Ubuntu repositories, and I'll mess around with'em later. I was wondering if any of you out there in LJ Land might have some suggestions for something more graphical, more like a Big Ol' Bulletin Board/Table Top that will let me have a bunch of ideas and plot elements all out in front of me at the same time, and shuffle them around without awkward copypasta. Don't be hesitant to suggest Windows Application X or Mac Application Y -- I can always use them as a search term to find open-source software that's like those programs.

* No, I'm not going to give any details about the Magnum Opus at this stage of the game. I will say that, yes, it has dragons. And dinosaurs. And sorcerors. And maybe even swords.
I feel: curiouscurious
Tombfyretombfyre on February 5th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Well when it comes to open source stuff that will work with Ubuntu, I always look no further than Open Office. It has pretty much everything Microsoft Office can do, plus a few different bells and whistles. I do all my writing there, plus spreadsheets, presentation work, databases, etc. Just off the top of my head I could think of a few different ways to use some of that software to have a bunch of "cards" up on screen with various ideas.
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on February 5th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
Please offer suggestions!

Other than opening up the Presentation PowerPointClone, I'm drawing blanks with OO.
Tombfyretombfyre on February 6th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
Well with OO Writer, you can just make a big blank page. Then make a frame, stretch it to a desired size, and write it in. You can then click and drag the frames around the page like index cards. :3

So its Insert > Frame to make a frame, then you size it and click on the border of any particular frame to move it around the screen however you'd like.
Tephratephralynn on February 5th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Well, I can't speak to how well it works on Ubuntu but yWriter apparently will run on it.

I also can't speak on how well yWriter works in general. I installed it on my laptop and opened it once and went "waurgh! not how I write!" and haven't opened it again since. But then the bulk of my writing happens in November and is a case of hammering out words as fast as I can in a more or less direct line rather than this whole chapter and scene thing.

ETA: Let's try that with functional HTML, shall we?
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on February 5th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that looks promising. It has very nice Ubuntu install instructions, so I'll give it a whirl over the weekend.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 6th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
I'm actually writing Revolutionary Boy Martin like that - writing the things I feel NEED to be in and then I'll go back in and fill in the blanks.

But I'm pretty suspicious of software that supposedly improves efficiency - often it does not because you spend so much time struggling with the software that any "gains" in efficiency are "lost".

Anyway, the way I'm currently choosing to write RBM is to simply create a folder where I keep the files and I just number them, so, like, 01 Martin Arrives.odt or whatever, then 02 and so forth and so on. If I need to put something in between, I just got 01.4 or whatever at the start of the file name and then I just relist alphabetically.

When I get ready to finish it, hopefully quite soon, I'll open a new file and the start file, cut and paste everything into the new file, write the inbetween and then open the next file and C&P it in, too, until I'm done.

Admittedly not very high tech and perhaps not graceful, but I spend basically zero time fussing with new software about it. :)
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on February 6th, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
But I'm pretty suspicious of software that supposedly improves efficiency - often it does not because you spend so much time struggling with the software that any "gains" in efficiency are "lost".

Yeah, so am I, which just makes this that much more frustrating. Conceptually, this seems really straightforward; I can SEE it in my head. If I knew jack about programming, I might even be able to whip out the app I needed myself, but my programming chops kinda screeched to a halt at the "DOS .bat file" stage.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 6th, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm with you, programming-wise, and I don't remember anything about .bat files at this juncture. I've transformed into a non-technical user. ;)

But why use a program if you can just do it with index cards and a cork board? :p
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on February 6th, 2010 07:48 am (UTC)
Because my laptop is much more portable, and I'm currently living in a Very Small Room without much unoccupied wall space.

BTW, I've been messing with FreeMind this evening, and it makes a lot more sense when I actually have a project in mind to put in it. It's really close to what I had in mind, though I wish I had a BIT more control of the layout. Not much learning curve at all -- though there are a lot of features I'm just ignoring at the moment, because I don't need them yet.
one in a billionsiege on February 6th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
This! sounds like a job! for! ...


More seriously, I do recommend it. I've used this mind-mapping app for similar things.
Your Obedient Serpent: Eye - VKathelind on February 6th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC)
Okay, the first time I tried FreeMind, it made no sense to me -- probably because I didn't have anything specific in mind to do with it. Now, it's looking like exactly what I need.

Thanks for convincing me to take another look!
Moral Explorernotthebuddha on February 7th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)
This sounds a lot like project management; there are several software packages for Ubuntu that do Gantt charts. You can use milestones for the Important Plot Moments, with each being a prequisite of the next in the plot thread they share, and use tasks to cover the action moving from one to the next. Set up character as workers that you can assign to each task, and there you have a mechanism for tracking who does what and when.
Your Obedient Serpent: Warning: Self-Evolving Systemathelind on February 7th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)

The "plot board in my head" looks EXACTLY like project-management boards I've seen in labs and offices.

I'll start perusing the repositories.

I'll keep FreeMind up, because I've been very productive writing down character and setting notes in it -- the mindmap format really lends itself to turning stream-of-consciousness jumping around into something organized.