Sunday, 14 February 2010

At it again

I managed to get through January without buying any new software for my shiny new Mac (son gave me the money to buy Scrivener as a Chrissie present so it doesn't count). And instead of forking out for Microsoft Office (around £120) or Apple iWorks (around £50) I've been using NeoOffice, a free word processor similar to OpenOffice only better suited to Macs. Might have known I was doing too well for it to last.

I've now installed another programme that looks useful but isn't alas free. Contour is really a screenwriting tool for plotting your movie script within a three act structure, but it's just as useful for any kind of story including novels. So far I have downloaded the month's free trial version and filled in Act 1 of current WIP. It's simple to use and not laden with jargon (which these types of programmes often are), intuitive to navigate and so far I've found it extremely helpful in working out the finer points of the plot. Embedded in the box-filling programme are pointers to what should be happening when, which archetypes are needed to meet the requirements of the traditional hero's journey, and there are lots of examples in the form of several well-known movies to illustrate the points.

So I'll stick with it and see how I get on with the Second Act. It's traditionally the toughest part (well it is for me, anyway!). But if it proves as helpful there as it has been already I may be breaking my spending embargo on this one. It costs $50 (around £32 + VAT) but if it saves a lot of faffing about it will be worth it.


Kate said...

I've never tried using writing software. I'm not a planner, so I'd probably find it annoying to try to fit things into a set pattern. I prefer to roll with the flow. Of course, it could be the software would improve my writing, but...

What happens to the work you've done on the trial version when the trial runs out?

Sandra Patterson said...

Hi Kate,
I used to fly by the seat of the pants too, but I've come round to planning because I'm getting sick of endless revisions and having to discard scenes I'd lovingly crafted when they are surplus to the plot. But I do find planning hard. I'd rather be writing, it's more fun.
Contour isn't the sort of programme you write in, it's really just for shaping the plot. You can print out your finished plan before the time runs out - I don't know what happens after the free trial but I expect it will lock you out unless you pay up.