Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ask the Authors: Wednesday

Welcome back to Ask the Authors! If you have a question, send it to . Thanks!

Do you use any software programs for plotting your novels (ex: Dramatica Pro, Inspiration 8) or do you create the story entirely on your own?

Being an ex-PC junkie, I've tried everything--from Sol Stein's programs to Word Blocks, to Dramatica Pro. And you know what? They really don't help much. They might spark something, or check something, but the story still has to come from your head and have good dramatic structure. --Angela Hunt

No. I have no one to blame but myself for my arcane and convoluted plotlines. Besides, I think plotting is the easier part of writing. It’s characters and language that keep you filling up the trashcan. --Tom Morrisey

My first two novels I used Write Pro from Sol Stein (you can tell how old I am, eh?) to help me develop character ideas, do a character timeline and compare it to my own so I wasn't writing MY story into that character. I listen to STORY by Robert McGee before beginning each new novel to be reminded about the elements of story. But beyond that, it does all come from my head and from the expert advice of editors as they give me suggestions for revising. --Jane Kirkpatrick

Software for plotting? Hmmm. I guess if it was a kind of story-boarding software, some kind of graphic user interface that allowed me to keep track of my ideas and the relationships of cause and effect in a more streamlined fashion, that might be worth looking into. But as for “creating the story entirely on my own,” I hope they never make a software to help with that, because if they do, then the very next step is software that will write the story, and of course who needs us writers after that? I’m not seriously worried about having my job automated, of course, because it’s not a job; it’s art. Unless they figure out a way to give computers human intuition, the day will never come when computers are any use for coming up good story ideas. The ideas are a vital part of the art of the thing, and cannot be pre-programmed, or arrived at through pure logic. --Athol Dickson

Honestly, I can't even begin to imagine using a computer program to create my story. That gives me hives too. --Lisa Samson

I played around with Inspiration when starting a novel a couple of years ago, and I did like the way it allowed me to make a family tree of my characters, and do some basic plotting. But my free trial expired and I haven’t used it since—or missed it, really. Because I’m an intuitive (seat-of-the-pants) writer rather than a plotter, I’m not sure most of that type of software would work for me. –Deborah Raney

Once, for a writers magazine, I reviewed a bunch of so-called "writing software." I found none of the programs that help "generate" ideas or structure to be worth it. They held me back, if anything. IdeaFisher, when it was around, was a great brainstorming program. You can use the Internet and Google almost the same way now. Inspiration is a wonderful program that helps you keep track of your own ideas. It doesn't pretend to write anything for you. I use it on every project--fiction, non-fiction, speeches, workshops. - James Scott Bell

I've never tried any plotting programs. I do use the 12-step Storyteller's Journey as a guide, to make sure I'm building a story arc that works. --Liz Curtis Higgs

No software, but I'm thinking about giving it a try. It seems a great way to spark the story if you get stuck. And heaven knows we all get stuck at times. (Some of us more than others...) --Karen Ball

As I’ve been known to tell people, mine is a 19th century mind trying to function in the 21st century world. I’m thankful for computers because I sure wouldn’t want to try writing a novel on a typewriter. But anything beyond word processing, email and internet research is technological overload for me. Until this question came up, I wasn’t even aware there were software programs available for plotting a novel. I guess I rely on the old-fashioned way of letting my brain cough up the story. --Ann Tatlock

Nope. I avoid them like the plague. I’m an intuitive writer. Anything that looks like advance plotting gives me hives. I discover my stories and characters the same way my readers do—one page at a time.--Alton Gansky

I like the organic method still. If the writing becomes too much about learning new technology, it’s counterproductive for me. --Patricia Hickman

I have tried a number of different writing software programs without success. They just didn't work for me. When I first tried Inspiration 8 about a year ago, I tried to use it for plotting purposes and it went nowhere. Then I learned how to use it for brainstorming and found it very useful for that purpose. Very similar to me sitting down with pen and paper and scribbling ideas as they come to me which is the method I've used for years. I like it because I can bring in photos and graphics that give me visuals of the story. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

I don't want a machine telling me what my characters can and cannot do. My characters are people in my head, and sometimes they're even based on people in my life. I can't imagine any computer being able to predict what I'm going to do next, because I don't even know most of the time. --Hannah Alexander

On my own. -BJ Hoff


At 10:42 AM, Blogger Lori Benton said...

Fun to see all the different ways writers write. Unlike Tom M., I find plotting the hardest part of writing. Language and characters come far more easily.

Liz, who is the author of the 12-Step Storyteller's Journal? Sounds like something I'd like to take a look at after my WIP is a completed first draft.


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Al. A lot of today's writing software strikes me as so much Robbie-the-Robot/HAL 9000 ("what are you writing, Dave?") arcane witchery. I figure my writing is like Carnation milk ("straight from contented brains") and if that was good enough for Grandma, it's good enough for me. That's why I'm a million-copy bestselling author, you see...


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