Category Archives: resources

A new Witches of Desire Wiki- help wanted!

I had a couple of requests this summer for more information about the Families in I Wish. It is a lot of information to take in, I’ve got pages of notes myself. I decided the best way to make that information accessible would be to make a wiki and so I set up one here: Witches of Desire Wiki

Now for the bad news… I don’t have the first idea about how to set one up. I’ve tried reading articles, but so far they’ve only confused me. What I’m hoping is that some kind hearted fan will take pity on me and enter into a collaboration with me on this project. I can feed you all the information you’d need to at least set the ground work for the pages. In exchange I’ll give you free books for life an effusive thanks via my blog and happy links to your blog/twitter/facebook/what have you.

If you’re interested please contact me through my comments here or through email at wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com

And, of course, anyone is welcome to contribute on a less formal basis. Unfortunately, I can’t provide any kind of support if you don’t know the basics since I don’t either, lol. But have fun with it. I’d love to see it grow into a wonderful resource for fans of the series.

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Long time no see!

This is the first in what I hope will be a long string of regular blog posts. Of course I thought that a few months ago too and then didn’t have much (if anything) to say for the last 4 or 5 months. So no promises.

One of the main reasons for a lack of blogging has been dissatisfaction with my blogging software. To briefly recap, my old laptop was a Dell. It wasn’t good for much but typing my stories and when it started randomly pressing the control button while I was typing, it wasn’t any good for that anymore either. I replaced it with a lovely Mac machine, which I was extremely leery of at first. These days I’m happy to report I’m actually quite smitten with it and spend hours of every day doing pretty much everything on it.

One of the downfalls to switching OS was that I needed to replace Windows specific software, including the Windows Live Writer software I used for blogging. It’s free and intuitive and I love it. But how hard could it be to find something similar for Mac? Well, I wouldn’t know because I more or less gave up on it. I tried Qumana, but it didn’t click with me. Now I’m working with Ecto. So far so good.

I only tell that long and ultimately uninteresting story to segue into the real point of my post. Almost a year ago now, I posted about my go to software programs for my Windows set up. I’m still 100% supportive of those choices, by the way. It was hard to find replacements for them, especially Onenote. That one was tricky, but I’m so inspired by the replacement that I found that I overcame my aversion to finding a new blogging tool to just to be able to share with you.

Scrivener– This could very well be a one stop program because it has some pretty robust planning tools built into it, but I personally just use the word processing capabilities because I don’t care for Open Office (free). There’s a lot of positive things to be said for Scrivener that have been mentioned at length in the many reviews out there so I won’t restate them all. It’s worth checking out.

Curio– This is the only other program I use for writing these days. I tried several note taking/organizational programs before I settled on this one. It combines the mind mapping features I loved in Xmind (free) with the free form note taking capabilities of Onenote. It does have a pretty steep price tag. I bought my copy on “Cyber Monday” at 25% off and still ended up paying over $100 for the mid-grade version, but I feel good about it. I’ve posted before about my need for extensive outlining and prewriting so I get a lot of use out of the program.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, Curio does all the same things I used Onenote for and then some. It’s got all the flexibility to arrange text, images, and other media around on the page that I enjoyed with ON. In a writing context, I used that feature to arrange several pictures per page (I use pictures I find online as inspiration for characters or settings) and I like to write summaries in one column with annotations running beside it. I’ve tried other programs, but that’s a fairly unique feature, but one I really wanted.

Another improvement is that Curio supports more levels of hierarchal organization than ON. ON is committed to a notebook analogy, which is fine. I actually find it very attractive. But that seems to preclude very many levels of organization. Curio uses a combination of sections, folders, and workspaces to organize everything and allows folders within folders. I haven’t found a boundary to that yet, although I haven’t tried to go deeper than 4 or 5 levels at this point.

The visual tools in Curio are what really sets it apart in my mind. You can make mind maps and lists using several preinstalled templates and you can then further customize them with color swatches you can download from different online sites. That’s such an unnecessary feature, but one that I love anyway.

Here are a few screenshots of Curio in action with the story I’m working on currently.

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This is an example of one of my character’s mind maps. I have a blank template that I have saved and I just copy and paste it onto each workspace I create for a character. I customize the colors as desired, but otherwise the style information carries over from the original. This is also a look at the interface itself.

Screen Shot 2011-12-13 at 12.25.02 PM.png

This is just an example of how I drop a photo onto the workspace to use as visual inspiration. I either search Google for photos or look at stock photo sites. I don’t pay for the images since they are for my own personal use. I just ignore the watermarks. Sometimes I’ll add a paragraph of notes underneath if there’s more to say than what I can easily put into a mind map. Curio supports voice recording and other kinds of media, including handwriting using a tablet, so there’s a lot of room for building some truly epic notes.

Screen Shot 2011-12-13 at 12.27.17 PM.png

This is a grab of the list tool. It also supports color customization. These are just some notes I took while reading a book (“Story Engineering” (Larry Brooks) good book, btw. I’m enjoying it a lot.) the other day. **

Curio also makes tables and notecards, although I haven’t used those features at this point. You should truly take the time to look at their samples. If you aren’t totally impressed then I want to know what note taking program you use because I think I want to buy a copy.

That concludes my little essay on the reasons why Curio is a writer’s best friend and a viable substitute for ON. As far as the Ecto experiment, I haven’t tried to publish yet, but everything else has worked as good, if not better than, hoped. It even has an “Amazon Helper” tool that let me look up the link for the book I mentioned without having to leave the editor. Very cool. I think you guys might be seeing more of me around these parts real soon.

**Edit: I took new screen shots for this post since the old ones were too small to be useful due to my inexperience with Ecto at that time. The list is actually from “Story Structure Architect: A Writer’s Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters” (Victoria Lynn Schmidt) which is another helpful book that I’d recommend.

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Tools of the trade

As someone with a serious interest in writing, I’m a very excited girl when NaNoWriMo rolls around every year.  It’s an excuse to talk about a subject I’m passionate about with other people who feel the same.  The playing field is leveled as everyone finds themselves in the same boat for at least that one month.  The mad rush to create a novel in an extremely limited amount of time bonds people like war veterans sharing harrowing stories from the trenches.  My favorite aspect of this exercise is the community that builds up on the forums around October and through November.  Everyone there is so helpful and quick to share tips and advice.  I’ve been turned on to several tools for writing that I never even knew existed due to my participation in those forums and learned how to use old favorites in new ways.  I thought I’d share what I use in my personal arsenal for writing.

Mead 5 star “hybrid” notebook

First off, I have to say that I adore the pockets in these things.  When I start the planning stages of a story, I find that I think better when I start pouring ideas out onto graph paper.  I alternate between pages of bullet pointed notes and mind maps.  Although I do have a netbook which, besides being adorable, is an extremely portable way to get words typed, I find that it’s a more effective use of my time to carry my paper notebook around with me when I’m waiting to pick up the kids or have arrive a few minutes earlier than planned to an appointment.  I later type all my notes into the various software programs I use for idea organization.

XMind

For the early planning this tool is a workhorse.  It’s a free mind mapping program and it’s not only easy to use, but easy on the eyes.  I use it for brainstorming everything in the early stages and even later in the story I have a template I use for characters as they develop.  I uploaded it to the site where you can download it for your own use: here.

A use that might not be as evident is using one of the several diagram structures for creating a time line.  I searched high and low for a free program that would allow me to create a simple chronology of the events of my story in relation to each other.  I’ve found that the fishbone structure actually works really well for my needs.  Generally I will list a date or event and use the note feature to add all the relevant details.  It keeps it looking clean and easy to find what I need at a glance.

MyHeritage Family Tree Maker

Not a lot to say about this one.  It’s another excellent free program.  Useful for the sprawling families that immortal creatures seem to amass after generations of humans have come and gone. 

yWriter

This is the last of the free programs I use.  It’s a great program for writing.  It lets you organize and rearrange chapters and scenes as you write.  I read some interesting things about the capabilities of Microsoft Word so for this go around I’m going to see if it works as good as the reviews have made it out to be, but if that doesn’t pan out, it’ll be back to yWriter for me.

OneNote

I can’t possibly say enough good things about this program.  The only drawback is the price, but even then when you consider all the use I get from this program it doesn’t deter me in the least.  I’ve even decided that I’d like to get a Windows phone when my current contract expires so that I can take advantage of the fact that it has portable OneNote access.  How handy for adding quick notes when they come to you while you are waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store?

I use OneNote for the bulk of my writing.  I use it for collecting research as well as for any and all information that pertains to my world building.  I love the wiki-like linking that’s supported between pages.  I also use it to accomplish a version of note card plotting.  Under a section I call “scenes”, I create a series of pages and on each I write as much detail as I know about the scene, including a date if I know it.  As I figure out more, I can easily add more detail to each page and it’s practically zero effort to reorder the pages in whatever order flows best.  Also nice is the fact that I can’t possibly drop them and mix them up.  If  you know me then you realize this is a very real risk.

Liquid Story Binder

I lusted after this program for years.  I finally bought it recently when it was on sale around November.  Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to use it.  I think it could be very handy if you know how to use it, but the learning curve is steep and despite a number of tutorials, both on the site and floating around the internet, I still don’t have a clue.  Essentially, it does what everything else I use does, but in one place.  I can’t give any kind of review due to the fact that I have no idea whether it’s good or not.  Which, I suppose, is a review of a sort.

And that’s about it.  I have downloaded pretty much every interesting program even remotely aimed at writers, but these are the ones I can’t live without.  I hope that these links were half as useful to you as they’ve been to me.

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