Years ago, I bought a program that would allow me to design houses and landscape around them. It was like $50 at the time, which was probably 2002, and it was one of those things that, when I picked it up, I got looks like, “Why do you need something like that?” My answer was, “You never know when I might need it.”
I’ve used that program a number of times. The best time I had with it was last year, when someone was describing a house they’d imagined, but when it came to drawing out a floor plan, they couldn’t get it down. So, taking their notes, I fired up the program and started building a three story house, as this person had described it to me. When I showed the plans to this person, they said, “That’s exactly what I was seeing!”
And another satisfied customer goes away happy.
It’s no secret I use a lot of software for writing. I use Scrivener to write; I’ve a program that helps me create solar systems. I use FreeMind to brainstorm when I feel the need to get down and work things out before putting fingers to keys. I’ve one program that helps me create maps . . . and I have this old program I just mentioned to let me build houses.
My Muse once told me, “I’m very visual. I need to see something to know how it should look.” My Muse also threatened to take a leather belt to my behind, but that’s another story . . . What Musey was getting at is sometimes you need to see thing before you describe them. When you’re taking about the layout of a building, it doesn’t hurt to have a floor plan handy. When you’re looking at laying out some property, having an idea of what your version of Hundred Acre Woods looks like is a good idea. Maybe showing people what the layout of a space ship is a great idea, least they get lost wandering from one cabin to another.
I’m a great one for pointing out that software can make a writer’s life much easier. I’ve been in computers for over thirty years–as in that’s my job, not that I’m Flynn–so software comes easy to me. I don’t mind picking something up and playing with it, then figuring out how it will help. Right now I’d love to get my hands on something that would allow me to design character’s features–so I could actually make my characters become more real to me–but I’m not about to drop $800 on facial composition software. Just have to keep looking.
For my writer friends who are, shall we say, less than computer literate–use a notebook. Draw stuff out by hand. Doodle; scribble; make little comments. It doesn’t all have to be 1’s and 0’s on your hard drive, it can just as easily be something you did on the back of a grocery list, and later tacked up on the cork board next to your writing space.
Expand that mind: Lay things out so you can see even more. Remember . . . if you can see, you can do.
And we do like to do, don’t we?