The Tunnel at the End of the Tunnel

Today is Snowmaggdon in The Burg.  People are freaking out because we are expecting one to three inches of the white stuff.  Um . . . yeah.  I’m from Chicago.  One to three inches of snow is otherwise known as “Tuesday” back home.  Let me know when it gets serious.

Back at my school, where they also laugh at one to three inches of snow because it’s New England and you’re right on the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s still flip-flop weather, I’m out of The Chunnel and into a smaller tunnel leading to Flight School.  My kids got tired of amateur insults and one of my characters finally had to lay some Cymraeg on the girl in question, and admitted to Annie that he’d just cursed, telling her in English what he’d said.  Gasp!  Eleven year olds cursing.  Yeah, it happens.  Just wait until one of my instructors loses it, which does happen later in the story.  It’s a thing of beauty.  It’s also a good thing this is a private school . . .

Walking home from work I positively, pretty much sorta, figured that I’ll need to split the story up into three sections.  Yeah, a lot going on for one year of school, but it is what it is.  As much, if parts of the story are shorter, then I can just cut it in half, or if it ends up under two hundred thousand words, then I just keep it as one.  Maybe.  This is one of those things I’m keeping in my head as I go along, and that I can change at any time because Scrivener makes it easy.  Just plug and play, people.  It’s that simple.

I was surprised, however, that I managed a little more than eleven hundred words last night.  I wasn’t feeling the story that much, but somehow in a forty minutes period I laid down almost seven hundred words, so inspiration must have come at me from somewhere.  It is strange how that happens, but at the same time it’s good when it does.

Speaking of inspiration, I have things to give away!  No, really, I do.

See, I won NaNoWriMo again, and I have all these goodies that I don’t need because, well, I either don’t need them or I already have to software.  Like, I have discount codes for Scrivener and Aeon Timeline, and I won’t use them because I already have both, and it’s Use It or Lose It time for those babies.

Instead, I’m going to give those away.  Actually, I have codes for the following:

Get Two Free Books from CreateSpace (Must have NaNo account)
50% off on Scrivener writing software for Mac OS X and Windows
50% off Storyist for Mac for NaNoWriMo winners
Save 40% on Aeon Timeline to Plan Your Next Draft or Next Novel
Book Country congratulates winners with 30% off an eBook publishing package, special placement, and double your marketing value with free BookStubs
50% off Spark Anthology
BiblioCrunch Gives 50% off Author Concierge Service for NaNoWriMo winners ($120 value)

There.  I’m giving it all away.  I don’t need it, so if you want it, it’s yours.

However . . .

I’m not standing in the middle of the street givin’ away money.  Here’s what you do.

Go into the comments and leave a message telling me what you’d like, but also telling me what your next story is going to be.  Tell me in . . . lets make it simple:  seventy-five words or more.  Yeah, go for it.  Oh, and leave your email address–though if you’re on Facebook you can look up sweet little Cassidy and PM that to me.

I’ll read the comments, and based on what I think will be the best use of whatever you want, then you’ll get.

Simple, right?

Just like walking through a tunnel–

Eventually you come out the other side.

 

Timelines and the Aeon

It finally arrived yesterday:  Aeon Timeline for Windows.  They mentioned in their email that they were sorry that it’d taken them longer than they’d imagined to write this version, but here it was, ready to go.  But it’s go time, and here it is.

So what have we got?  Let me see if my computer will let you see.

You always start out with a splash page asking ETstartyou what sort of timeline you need.  I’m not picky so I go with the standard BCE to AD, and I’m off.  What comes up is pretty standard, and you’ll notice that you tend to start near the beginning of your current year.  There are ways to get around that.  It has a little of the Scrivener feel, with the Inspector (even has the same name) set up on the right side of the screen, and a big “I” to toggle it on and off.

One of the things that’s extremely nice with the software is it’ll allow you to set up your own fantasy calendars.  This could work very well with my Transporting stories, which mostly take place on a world with a twenty-eight hour day, and a year that’s about three hundred and thirteen of those days long.  That’s my next thing that I’m going to spend time playing–

But for now, I wanted to see how it would look with an existing time line.  That was my play time yesterday.  And here’s what I found . . .

It looks a little like a standard timeline ETStart02when you start mucking about in the simple stuff.  Everything points to a time at the top, and if you look at the sliding bar at the bottom, you can sort of make out where things are located in time, so to speak.  At it’s simplest it’s kind of crazy looking, and if you’ve never worked with time lines a lot, it might not make sense.

The Inspector allows ETStart03you to open up a spot and change, or even add, information.  You can color code your events, you can add tags and then search for things in your timeline based upon those tags.  A nice feature is being able to see how long an event takes place; in this case, the scene lasts for forty-five minutes.  Aeon will set your event to the easiest thing to determine, so if you set an event to take a day and a half, it’ll tell you that event lasts for eighteen hours.  If you try to say it takes one and a half days, Aeon will adjust the time in the event to the nearest day,  I discovered this by trial and error; now you know.

But I need more detail, what can I do?  For that you have Arcs and Entities.  And they are so much fun.

Arcs allow you to segregate things based on ETStart04people and things.  Suddenly I’ve open things up a little, and now I have things that happen globally, and things that happen to individuals.  You can turn the arcs on and off as you like, so one can narrow information down even further.

Then you have Entities, and these can be anything–people, places, organizationsETStart05, whatever.  Straight up Entity Mode lets you see what happens to whom and where.  You can even decide if your entities were active participants in an event, or just an observer.  You’re now linking people to things, crime writers, and you know where things are happening and who was there.

And when I ETStart06turn it all on . . .

Right here you have the full monty, entities and personal histories if you so like.  It’s all scrollable and expandable, and tonight I’m going to see about drawing one timeline into another, because that’s how I roll.

It’s $40, but if you have the Scrivener winner’s code from last year (I did), it’s $24.  More fun, more craziness, more software for writing.

What more can a girl ask for?

Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.