Earlier I talked about Scrivener–probably the most popular software for writers. At least all of the ones I know. It’s a great program that I really like, but it always seemed to be missing something for me. I was constantly scrolling up and down the sidebar to switch between files. My laptop screen is small, so splitting the editor to show two different files doesn’t help. I liked the idea of the cork board, though.
I’m always on the lookout for other programs that might be helpful. Years ago, I tried out something called Liquid Story Binder but never could fully grasp all of the options or how they were supposed to be used.
Earlier this year, I decided to try it again. There was a little trial and error, but the whole thing finally clicked. It’s now my go-to program for planning, organizing, and first drafts.
LSB (not to be confused with LSD) is a pretty simple program. There are no fancy bells and whistles. There are a lot of individual windows, though, and they can all store information in different ways.
This is my basic set up. I not only use LSB to write and organize stories and novels, I use it to organize all of my writing. This particular “library” is called, “My Writing.” It links to everything I’ve written. You start out with “planners” that can be used in all sorts of ways. The basic way is to organize chapters in a book. Each line would represent a chapter and double clicking it would open the chapter file. I use it more as a database. I have one that lists each of the fandoms I’m in (in the above photo with the rainbow sections). Each one of those links to another planner that lists all of the stories I have started for that fandom. To the right is a snapshot of The 100 stories I have. I get a glimpse of my file name or title of the story, which draft it’s in, and the prompt I used. There’s an area to the side for notes where I list draft word counts and edits I’ve made. Later I put in the summary I use on A03.
There are other file types that can be associated with each item in a planner. I like to use the journals to keep track of notes I make in my online writing journal. It’s easier to find stuff than in one long note file (which is also an option). And I like to use the “builder” to keep track of what I write each day since I count all of my daily words. The builder is usually used to write separate scenes for a chapter that can then be compiled into a chapter file.
My daily way corresponds to my writing journal on 4thewords.com.
The journal is my other favorite file type. It’s simple but works for me.
After I do my daily journal on 4TW, I copy/past it into the LSB journal. Some days, I make a note in the title area to remind me of any important brainstorming I might have done. I’ve taken to having journals for individual projects as well to keep track of brainstorming/notes I’ve entered into the main journal. It works great for larger projects.
That’s the thing I like best about the program–every file can have numerous other types of files associated with it. And it all works together like a database to keep track of everything. And you can pretty much find any kind of file type you might need. Some work better than others, though. The mind map file type doesn’t work well in this setting (there are better ones online). But there is storyboarding, sequencing, compare/contrast, dossiers, photo galleries, and outlining. I have another library that is about 4thewords. I use it to keep track of the different zones and monsters. Above is a list of monsters and the things they drop using the sequence file type.
There are a lot of things I really like about this software, but there are caveats that some people might not be able to get past. For one, the software is no longer supported or updated. What you see is what you get with no help if something goes wrong. Two, it cost money. Supposedly. There is a free 30 (non-consecutive) day trial. After you’re supposed to pay. Except my free trial has yet to end even after three months. Not sure if the author just stopped caring or what, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The third problem is despite all of the options and flexibility, it really is a simple program. There are no fancy fonts, changing font color doesn’t always work, it doesn’t want to import italics/bold/underline most of the time, and moving things between file types can be a pain.
The biggest problem, though, is that scroll doesn’t work. Except in the editor pane in the chapters, builder, journal, and notes. I almost stopped using the program because I couldn’t scroll through my long list of stories, but I persisted. It’s annoying, but I’m willing to overlook it for all of the positive things it does for me–namely organizing all of my writing into one program instead of spread between multiple file folders using LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Calc (4 different database files), and Scrivener. I don’t have to scroll up and down to look between the chapter I’m working on and notes I made in another file like in Scrivener. The separate windows in LSB can be staggered so you can just click between them–which is a favorite feature for me.
All-in-all, I’ve found it to work really well for keeping track of everything for me and getting first drafts down. For shorter stories, I also edit in it, but when it comes to novels, I’ll transfer to Scrivener and/or Word for final edits and formatting (since that is limited in LSB). As the trial is free, it’s worth a try. But don’t give up when you get overwhelmed by the sheer number of file types there are. It took me a while to figure out how best to use each one, which isn’t always the way they were probably intended.
Stay tuned for another Tools of the Trade about some other less used, but no less important tools I use.