I really don’t know how I wrote before Storymill. As a non-linear writer it is the perfect tool for getting my thoughts onto the screen.

I’ve been using the software for a long time and several months ago finally updated to the latest version. After some initial confusion - because the appearance had changed - I have to say, it's even more awesome.

I write out of order. I sketch scenes far into the future and flitter back and forth like the proverbial butterfly as I set up events and then lead up to them, or figure out what the repercussions of a scene would be and skip into the future.

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It’s not a process for everyone, I’m sure. But it works for me.

You can imagine this would be a huge pain in the patootie with a straightforward word processor but it is as easy as breathing for Storymill.

The book is organized into chapters and scenes. You can rearrange both as you see fit, shove scenes into different chapters and restructure to your hearts content. You don’t yet know where a scene will go? Leave the chapter menu blank. You don’t know what you want in that chapter but you know the next? Skip ahead.

And now, thanks to Storymill 4, my chapters, my scenes, my cast of characters, my locations and lots of different notes are now easier than ever to navigate between.

Instead of whole separate tabs they are all a list down the left column. You can expand to see everything or close the section if you don’t need to look at it. Since you can add what they call views you can have plenty of different kinds of notes. Most of my stories have an outline, cut scenes and global notes that don’t fit under the locations tab.

At first I thought this was a bad thing, every single thing all in one column? I was glued to the old way. But then with a single tweak I suddenly saw the beauty of it. And how smart the design really is.

Now when I’m working on a scene and I forget the name of a character I don’t swap over and lose my place and train of thought. I scroll down till I see it and then keep writing.

And since they changed the format for all views I can now write how I like which is in web-block style. I can move the beginning tab out of the way so I don’t get annoyed by automatic indentation. It is very satisfying.

The timeline is a nice aspect and is a great way to track plot-lines. The scene metadata with time and date is easier to navigate and I can also swap between different notes without losing my place - though to be honest most of the time I just leave the tab on info.

There are other cool features listed on the website. But to be honest I haven’t used them yet. Snapshots seem like a great idea - take a picture of how things are and edit to your hearts content on another version right next to it. But I haven’t needed it yet. Well I might have, but I forgot about it.

There is also one feature that is surprisingly important and yet very simple and I think it is not trivial that they thought of it.

I usually have more than one novel open. And now if I use the software to swap windows it lets me know if there is one I forgot to save. Since I’m working on a four book epic and sometimes have a lot going on if I’m rearranging events, it is very nice to have that little black dot that reminds me to save my work. It does have an autosave feature but this is good too. It seems like such a basic idea but I have yet to see it anywhere else. Props guys.

Mariner makes other very useful creative software that I recommend checking out. They have lots of different ways to organize your work so you can let your imagination loose. Check them out and download a trial version of what interests you. It’s worth it.

Image used is in the public domain

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