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Creativity Software ISBN 1904286003




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Starting out

Everyone knows that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. newnovelist tries to reverse, or at least adjust, this old maxim.

newnovelist seems at first like a bit of a bully. Perhaps that is a bit hard. It’s the ticking clock in the exam room that keeps your fingers moving and the brain engaged. There is no time or excuse now for writer’s block.

The well-conceived prompts and menus ask you to describe your character’s weaknesses, explain their options and much more. This is the inspirational stage. After half an hour you get the newnovelist habit of jumping about to add or amend details in the sketches. The lists seem endless but after describing the characters, the places and setting you have a wonderfully clear and detailed outline.

Now you are ready to write your story

newnovelist gives you ‘chapters’ for your story which you can rename to fit your plan. The titles provided derive from the style you established for your story. This is the key to what the software has to contribute. It takes the much-analysed structure of writing and leads you through these ‘rules’.

So how did it work? Rather well, actually. No time was wasted in thinking. The software makes you organise yourself. We know we should think it all through before we start writing, but we never do. newnovelist prompts you to do exactly that. The payback is that you can incorporate the preliminary sketches into your story.

Sadly it does not actually generate a single word of the text for you. But how could it? Instead it allows you to focus on the characters and then write the story itself. This extra focus is valuable. When you construct the narrative, you copy the character and other sketches prepared earlier and paste them into your developing novel.

If the early stages feel like working on a production line, this is the payback. Progress is rapid and you can quickly embellish a place or character as the story develops. You just add the bits required to the sketch and move on. No time to get emotionally attached to a character or incident. Once you get used to this way of working, it is rather liberating. No daydreaming allowed. You can find your way back to previous text with a couple of clicks.

The software behaves well and is not resource hungry. But I would like some indication which part of any sketches are incorporated. And how wonderful it would be if I could change some characteristic and have the software tell me where I have copied this into the story. Also on my wish list would be a progress meter. The software tells you how much each part of the story should occupy, but you have to count the words yourself.

Nobody ever reads instructions, so no-one can blame Creativity Software for keeping them to a minimum. However, it does take a bit of courage to devote several days to building your characters, not knowing what will become of your hard work. A few words at the beginning to explain the way newnovelist constructs the novel would have been welcome.

This is not the complete answer, nor does it purport to be. It is an excellent training tool and invaluable for part-time writers. The sketches make it very much easier for those who can only return to their masterpiece at the weekend to know where they’ve got to. The notes make it much simpler to maintain continuity and gather up the threads when you pick up your pen again.

Did it work? Surprisingly, it did. The pieces of my puzzle were pasted together into a coherent whole, along with some useful notes from the software. I enjoyed reading what seemed like a new story, once I figured out that ‘generate report’ was the magic button that stuck it all together. So now I am ready for the first revision of my story on the word processor. This is where the perspiration really starts.


© Charles Jones 2002

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See also: Attaché software, Muse names, Storybase, Whitesmoke, writers blocks software