Regrettably, I’m not on commission

Last week, my agent Jessica posted a blog post asking if writers used visual diagramming when they were plotting their work. I do and I don’t – it all depends on the project and the problem I need to solve.

One thing I’ve never used before is special software designed to help me plan a novel. I’ve tried. It ought to be easy to take all the various mad ideas, snippets of research and notes that occur to you when you’re in the middle of something else, feed them into the laptop in a way that allows me to move them around. I mean, how hard can it be? I’m not asking for a Bat-Computer that takes those ideas and plops out a punchcard with the synopsis for a novel on it. I just want a way to organise information. Computers are good at storing and moving around information, right?

When I’ve given writing software a go in the past, it’s always been incredibly convoluted and complicated. It takes longer to enter the information the programs require than it does just to go off and do it yourself. ‘Enter the scene number, all the characters, the location, the time, cite the research, list the themes.’ Hey, if I knew all that, I wouldn’t need the software. The point is to organise and process the semi-random ideas and jottings into something more formal. And so I’ve always ended up switching off the targeting computer and using notebooks and index cards, corkboards and handwritten lists.

Anyway, inspired by the blog post, I decided to go looking for something that would suit me. Something really simple, that basically just moves virtual index cards around a virtual corkboard, allowed me to organise them, group them and so on. If you can find a painting of Sarah Palin as Sinestro riding a dinosaur on the internet, then you ought to be able to find a program that does that, right?

I found one: VUE.

Really nice and simple. Open source and free. I’ve been using it a few days, and it’s great. Exactly what I was after, right down to the way that as I’m working out what I want it to do, I’m already working out how I’d get it to do it. Everyone’s working method is different, but this really works for me.

Oh, go on then:

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