I remember dial-up. I remember the handshaking noises my trusty modem made. I also remember when the idea leaving a machine connected 24-7 online was unthinkable. Even when I ran a BBS I had set times it operated in (we only had one phone line in our house)
Today, users, PC’s and apps blur the lines of the online and offline world with us finding ourselves switching between the two seamlessly, often without giving it a moments thought. One minute you are typing a document in LibreOffice or similar, the next a Tweet puts a notification on your screen which attracts your attention and engages you in a conversation with another user across the world.
So when an online app is offered to make tasks simpler, many people will be very interested. Local storage is not as important for many as it was and if we put aside some legitimate (and some not so) views on privacy concerns about computing in the cloud and security of your data, we can be very interested in the plethora of services/apps offered online.
Story Tracker is an online app. Written by Nicholas Pickering, its aim is to be a writing tool that assists authors in the creation of a story/novel. Currently in beta, it is already offering features that will be a valuable asset to writers who want to properly organize their works as they create their world.
I think the advice “Just write” given to new writers is sometimes misleading as it encourages many people to jump straight into a full blown 86k word novel without planning. When plot holes and errors appear, its easy for the new writer to give up on the massive document they’ve just poured their soul into, never returning ” – all those character names that have been spelt in a plethora of ways throughout the text, the story which takes a bizarre, inexplicable turn that would make a David Icke theory look plausible all make the text unmanageable – Story Tracker is here in order to make your life more pleasant.
I always advocate a “Just write” but only for small bursts and still recommend an element of planning and structure into whatever the writer is trying to create. – I would also add that writing courses are not the be all and end all, you either want to write or you don’t. As for technique, one just has to look at the greats – the ones around today and the ones of the past, most of these are not coming off courses and onto fame. They are merely writing, writing things people want to read. Was Harry Potter an example of English literature at its finest? Was it a measuring stick that all English literature students compare past and future works? No, it was a lovely title that entertained people and introduced them to a world which still continues today. It inspired films, it inspired fan fiction, it inspired long debates on forums as to who Harry should have really married. Now that’s great work and raw talent in action.
Focussing back to Story Tracker and its place, Story Tracker hopes to step in and assist you in your creative process. It is currently in beta, but I’ve given it a run to see what sort of features it has.
Firstly, don’t expect a Facebook type experience, as many writers will attest, distractions come often and even more so when on-line, the lure of a flashing notification, the web search that spirals into a forum debate as you are drawn in by another users comment. Flashy distractions can prevent many, like myself from getting things done. So whilst in Beta, I think the direction of this project (visually) will be one of function over eye candy.
After setting up your synopsis, description et al, you are placed into the main creation screen where characters can be described, in one of my early works the lead character in the novel changed appearance twice, name four times and for a while changed into a different character altogether, my creative juices were flowing and I fell into the trap of thinking I could simply “dive in” and complete a coherent, logical and consistent work first time. I found to my dismay, that I was like many people, I just can’t work this way. At that time Story Tracker would have assisted greatly.
Story Tracker works like focused database that you can customize for all facets of your story. It’s still in beta so it’s very easy to say “its should have this feature” etc, but as it stands now it’s perfectly usable right now. That in mind, I think for inviting users to try the beta in its early stages a couple of things need adding.
If I was going to make a suggestion, I’d suggest that an export data feature is pretty important for users and that, in my view should be on the list as a more pressing feature. Which links in with the next point.
There will be questions regarding security of data and ownership which I think should be addressed before it gets out of beta stage , there is much worry about putting your data “out there” and even more so when it involves intellectual property (I hate that term, but it will suffice for the purposes here). I’ve had the luxury of being able to connect with the creator of this service, so I know its a decent project with a sincere desire to aid you in your novel, but to clearly spell out the aims of the site and your data I think is important to those maybe stumbling upon the service or seeing a link.
I think questions such as “Where is my data being stored?”, “Is the data secure?”, “How much space have I to work with?” and maybe most importantly, will my data be accessible, should the project fail or is discontinued?
Even in Beta, I will be using this as a tool for my next work as my current “system” is certainly not conducive to easier writing.
I look forward to seeing this project development and please make sure you engage with the creator. I will write another article on this when I’ve used the service to complete my next project.
You can sign up here: http://storytracker.net/
And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thenickpick
As I said earlier in the article, I have already been in contact (via Twitter) with the creator of Story Tracker. He’s kindly (and very quickly) responded to the questions about data and I present you with a link to his article.