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Now, at the get go, I fully acknowledge that I have gone way over the top as far a story plotting goes, but I'm trying for something on the extreme end of epic and I have a legit obsessive compulsive personality problem so at this point it cannot be helped.

I'm potentially dealing with an ASOIAF-style number of characters and POVS, some with synchronous timelines. Plot overlaps, plot loops, plot loopholes and blackholes even. I started it out as a screenwriting project and it has sprawled into and epic fantasy type thing that might take maybe 8-10 books to finish.

I started plot outlining chapter by chapter in ms word, then I went over to OneNote to get that kinda whiteboard effect, then it just sorta ballooned out of control.

What I'm looking for:

  • A program that essentially operates functionally like a SmartDraw type flowchart, but acts like a fluid Mindmap (iMindMap) in the way that I can pull pieces around, having them stay connected by an arrow wherever I drag (a variety of connectors would be nice). The ability to drag around and freely visually organise it while maintaining the connection would be nice. It would be beyond excellent to be able to converge several different POV plots and diverge them again.

  • A way to synchronize multiple timelines for several characters. Some of these characters have timelines that run for a thousand years, and some of these immortal characters can slide through time and change things so this is where there is the Terminator-style time pretzel effect. And interspersed with all this, are some characters who have very meaningful but very short timelines. I need someway for them all to fall together kinda like a gantt chart.

  • An index card/corkboard display option like in Scrivenir would be nice.

  • A way to organise all of this into chapters and books.

Does this software exist?

6

EDIT (16 Oct 2017): A lot has changed in the last 3 years. Plotist now offers worldbuilding and writing tools, including a timeline and an outliner to help organize the writing, and it supports real-time collaboration so you can work with others creating your world and stories. We now offer Plotist as a subscription service, but we still have a free membership with limited features. Below is the original response for reference.

Plotist is not exactly what you are looking for, but it's worth having a look. It's a timeline application aimed at writers, where you can create your notes about characters and locations and use them to create a timeline.

I'm the main developer and it's currently under development, but we are already sending invitations to try it.

Plotist timeline

  • It's also not ready yet, according to their website: "Plotist is currently under development and not open to the public yet, but we always need help from writers who want to give it a try and participate in shaping the final application. No matter what your experience is in writing or with web applications, you can help us make Plotist the best web application for writers." Probably worth mentioning. – Josh Oct 20 '15 at 13:14
  • Just added a clarification – JayC Oct 20 '15 at 14:35
  • @JayC what happens after trial or subscription ends? Do all your material become public? I don't like that. – Gokce Mehmet AY Oct 16 '17 at 12:37
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    Not at all! We only lock the edit option on your private stories and worlds. They will all remain private, and you will be able to read and export them anytime (or make them public if you wish so). And with a free account you can still create unlimited public worlds and stories, and even collaborate on someone else's private projects. – JayC Oct 16 '17 at 17:55
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I use Aeon Timeline to keep track of chronology (it integrates well with Scrivener, which I use for writing), and I do everythong else on paper.

Maybe this is because I did my first writing projects before the advent of the personal computer and had to type my first essays for university on a typewriter.

To me, paper outlining has one gigantic advantage: that you can see all of your notes at the same time.

I'm a visual person. I memorized vocabulary in school by memorizing where on the page the word was written. When I write, I need to organize my writing visually. What I do is this:

While I outline, I write my ideas in whatever medium I happen to have at hand: by hand in a notebook or on the backside of printed articles or copies I no longer need and have cut up into small snippets and distributed all over my home; when I'm at a computer I may type into some editor and later print it out. I mark these papers in big fat colorful numbers, letters or symbols that denote the characters or scenes or throughlines or whatever represents the structure of my novel. Then I lay them all out on the floor of my room in the order that I want to tell the story.

If I want to rearrange them, I move them wherever I want them. Sometimes I cut a piece off one paper with scissors and lay, glue ot tack it elsewhere. Somwtimes I renumber them. Sometimes I cross out some part, or throw away a paper snippet. Sometimes I take a large paper and draw a graph of the relations between the structural elements (e.g. a genealogy or map).

I love this. It is the best part of writing. And it is so clear and transparent, because I know what is written on each little paper, I have the structure in my head, and because I can see all of it at the sane time always and can therefore easily visualize the whole of my worldbuilding or outlining or whatever.

I have written numerous papers and academic theses in this way; I have written short stories and novels – all with papers carefully layed out on my floor.

Even on the best computer, with the best software and two of the largest screens (I have two 30" Apple Cinema Displays on my desk), I can always ever only see part of what I'm working on, the rest is hidden in stacked windows or scrolled outside the viewport, and this confuses me. I forget parts. I misremember their structure and relation. It is such an effort, and I hate how what I create doesn't even exist except as magnetized molecules or electric current – writing on a computer is not palpable, sensual.

When I write on paper, I love the feel and sound of the paper. I love the sensuality of this process. It is an aesthetic process that produces a beautiful side product: a collection of notes in a box that are mysterious and intriguing, a treasury, like the secret maps and mysterious lists I created as a child. As a creative and artistic person, I dislike the cold abstraction of working purely at a computer. I dislike the technological limitations, and I enjoy the freedom and sensual beauty of analogue methods.

The best, most flexible and most powerful software for me is a pen that I enjoy writing with, and any number of papers that happen to fall into my hands.

Computers constrain and limit my creativity, because they prescribe what I can and cannot do, and how I must do what they allow. I use my computer only as an enhanced typewriter – when the creative process of developing my story is done and I actually sit down to write.

  • That's the idea, but sadly I lack the floor space and wall space to make this feasible. I'll check out Aeon though. Thanks! – Patroclus Feb 7 '15 at 10:36
  • Huh? I've been doing this in small student dorms. If you have a floor, you have space. If you need to pack up your "layout", use one of these: google.de/search?q=vorordner&tbm=isch (don't know what they are called in English). – user5645 Feb 7 '15 at 10:40
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Here is an app that tries to make plotting out your story very easy: Plottr

It's got a timeline that is a very graphical way to show each story line (main plot and subplots) and each scene. Across the top are the scenes and along the side are the story lines.

Where the scene and story line intersect you can add a card which is just a place you can write a description about what happens at the intersection of those two.

You can even drag and drop cards easily anywhere around the timeline.

It also has a place for general notes, a place for characters, and a place for settings. For characters and settings you can add custom attributes which is really handy.

And the notes you can tag with your characters or places.

It's not meant for writing your stories, and there is nothing for transferring your notes to a writing app, but I use it for my stories and it's been invaluable

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    More explanation on what the tool does, and particularly which of the poster's goals Plotter helps with (and which it doesn't) would make this answer more helpful. :) – Standback Mar 9 '16 at 14:57
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    Showing up with 1 rep and repeatedly posting about a tool you are making (selling? intending to sell?) yourself feels a lot like spam, even if that is perhaps not your intention. Like @Standback mentioned above, you should at the very least take some time to explain how exactly this tool is a good fit for the needs of the particular OP. I recommend reviewing How to not be a spammer in our site's help center. – a CVn Mar 9 '16 at 20:55
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You might also want to have a look at New Novelist (http://www.newnovelist.com/).

The software is set up to help you separate locations, characters etc. and also to pace your story according to the type of story it is.

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By no means is it super intense, but Scapple is a very streamlined graphing/charting/mind mapping application. IMO faster to use than anything similar. As a bonus it's by the developers of Scrivener so there's some compatibility there.

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple.php

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Others on this site have recommended Scrivener, and after looking over the features it might be what you are looking for. I am certainly going to purchase it for myself... as soon as I can(poor writer is poor).

  • Oops, I see you are aware of Scrivener. – Jesse Lukes Feb 7 '15 at 0:23

protected by Standback Mar 9 '16 at 14:56

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