Ginko App is awesome for fluid outlining

Recently, I’ve been using Ginko App ( a lot, because as much as I love Scrivener and use it for all my writing, it isn’t as nimble, intuitive, or flexible as I need it to be for certain things.

I’ve discovered that when I’m exploring various ideas that start at the root level and then splinter off into sub-ideas, Ginko App is far better at it. This includes outlining multiple storylines within one story.

It’s a very basic outlining app though, so it won’t do things you can do with a mind-mapper or something like Aeon Timeline. But what it does, it does very well, and it’s the fast/simple hierarchy-based columns that makes it easy and intuitive to use.

I actually struggled for a while to accept Ginko Apps. I used to feel like I must be able to do everything I need inside of Scrivener, but I’ve finally given up on that idea, because obviously it cannot be everything I want and my past attempts to ask for features I want have not been compatible with the developer’s vision. Maybe there will never be a day where one single software does everything I want, and this has been true for pretty much all other creative endeavors (photography, CG, music production, video production, etc.), so there’s no reason to expect Scrivener to do everything.

I do want to keep things from becoming overwhelming though. Between Scrivener, Scapple, Aeon Timeline, Writer’s Cafe, Ginko App, and GNotes, I’m already feeling like I need to consolidate more. I guess it’s only natural I wish for one software that integrates all of them, but these apps have fundamental differences, so it’s up to me to figure out how to use fewer of them and still get everything done the way I want.

Why would you want “One software to integrate it all”?
What professional craftsman would be content with using one universal tool? You don’t see carpenters using a Swiss army knife. They use specialized tools for every single piece of specialized work. For me it’s the same when I am using my computer. Different things require different softwares, specialized for just the current kind of work.

It’s just easier to only have to deal with one software, that’s all. For example, Scrivener doesn’t have a good mobile solution as of yet, and the delay has been painful for people who are doing more and more on their mobile devices. The workaround of using other apps to sync to other writing apps isn’t ideal because it’s missing what makes Scrivener special in the first place. The iOS version is coming but I’m on Android now and it’ll be at least another year or two until we get the Android version.

Also, when it’s all in one software that allow different modules to reference each other, it saves a ton of redundant work. Just having to copy and paste all I’ve written between different software wastes so much time. And these different apps don’t reference each other either, so you can’t have all of the necessary information in front of you in one unified GUI.

This might not be an issue for some writers, but for those who write really complex and epic fiction with huge ensemble casts, multiple intersecting storylines, detailed world-building notes, etc, it can be a pain in the @ss to have to get it all done with multiple software that don’t reference each other.

I would partly understand the argument if it was about writing a technical manual, or a scientific textbook. But for fiction? If the novel is so complex that the author can’t remember the characters, intersecting storylines, etc., how are the readers supposed to manage?

It would be interesting to know what “apps” were used by authors like George Martin, J.K Rowling, Anne MacCaffrey, Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, etc., when they wrote their epic works.Or a more modern writer like Patrick Rothfuss.

You can easily find JKR’s outline for one of the Harry Potter books on the Internet. As I recall, the “app” used consisted of a pencil or pen and a single sheet of paper.

When did JKR become anything other than “modern”. You seem to have forgotten folks like Lewis, Tolkien, King, Twain/Clemens, Dickens, Melville, Cervantes, … Those are the ones on my desk, I can’t spell all the Russians springing to mind. Then there are the ancient greeks… Homer anyone? If you don’t like to think of any of these as “epic” then you need to define the word as you are using it.

Tools don’t make a work, of any kind, good. The worker (or artist if you prefer) makes great work with the simplest of tools. I like scrivener as a tool because I can use it as simply as pencil and paper. The things that it doesn’t do well for me… I do with pencil and paper. Worked for all those old guys/gals. Maybe it will work for me.

I used the word “modern” meaning the last five years, to conform with the way youngsters reason nowadays. And no, I haven’t forgotten any of those you mentioned, nor E.R Eddison or Lord Dunsany, who where even earlier when it comes to fantasy. The list can of course be even longer, including Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe, etc.

My main point was completely along your line of thought: the mastery in writing lies in the story-telling, not in the size of the ensemble or the number of intersecting storylines.

I use Scrivener for all kinds of writing, the majority being non-fiction, but I have replaced paper and pencil with Scapple, iThoughts, Drafts 4 and Textilus, plus a few others I use from time to time when I want to draw or sketch something.

A note on complicated worlds etc. Anne MacCaffrey’s Pern-series started out as a kind of rather simple fantasy love-story in the original book, but then grew into something completely different, thanks to enthusiastic fans who collected details from all books and provided time-lines, ancestry, history, etc., data which the author actually used in her later books. So in her case, the fans functioned like an “app” to help the writing process.

As “computer guy” I may be biased against more IT based solutions…

I find that the minute I need more than one software package for a written piece (vid/music are different) then I need to get a roll of paper, some crayons, and an empty wall. Software buries so many things out of the way. You can only see small pieces at a time even with multiple large monitors. Paper on a wall let you step back and see it all at once.

I often wondered how Jordan kept the “Wheel of Time” straight. I mapped much of it out on paper… as a reader. Which kind of goes to the point made earlier.

Maybe you are just more visual than me? For me it was the iPad that made me drop paper and pencil. I tend to “think” more in words and dialogue, even in non-fiction writing, so just getting the words down is usually sufficient.

And for reading, I have never done any analysis or maps or anything like that. To me a beautiful flow of words is often more important than the details of the story in itself.

Technical tools can help you, but in the end it all comes down to the ability to tell a story, write words that catch the readers attention. I will give you an example from a book I read recently. This is written by someone who has a love for words, and stories.

"It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumns leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music….but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.

Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the wooden floor underfoot and in the rough, splintering barrels behind the bar. It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long-dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar. And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.

The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.

The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die."

Preaching to the choir, you guys. Let’s not automatically assume someone has no idea how important storytelling is just because he also cares about his tools. I spend far more time contemplating how to create compelling character arcs, themes that resonate intellectually and emotionally, plot that avoids cliches and serves the purpose of thematic explorations, etc, than I do on anything else. And I care deeply about prose style too, and am not one of those people who believes that prose style doesn’t matter in a story–it matters a lot to me.

That’s not a valid argument, because that’s the same thing as saying we should just not bother with technology advances and go back to doing everything the ancient way. Why bother with computers at all? Why even use software? Why use digital when we could just keep on using analog mediums? Just because people used to do things the hard way and still got it done well, doesn’t mean we should just stop exploring new and better way of doing things. Computers and software make the process more flexible. Imagine when Rowling had to make changes to her Excel-styled plot graph/sheet. It would be a pain in the ass, compared to simply dragging virtual index cards around in a software and instantly make the change, as well as being able to save snapshots of the arrangement in different iterations and compare them.

Sure, you can do it on a real corkboard with real index cards and take photos of your different arrangements, or use paper, pen, pencil, white out, and eraser, but that is just clunky compared to doing it in a software, not to mention you can’t take your work with you on your mobile device or laptop and can continue to work anywhere when you have some time freed up. Even just waiting in the doctor’s office or waiting in a long line at the supermarket I can pull out my smartphone and work on my book.

And it’s not about not being able to keep it all in mind–it’s simply that some people are more visual than others. I’m extremely visual because I’m a professional artist as well as have worked in film, TV, video games, and comics. I prefer having a visual outline laying out the sequence of scenes, or the important events in the arcs of the characters. I also prefer to have detailed profiles for the characters and the various factions, the complex magic system, the various supernatural and extra-dimensional entities, the history and the lore, etc. When you have years worth of extensive world-building notes, character and faction profiles, plot outlines, research, etc., it’s just smarter and more efficient to have them recorded in a format that’s quick and easy to access and manage. This is why I use Scrivener–so I can have all that contained in one project file.

It’s odd to me that on a forum for a software that’s designed to make writing and organizing written content easier and more flexible, I’m getting someone arguing against the concept of using software to make complex tasks easier to manage for writers.

I could be getting this all arse-about-face, but it seems to me that folk are querying just how much software there has to be at our disposal, in order to tell a reasonable entertaining tale. We seem to be becoming bogged down with technology … rather than spawning mythology. Just sayin’

Isn’t that normally our goal? and our normal state of being?

I didn’t. I asked…

"Why would you want “One software to integrate it all”? " in a thread where you just suggested an additional app

Never mind, each to his own beliefs, and quotes. :slight_smile:

It really depends on the person, and I think people in general has this tendency to assume that everyone else has to think like them or work like them or have the same preferences. Even just among the famous and respected writers there are different workflows and writing habits, and it’s the same with composers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, etc. Read enough interviews with accomplished creative people, and you’ll see a wide range of different personalities and philosophies and work habits.

I care about tools simply because I care about efficiency. I hate using inefficient methods that wastes time and energy, so I make the effort to explore more efficient possibilities. This is why digital artists create Photoshop Actions instead of repeating the same mundane operations over and over, or video editors and 3D artists create batch file renders, or photographers work with custom RAW development settings that can be applied to hundreds of photos with a couple of clicks. Writing workflow can be more efficient too, and that is the reason why we’re even here in this forum–because of a writing software developed to make things more efficient for us.

Also, believe me, I’ve been through the pains of dealing with more tech than I wanted to, just to do something I used to be able to do intuitively before computers and software took over. For example, as a composer/musician, I used to use multi-track recorders (both analog and MIDI sequencers), and while they are not nearly as powerful or flexible as today’s computers and software, they were also far easier to master. Today, there are thousands of different audio production software, plugins, sample libraries, virtual instruments, DAW’s, etc, and any standard DAW software is a complicated beast with far more features than the average musician would ever use, and text-book thick user’s manuals and “How To” books are written for them. To make it worse, dealing with computer and software crashes, software bugs, hardware compatibility issues, DPC glitches, license dongles, updates, upgrades, and the list goes on and on. It got to the point where I was doing more tech troubleshooting than composing, and it took a huge toll. But at the same time, these are the tools a modern professional composer/songwriter/producer has to use because it is the industry standard, and it’s the only way to achieve professional results as well as maintain flexibility to meet client demands for changes.

So yes, I’m far more aware of how detrimental tech can be to the creative process than most people. But my exploration of writing software and efforts to streamline/integrate them into a cohesive and efficient workflow pales compared to the kind of complexity I deal with in computer graphics and audio/video productions. Of all the creative things I do, writing is by far the least complex in terms of tech.

I guess just how much depends on each person’s individual needs.

For me, I need extensive outlines and detailed world-building,faction and character profiles, etc, so I really need software that allows me to do that easily. As much as I love Scrivener, it cannot do all that as well as I want. For example, it does not have the storyline tool of Writer’s Cafe. It also doesn’t have Aeon Timeline’s ability to map out sequential events and keep track of which characters are involved in which events, or all of their ages, or how much time has passes between events. The cork board/index card feature in Scrivener is also not nearly as flexible as what’s available in Writers’ Blocks or SuperNotecard, and the outline feature isn’t nearly as intuitive as Ginko App. Even Scapple, a separate software from the same developer, cannot do something as simple as color-code connection lines between nodes to categorize different types of relationships.

It is because of all that I’m still exploring various options, in hopes that I could get as much of all that in as few software as possible, so I don’t have to constantly switch between them or waste time copying information between them.

Not all writers need such comprehensive set of tools, but I’m far from being the only one who does, otherwise we wouldn’t have a market for all these different writer’s software in the first place.

I had to look at some of the softwares you suggested, and… don’t get me wrong here, but several of them felt very Windowish. I recently switched to the Mac world, and there really is a difference in how softwares are designed. There is an “emotional” difference.

It’s easier to work with an app that I think is nice to look at. Some of the apps I’ve tried are technically fantastic, but they are simply ugly to look at, and that hinders my creative process.

I agree. Some Windows software from small indie developers are quite unappealing to look at. I complain about this sometimes and often give suggestions to developers on how to improve their GUI.

I heartily agree.

What’s more, monolithic software can never be bug-free. The more complexity that’s added, the harder it is to maintain and the more time-consuming and difficult it is to learn.

As for mastering a monolithic application, forget it. By the time a person learns the basics, new features have been added that then have to be learned as well. When bugs are encountered by the user, it sidetracks learning.

Software keeps us in a constant state of beginner mode.

All software should be based on an analog system, something we’re already familiar with in the real world.