The Novel Factory for plotting a novel outline

I just wanted to mentioned The Novel Factory here.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am one of its creators.

Lots of our users say they use The Novel Factory to outline and plot their novel, because it offers popular genre templates and structures and useful advice on writing a novel, and then they export to Scrivener and do their drafting and editing there to take advantage of all the awesome Scrivener features.

Not Mac compatible.

Would have tried it otherwise.

Are all the templates nailed to the three-act structure? If so, not going to work at all for me.

Ah yes, a familiar complaint. We’re working on an online version at the moment so it’s cross platform. and then Mac version is on the cards after that!

All the templates populate into the three act structure, but there’s nothing stopping you from shifting them about into something different - and there is the option to add extra Acts.
What sort of thing did you have in mind? Four or Five acts, or no acts at all?

I’m currently working with five acts, but not only for the story – for each character’s arc.

Ah, in that case it’s easy to add extra Acts in the Story Skeleton section - you just click the ‘+’ symbol on the tabs.

We’ve also been asked before about adding multiple skeletons to allow for multiple character arcs to be plotted in detail, and we’re pondering the options for that.

Have you seen the Character Viewpoint Synopses section? It’s not really what you’re asking about but some users have said they haven’t seen that kind of provision in other writing software for seeing the POV experience of each character in each scene.

I played with the trial version on my work computer (only Windows computer I have).

Initial thoughts is that it’s well put together and good attempt at creating a structured approach to crafting a novel. I came across a couple of bugs and found it a little too aggressive in it’s use of screen space. The UI colours, buttons and layout didn’t do much for me but that’s probably .Net and Windows 7’s fault rather than yours.

To be honest, programs that start off the wizards and impose a structure feel like the old way of doing things when compared to the flexibility or Scrivener and Ulysses.

I suspect it will be much more popular with planners rather than pantsers. Some people will respond well to the imposed structure-first methodology but I suspect many more will react against it.

I personally like structured approaches but not ones strictly based on the classic three-act model. It looks as though I could wrangle other skeletons into it, but didn’t spend enough time (I’m at work) to see if I could hack it into my variant of Snowflake + Scene/Sequel.

I’ve always been keen on character and location databases. However I couldn’t find a way to add to character types or even add my own data fields.

Also, I’m really not a fan of the binary format. Sure it improves performance but it creates lock in and makes it hard to recover files. I’d be interested in your file format will become as you more into other platforms.

Thanks for your feedback!

Agreed - The Novel Factory is very structure heavy. It was deliberately designed that way initially, as I wanted something that did a bit more hand-holding for new writers, rather than just throwing them in the deep end and letting them work everything out for themselves.

But as time has gone on I have seen the importance in integrating more flexibility and customisation options, and particularly how that’s critical for more experienced writers, who have already worked out their process and don’t need or want that sort of guidance.

Yes, it’s possible to create your own story skeleton, but looking at it, it’s not that smooth a process, so I’ll look at adjusting this user flow slightly.

I think we’re going to add custom character types and other data fields very soon, as I’ve realised how restrictive the existing ones are.

Thanks again for your valuable feedback!

ChrisRosser’s feedback is pretty good. I will add that if you have a decent character/location/event database, as well as a way of looking at them graphically, that would be worth the price to me even without the structured writing portion – especially if, as Chris mentions, that’s in a database file of known format (SQLlite, SQL Server Express, etc.).

I’m working on a sf world where I’m going to have literally thousands of location entities (systems, planets, ships, stations, jump points) and will need a decent database to work with. If I can use ODBC or well-known interfaces to use the front-end with a SQL backend, I can avoid the need to hack something together out of Access.

You’re welcome. I wish you the best of luck with it. It has makings of a good product that will appeal to many and since you’ve shown the willingness to listen, I’m sure you’ll do well with it indeed.

Thanks :smiley:

As to the format, it’s not SQLite - I tried opening it up with a couple of SQLite utilities to no avail. It’s either a pure binary or some persistence thing that’s unique to the .Net world.

Mate, this has been my holy grail for 10+ years. A structured, database-driven solution for world building massive SF&F settings. I’ve settled on using SQLite for persistence because it’s the most agnostic format I could find (and it performs better than XML and Json). I also procedurally generate a lot of location data using python scripts.

For the front end, I just use whatever tools I can cobble together on the platform I want to work on. Aside from having to rage-quit on Linux (in another thread :smiley: ) because updates to GTK broke my front-end, it’s worked really well for me on OS X and iOS. I could even write web front end if I wanted to.

Now, if only I could programatically inject snapshots of formatted content into a Scrivener document with a Scrivener API… :wink:

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Thanks for your helpful pointers, guys, it’s really interesting.

I’ll have a chat to my dev team about file formats and see what options are available.

Also interesting to hear the desire for world building databases. Something for me to think about.

Another area we’d like to move into once we have the resources is map generation. I know the current industry leader is very powerful, but again it had quite a steep learning curve, so I think there is probably scope for some software that is more intuitive and easy to use for ‘normal’ people.

I wonder what would happen if we could integrate the world building database with the map building functionality…

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Damn, devinganger and I have said too much! No matter, it’s a big market and thus far I’ve kept what I’ve created for my own use only.

If ever release my implementation it would likely be under GPL so anyone is free to use and adapt it. Last thing I’d want is for someone to take my implementation and wrap it into a proprietary product.

As for the map generator, I’ve got a basic implementation of one in Python already that I’ve modelled off various level creation algorithms i’ve found amongst the Pygame crew. I agree that the current industry standards (Photoshop, Campaign Cartographer) carry a big learning curve. Problem with generators is that 1. most algorithms are pretty dumb and 2. they are more functional than attractive. There’s several products on the market already that cater to the RPG community that using tiling and drag-n-drop clipart. They great for knocking up something quickly.

To be honest, I’ve had much more satisfaction over the learning how to make maps in Pixelmator and Photoshop than I ever have in generating them procedurally.

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Oh no! I definitely don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes. To be honest using an existing bit of software that does exactly what I want is far preferable to building a new ones from scratch!

It’s fine mate, I’m only teasing. Ideas aren’t worth squat, it’s the execution that matters. More heads solving a problem is better and besides, I have zero interest developing for Windows and as noted, what I’ve created is pretty much tailored made to the way I work and the way I like to world build.

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The Novel Factory is one of my favourite writing programs. I purchased it a few months ago even before the short trial had run out. Reading through this thread, I gather that it’s been further developed since June 2016; there was a nice update shortly after I began using it which added further templates and more detailed character profiles.

Though I’m not a beginner, this software has taught me lots about structuring a novel. I also love the way it develops ideas from the slightest spark to a fully fledged plot.

There are features myself and others have asked for on TNF forum: colour themes; and a more complex one regarding the windows, the latter has been noted and may be altered.

Not a replacement for Scrivener, but a very useful adjunct.