Resources for writing books and developing plots
I recently started writing a few books, and as always, I lost myself searching for the best tools.. and found some useful ones!
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I don’t want to share too much yet, though I recently found extreme joy in writing. I’m not talking about journaling, but starting this newsletter sparked something. I am full of creative writing ideas!
I am writing a fantasy book, of which I’ll share the first chapter soon. I am writing a short, course-like introduction to the Tezos art blockchain for digital artists, so they can learn the basics of authenticating their digital artworks. I am also putting together a collection of poems and short stories I’ve written in the past ten years and making a book out of them.
I am not a writer. I didn’t study writing. I am learning as I go, and being a total bookworm gives me some advantages on this path.
This is not a writing guide. This is a collection of tools, resources, and techniques that I found useful for my varied scopes. Nonfiction, fiction, and poetry all have very different targets and executions 😅
It doesn’t matter what you are writing about; everything must begin with an outline. An outline is a loose, easily reorganizable summary of the content of the book or article.
A plain, traditional document might be enough, but I like to get fancy and plan ahead. As an outline needs to be later expanded and turned into proper writing, I want to use tools that allow for quick referencing of the outline but also for sorting, reorg, and maybe even tagging and labeling text.
I am also a non-destructive writer, a fancy term for terminal data hoarder. I don’t like to lose my drafts or overwrite them, and while Google Docs has a revision history, it’s still clunky and doesn’t allow for a bird’s eye view of my writing process.
I use Obsidian for this - for everything, actually - because it allows for transclusion, relationships, filtering, and labeling of notes. While free, this is a complex tool that might not be for everyone.
Before discovering Obsidian, I was using Gingko for outlines.
The Gingko app is like a tree of notes. It’s not a new concept; it’s an indented bullet point list on steroids. But the execution is very smart, and I suggest you sign up and look at the example boards to get a feeling of how it works.
You have a series of columns representing the ‘levels deep’ of your tree of notes. Your branches’ depth. But they are not separate, as each note is connected to the next column horizontally.
What I do is usually write the outline in the first column, expand it with a brief description in the second column, and finally write some proper text in the third one. If I want to get fancy, I also add formatting - although I usually edit at the final destination.
The beauty of this system is that if I want to move stuff around, I can just drag items in the first column and the other columns follow. This way, I can edit and tweak and rearrange, and I will always have the final column ready to be exported for editing 😁
The snowflake method ❄️
There are countless methods for writing books, and I tried many of them. The one I found myself more comfortable with was the snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson.
This method works well with the outlines described above and incredibly well with the Gingko app. You’ll see why in a minute.
The snowflake method forces you to start small. It asks you to define your story in just one sentence first. Just one! This stupidly simple start can challenge you and define your idea better than those questionnaires with hundreds of questions for your plot, characters, and locations.
Once you have your one sentence down, the method asks you to expand it. From the method’s webpage itself:
Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as “three disasters plus an ending”. Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don’t know if this is the ideal structure, it’s just my personal taste.
You can imagine what comes next. You’ll be asked to expand each sentence into its paragraph. After a while, you’ll be asked for a full outline of the scenes that will make the book. You are starting from the center of the snowflake and branching out from that simple central idea, following the shape of the snowflake and defining it more and more.
I like this method because there’s no waste of creative energy. If your idea is bad, you’ll notice a couple of hours into the method, not after writing hundreds of pages.
I won’t explain the method further, as it has its webpage and countless other articles. I just wanted to bring it to your attention!
Fiction writing software🤓
A quick roundup of all the apps and software I tried over the years - so you don’t have to go through everything yourself 😅
I sadly don’t have any recommendations for Mac users - but it’d probably be Scrivener for them.
For PC users, I can really recommend Bibisco: it’s the most complete fiction book-writing software out there, and it costs pennies in comparison to the rest. It’s even mostly free!
They even released an official tutorial recently. Take a look at it here.
For Android I found Novelist: it might seem simple, but try it out for a few hours. It’s packed with customizable features and can export directly for Amazon as well. It beats all the other apps I tried, and it’s actually the one I’m using to write the fantasy book.
I have never finished a book 🤷🏻♂️ So I don’t have any tips (yet) on publishing, Amazon, ISBN codes, Goodreads, or file types. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t feel close enough to completion. I have known this stuff for years and started writing at least once every couple of months, but it never felt like I had something solid. I was probably just building experience for this!
I hope you found the resources I shared useful nevertheless. And subscribe if you want to know when my books will be out, as you’d be the first to know!
If you enjoyed this article, I'd really appreciate it if you could forward it to a friend, or colleague who you think might like it too. If they are a creative type, they’ll surely find value in what I have to offer.
You can also help me by sharing this on your social networks. That’s always a big boost for me!
All the best,