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(Fair warning…it’s iOS.  If you know of a similar app for Android, let me know in the comments!)

So some of us tend to be fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants authors.  I fall squarely into that category, and I refuse to apologize for it.  I’ll normally have a general overview of how I want the story to go, and I do always write out a brief character sketch (age, appearance, significant characteristics, etc) in advance.  For the most part, however, even as I write toward the goal I have in mind (aka “The End”), I live the story with the characters.

Does this sometimes cause problems?  Of course!  Do I sometimes have to go back and delete or rewrite entire scenes or arcs?  Unfortunately, yes.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, however.

Britt and I have been writing together for over four years, but Pistils was the first story where we really wrote down everything…not in advance, but when we’d written enough to know where the story was going and wanted to make sure it was nailed down, Krazy-Glued, and steel-reinforced on all four sides.  We wrote up a list of questions for each other’s characters, with everything from “Tell me about Vivian’s parents,” to “What is Parker’s greatest fear?”  Then we wrote out timelines.  A timeline for the entire book, and timelines for action-oriented sequences.  (More on writing a timeline and why it’s important in a future blog post.)

So why all this sudden frenzy of writing down and cross-referencing every single detail?  Easy…Pistils was going to be the first book we #1 salted an obscene amount of time and quite a bit of our hard-earned money into and #2 making sloppy (or even accidental) mistakes will irritate readers, which will result in reviews saying “OMG, I wanted to like this book but the continuity errors were too much!”  This leads to people deciding against buying your book.  I know when I’m contemplating buying a book online, I head straight for the lowest-starred reviews.  If there is more than one review mentioning spelling, grammar, punctuation, continuity etc. errors, I’m outta there.  Because yes, I’m one of those people who is completely thrown out of the story (and then goes back to double-check) when a character’s poodle mysteriously turns into a schnauzer three chapters later.

ENOUGH! I hear you screaming!  You promised us an app!  Well, so I did, and here it is.

Photo Mar 13, 12 32 45 PMA Novel Idea” (hereafter referred to as ANI) is #1 FREEEEEEEE for your Apple device.  I downloaded it onto my iPhone 4s and was off and running in no time.  I would imagine if you have an iPad and keyboard it might be even faster, but I just used the voice recognition option and it auto-filled with no problems.

ANI allows you to sketch out every conceivable thing about your story.  You start off with your novel, and start adding in details.

Photo Mar 13, 12 25 50 PMFrom there, you can move on to (or skip around, your preference) characters.  And when it comes to details…WOW.

Photo Mar 13, 12 25 57 PMPhoto Mar 13, 12 26 42 PM

What really impressed me is the level of detail some of these characteristics go into…for the most part clicking on one takes you into an empty text box, so you can either write/dictate what you’ve already written down somewhere, or you can use it as a writer’s block-busting exercise!

The ideas tab is fairly simple, but absolutely excellent for when you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping and an amazing idea hits you, but you have nowhere to scribble it down!

Photo Mar 13, 12 26 57 PMThe Scenes tab is right on up there as a favorite too, especially the options for “time” and “location” (two of continuity’s favorite places to drop error bombs).  For any pivotal or high-action scenes, I would say you should be required to fill this out.

Photo Mar 13, 12 27 16 PMThe interface is ridiculously simple to use.  My only wish was that you could sync it to other users (e.g. between co-authors).  Apparently there is a upgraded in-app purchase for $2.99 that includes:

Dropbox Syncing between devices
Scene writing
Word count
Export to iTunes
Ad Free!
Email export

Hmm, the Dropbox Syncing would be nice, but I’d rather the app sync directly between users, as opposed to adding the extra step of Dropbox in there (primarily since Dropbox has dropped the ball on us a couple of times, grrr).  The scene writing might be handy if you have a sudden blindingly-brilliant bit of dialogue or description pop into your head.  For $2.99, though, I think I’ll stick with my netbook for on-the-go writing…I’ll use this as a toolkit, not a word processor.

So what do you think?  Have any of you tried A Novel Idea, the free or paid version?  Would you find it handy?  I’m already setting up the structure for the next book after Pistils (yes, there will be more) in it, I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

-Kate

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