Dossier screenshots

Characters in #LSBXE

Let’s talk characters. No, not the kind that make up type-face, the kind that drive our character-driven plots. Dossier screenshotsI prefer to use a Dossier file-type to save character information. You can create a new dossier in many ways. The easiest is to go to the Create menu on the main window and choose “new Dossier”. After you name the file, you’ll be presented with a window of lines much like the wide-ruled notebook paper my daughter uses to practice her letters.

When you double-click on any of the lines, you’ll notice that it has two fields. The top half of the line is the “title” and the bottom half is the “caption”. From the screen shot you’ll notice that the caption can be as long as you need it to be. Each pair is an “item”.

At this point, you may be wondering how to get from there to the lovely screen-shots shown here. For me, I like to start by choosing titles. From the Dossier’s menu, click on “Titles”. The software comes pre-loaded with several options for characters, places, and some other world-building options. When you pick a set of Titles, the software will fill in the titles for your dossier. Think of this like a question/answer or character-building questionnaire. You answer the questions in the caption space.

Squint hard at the left hand side of the screen-shots and you’ll see a tiny icon-based menu. This is *important*. The icons represent (from top down) save, view, add a new item, move up, move down, and delete item. If you don’t like one of the titles, click on it and hit the X icon. Want a new one? Click the add item and put the title in that you want. Re-arrange them. If you have a standard character questionaire that you want, by all means, set it up. Once you have it just the way you want, click “Titles” and then “Save Title List” — you can name the list whatever you like or you can save it over one of the existing lists to make that list fit the way you work.

Now the software is customized with your list. You can fill in the information you have when you get it. If you need to store some type of unique information (in my last novel it was “psionic scent”) you can add that title.

By clicking the View icon, you will change how the information is presented on the screen. This is a rotating toggle — just click it until you are happy.

But what about pictures?

There are two ways to get pictures into the dossier. First, if you just want one picture, click “Content” and then “Image” and pick an image you have already added to the program. My favorite way to add images to a dossier is by “association.” We’ll talk about associations in another post, but the concept is that like-named things are related.

Create a gallery that is named exactly the same as your dossier and add as many pictures as you like to that gallery. When you open up the dossier the next time — poof. The gallery will have become a part of your dossier.

You can use dossiers for any type of world-building or historical research that involves this type of question/answer, title/caption format. You do not have to include images unless you have or want or need them.

A side-note about those images. Remember that this isn’t an image manipulation program. The images are associated with the dossier and displayed in the box available. Graphic minded individuals will realize that images may not fit in the box. You may want it centered or left aligned or…whatever. Click on the picture. It’ll change its alignment. Just like the view toggle, there is a range of views, just keep clicking until you’re happy. If you aren’t happy…well, you have two choices. Live with it or open the picture in a graphic manipulation program (Paint, Gimp, Adobe Photoshop®…whatever) and make it the way you want it.

Remember how I started off saying that “Create” – “New Dossier” was the easiest way to create your dossiers? Well, there are many other ways — arguably easier. Suppose you’re working with a mind-map and creating a family tree of characters. If you change the mind-map mode to “Dossier Mode” then whenever you double-click on one of your cards it will create a dossier named the same as the title of that item. The same trick works in any file type that has a “Mode” option. Pretty cool, huh? Okay, maybe confusing. We’ll talk more about modes and associations…later.

Just don’t forget my #1 rule for working with Liquid Story Binder: stop playing with the toys and get back to writing. You only get to play with the dossiers if you are actively creating characters or working on world-building.

Did I mention it has a random character generator? That’s for another day… get back to writing!

library book cart

Welcome to the Library #LSBXE

library book  cartLiquid Story Binder uses its own naming methods for … things. If you’re on the Yahoo User Group you know that I’m not being vague with my language, I’m skipping over a potentially 20 page philosophical discussion of the nature of… things. Things like file types and tools and writing and stuff that you are trying to organize. Sometimes the terms used can be confusing, especially if you skip the 20 page discussion about how words are really covers for visual concepts. (Yeah, John M, I know I botched that. But I mentioned the User Group so that people who want to actually learn something can go hunt up your brilliant analysis and be amazed at how complex this topic is. Note: John has also pointed out that his website is: http://originofwriting.com/ and THAT will definitely take us off topic.) I’m not being sarcastic there, folks. The work John is doing is brilliant.

But I want to talk about something a little simpler today. Where do you keep your binders? (Note: Liquid Story Binder now refers to binders instead of books as the main unit of a project, because a project could contain a number of books.) In the Library, of course.

“Library” is the first section of the menu on the main window of LSB. Highlighting it will show you a list of the projects/binders that you have set up. The very first sub-menu item is “View Library.” Inside the pop-up window you’ll be able to create, rename, delete, import and re-order binders. Think about this section the same as you would a shelf in your own personal library with a set of binders for each project that you’re working on. All of the research material for each project goes into that project’s binder. One of your primary goals with LSB is to be organized and to get material IN the binder.

In real life, pages fall out of my binders. They’re ripped, torn, taped, or faded. LSB keeps my virtual research material in good order. I’m aggressive about getting my research into LSB and one of my current projects is to scan some of my older drawings and maps into LSB where they’ll be safe.

When you look at that Library window, you’ll notice that you can rearrange the items. Put the project you’re working on currently at the top of the list. When LSB opens up, it will automatically open the item at the top of the Library list. When you’re finished with a project, you can move your new current project to the top.

While you’re working, if you need to access a different binder, the Library menu will contain a shortcut link to each project you’ve set up a binder for. If you’re working on Novel A and have an idea for Novel B, you can quickly jump to the other binder from the Library drop-down.

I also keep a “misc ideas” binder for the random thoughts I want to get out of my head but that I might decide to develop further later.

Users have creative ways they use binders…recipes, game records, etc. Just remember, we’re supposed to be WRITING and using LSB to keep us productive. If keeping your household chores in an LSB binder gives you more time for writing, then do it!

May you have many completed binders in your Library.

Import Existing Writing into #LSBXE

Continuing on with some generic advice on how to use Liquid Story Binder — what if you’re a writer who has existing bits of manuscript that you want to import into LSB?

I like to have a different “binder” for each major project. If I’m working on a trilogy, I try to keep all of the books in one binder so I can share research material. Stand alone novels I keep in a binder of their own. I also have a binder titled “misc bits” for all of the projects I have ideas for but haven’t developed into anything more than a random thought. I just don’t want to lose those bits of dreams or cool ideas.

When you first start using LSB, it is likely you’ll have some material that you’ve created using another word processor. I recommend saving that material in rich text format and then importing it using the LSB dialogue.

  • Create or open a binder to hold the project
  • From the Library menu on the main window, choose “Import Documents”
  • Choose the type of file you want to import — most likely “Import Chapters” if you want a chunk of writing
  • Click “Change Import Directory” and then use the Windows navigation window to locate the folder where your existing writing is stored
  • Click on the chapter(s) you want – hold down the control key to select more than one
  • Click “Import Selected Documents”
  • Click “Finished”

But wait — you don’t see anything! The screen is still blank!

From the main window, click “Open” and then “Select Chapter” — and you’ll find all of the chapters you just imported. You can click on them and see how they came in.

What you do with those files from here will vary. One thing to do is to create a Planner (think table-of-contents for your novel).

Create a new planner and name it the same as your novel or project.

From the planner’s menu, click “Items” and then “Add Titles”. You should see see your imported files. Click the ones you want (again, you can use the control key) and then click “Make Selection”. This will bring your chapters into the planner and make them available to build into a manuscript.

Depending on the program you used to create the original writing, this may or may not work. Here are some of the problems people routinely run into:

  • Invisible characters in the text. — This is very common with word processors. (Side note: some agents have pointed out recently that writers are not using Word properly. They haven’t selected “accept changes”. End result — the documents they are sending to agents contain a history of the changes and edits they’ve made to the document…awkward!) You’ll realize these exist if the program starts hanging up or freezing while you’re working on a document. To solve it, use the formatting center (Main window, under Tools) — something I’ll talk about in another post.

  • The program you’re working in won’t allow you to export rich text. — In this case, just copy the existing text into the clipboard (try using control-c in your writing program) and then open a new chapter in LSB. Paste (control-v) the text in. This will generally get your words in from just about any program.

This is only a rough start, a way to get existing words into a usable form in the program. At this point, there isn’t much difference between using LSB and a word processor…but we aren’t done yet.

You can import other files as well — images from research, scanned maps, music that you like, etc. Whatever you need to make your writing productive, bring into the program. Don’t worry initially if it seems to vanish, just get the files into the program. In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about ways you can manipulate and expand on the project.

screen shot of LSB timeline and sequence

Getting Started with Liquid Story Binder

Wow. A lot of my friends bought Liquid Story Binder during November! Thank you! One brave soul asked if I would consider posting the notes from my talk in Seattle, and that got me thinking.

screen shot of LSB timeline and sequenceYou’ve got your bright shiny new software. You’ve heard that this is the key to real productivity as a writer! So you open the software and you are confronted with either a demo book or a lovely, intimidating blank screen.

Wait? Where is the time-line like you saw on the website? Where are the visual cues? The Planners? The manuscripts?

Well, the problem is…you haven’t written the story, yet.

Like all writing projects, you have just found yourself confronted with the dreaded blank piece of paper in the typewriter. The cursor is swearing at you, demanding that you do…something.

But where do you start?

I love LSB, because where you start is here: you sit at your desk and you look at your writing goals. Where are you in your project? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you a poet? Do you journal? Are you writing inspirational shorts or epic fantasy?

Who are you, and what do you want to accomplish?

Next question: how do you work? Do you need a quiet, focused environment? Music? Inspirational pictures?

When I was learning to homeschool my children, I realized that each person has a unique learning style. Oh, you can group them into categories, but each person learns in their own way. Each person is most productive working in their own type of environment. I had to study each of my children in order to help them create their own best learning space. With Liquid Story Binder, you’re going to do the same thing.

So — to start: where are you in your project? Are you ready to edit? Just finished Nano? Wrestling the idea that may be the next best thing to Harry Potter? Or are you trapped, staring at a blank screen, desperate for inspiration and horribly disappointed that this software isn’t going to write the novel for you?

Wherever you are, there’s a place to start. Post me a comment on Facebook or Twitter, tweet to the general hashtag of #LSBXE if you want, join the Yahoo group…or even use the contact form or comment on my website. But let’s see where you are and over the next few weeks I’ll give you some help getting going in the right direction.

Before you know it, your work space will be full of all of those fresh, growing words.