For the last few months, I've been debating whether to expand the scope of my current crop of stories. As the setting grows more complex, and I develop more characters, I find myself returning to a problem I never fully solved: how to manage a complex world-building project.
This problem was a major pre-occupation of mine from 2014, when I first blogged about the possibility of developing a worldbuilding app to 2017, when I realised the endeavour was seriously hurting my writing.
When I killed the project to concentrate on re-writing Weaver of Dreams, I simply bundled my worldbuilding material into Scrivener -- and promptly ignored it. Then I shelved Weaver to write a contemporary thriller and my world-building needs were few. Since finishing Nanowrimo 2017, however, I'm back in the Weaver world and am writing a prequel.
Naturally, it's a rabbit hole I'm leery about entering again and yet the problem remains. I have to manage develop and use this content by some sane means. So, here I go again...only this time, I'm trying a different approach.
In coming weeks I'll post tutorials demonstrating a proof of concept on how to manage a world-building project by different means. This time, I'll be using off-the-shelf tools. I want to keep the coding to a bare minimum -- at most maybe write the occasional script to scaffold a template1.
A lot's changed in the world since I first embarked on that app -- I've changed too. Accordingly, my requirements this time are much less lofty and I want a solution that's:
- Easy to use, write and extract information.
- Flexible enough to change.
- Mobile, multi-device friendly.
For point 1, this is a must. If it's not easy to write the content, I'm just not interested. While I'm prepared to spend a bit of time doing the set, the solution must be easy to once it's up and running.
Flexibility is also important, so I can change the system as I go. No more rigid schemas!
Lastly, point 3 is a must, given it’s 2018 and my iPad is the device I most use outside the house. When I'm home, I mostly use macOS, but the idea of using the iPad as the accessory, second-screen reference device is enormously appealing. That's a big change for me -- I didn't even have an iPad in 2014.
I have three possible approaches in mind: the Full Writing App, a Lightweight Notes App, and The Nerd Approach.
|Full writing app||Scrivener, Ulysses||Incumbency, familiarity, features||cost, perhaps overkill|
|Notes app||Bear, OneNote||Easy, less fiddling||maybe lack of extensibility|
|Nerding out||Markdown + scripting||Free, highly extensible||complex to set up and manage|
|[Solutions to a self-made problem]|
In my next post in this series, I'll start the Full Writing App solution, with most of my attention on Scrivener.
Maybe, I'll resurrect some old code I've written over the years. ↩