Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Using SuperNotecard

By Lazette Gifford
Copyright 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved


SuperNotecard can be found at www.mindola.com

A new novel idea often grows in odd ways: a character here, a bit of worldbuilding there, some notes from a book and a bit of plot.  The imagination is not tied to any carefully laid out path that will take you through each step.

Keeping track of the chaotic mass of information that goes into a novel can be difficult.  The program that I most often use is SuperNotecard.  There is a free trial download, and the program itself is $29US.  You will see a fiction/nonfiction version and a scriptwriting version.  I'll be showing you the basics of the first version, and specifically the fiction set up.

SuperNotecard has a helpful .pdf file (found in the Help menu under Help documentation) that goes into far more detail than I can do in this short article.  My focus will be on using the program for more than just outlining. 

Setting Up

(Numbers in parentheses reference the picture above.)

SuperNotecard is set up in a project format.  You can have several projects going.  The one you worked on last will open when you start up the program (unless you use options to set it up differently), and the rest will appear as tabs at the bottom of the screen (1).

For the fiction version, SNC opens with three decks -- Beginning, Middle and End.  Each deck is automatically created with two cards.  The program has all the usual menu lists, and I won't walk you through those since most of them are pretty easy to understand.  Instead, let's leap straight into story creation using SNC.

There are several view items that you can play with in this initial screen.  Two of the most important are the 'Explorer' window and the main screen choices.  Explorer opens a side panel on the right that shows you everything in the project.  In the Explorer view, you can expand sections to show all the decks and cards within each section (2)

The main screen choices allow you to work with or without grids and for the grids to be in rows or columns (3).  You can move the cards or decks around on any of these types of screens, but grids also allow you to leave empty spots between the sections so that you can fill them in later.  You can also move decks and cards in the Explorer window, but it is easier to do it on the main screen.

At the bottom left of the screen you can see a number of small graphics (4).  These allow you to play with different versions of how you view the main screen.  Click on them and see what appeals to you.  Please note that if you click on the Hide Project Hierarchy button, you must use the Options button to get back the visibility on some of the areas.  The Option button also allows you to set up the overall display, including background color and font.

There -- that's a few basics.  Let's move on to using the program.

Starting a Project

I start by naming the project (Wildlands in the example above) and then clicking on each of the decks and either deleting or renaming them.  I can also add some general information in the note area of each deck.  Since I am going to use this for more than just outlining, I want to have everything set up for easy access.  The three decks I usually start with are Worldbuilding, Characters and Storyline.

You can add more decks if you want things like References, Culture and anything else you like.  You do not need to add them all at once.  If you find that there is something you want to set up in a deck, just create it by right clicking anywhere on the screen and inserting a deck or using the 'add deck' or 'add card' links on the upper right side of the screen.  You can move any deck or card by grabbing it on the screen and pulling it to where you want.  This is especially helpful when you are working with the outline. 

You can add additional decks within a deck.  This can be useful if you have a deck for a country, and then want to do a sub-deck for a city so that you can note things specific to that location.  If you have two feuding families, you can set up a deck for each one inside the character section and then add cards for each family member -- and move the cards around within the group to show rank or age or whatever else you think helps.

If you create a card and later decide that it should be a deck, you can create a deck and move the card into it (this is done best in the Explorer view), or you can convert the card into a deck and add more cards to it.  You can assign colors to cards (use the box of colors at the upper right). 

Explorer view is often the best way to quickly maneuver around a large collection of decks and cards.  All of this is pretty normal stuff.  However, there are some extras in SNC that make it more than just a simple note card program. 

The Extras

Tension, categories, factors, flags -- these are all extras pieces to SNC that you can use to help with the creation of a story.  All of these items can be assigned from the buttons at the upper right area of the main screen.  The full lists can be accessed via the larger buttons on the left side.

Using the 'assign tension' factor can be especially helpful when you are looking at scenes within a chapter.  If you can actually see how the tension flows from one piece to the next, you can see where you can improve the flow and interest in the story.  Tension can be assigned in numbers from 1 to 10 and is shown by a little thermometer. 

Categories allow you to assign things to various groups and then show everything in that group.  This can be really helpful for people working on a series because you can create a category for each book and assign things to more than one category.  If you have a minor character, for instance, you can assign him to a category and then see where he shows up.  For a single book, you might use a category to track a theme, or perhaps clues to a mystery.  Categories are shown by squares of color at the top of the card.   Each category can be assigned a different color.

Factors allow you to highlight things within each card and call up data showing how often and where that item shows up.  This can be especially useful for minor characters to see where they are appearing in your story.  Tag anything that might turn up multiple times and be able to pull everything in one list.  Factors have both color code and a small graphic pictures representing person, place, thing and others.

Flags can be used to show cards that need additional work or any other reason a card needs special attention.  It opens up a small screen on the side of the card where you can note the information.  You can also press the little clock (visible after the flag is set) and record the date and time.  The flag can be set to either red, yellow or blue, which means you can red-flag problems and use other colors to indicate something else.

Once I have an outline in place, I usually export the data to an .rtf file and print it off for easy access while working on the story itself.  There are several print, export and even import options listed in the File Menu.

Think Beyond Story Creation 

SNC can be used for a number of different things.  It can make an excellent submission tracker, especially with the flags and clock function, which will allow you to see what items are out and when you sent them.

My largest SNC project is a database I'm slowly working up that lists my work, characters, places, books, series, etc.  Since I have three major story universes and several books in each, this allows me to see who is where and when I have dropped them into cameo roles elsewhere.  It also makes it easy to see what names I have used -- a major problem when an author has a number of works and tends to like certain types of names.

In this case, I use factors to list out the main characters, and categories to cover a number of things, including story universe, series, manuscript title, genre, locations, timelines, etc.  Flags will cover novels and short stories, as well as problems.

A database like this can also include a submission tracker like the one mentioned above.

(Click to see larger version showing story database)

This is a versatile and useful program, and well worth trying out.  It's fun to explore the many options and features -- more than what I've covered here.  Download the trial version and give it a try!   

SuperNotecard can be found at www.mindola.com