question about TotallyWrite

User avatar
Lord Lightning
Posts: 652
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 4:58 am
Location: Somewhere else!

Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:05 am Post

I would add to the list above, Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey" and, if you are serious, Carl Gustav Jung's "On the Nature of Dreams". You will find a synchronistic loop in these readings. It was while studying the Holy Grail legends, that Joseph Campbell discovered the work of Freud and Jung which enabled his approach to myths, legends and dreams. Pearson offers a truncated version of Campbell and Vogel offers a film interpretation of Campbell. Totally write was based on a 'beat' insight (Jeffrey Schechter calls them Plot Points) into Pearson's work. So you can see the 'virtuous loop' you need to travel to understand where this new application is coming from.

And you do not need a degree in fine arts to follow it. Just read the books as if your life depended on it.

If you really want to get a handle on how these things can be applied to current conditions take a look at the Elliott Wave Principle -

How like a classical tale of human frailty and predictable mythic structure it is. Just one real world example to demonstrate the universal imprint in the human psyche. Even the markets are structured like a 5 act Shakespearean play.


Lord Lightning

I'm a writer. I create worlds!
When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 9:33 pm
Platform: Mac
Location: Los Angeles

Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:46 pm Post

Good structure is not shameful. Emulating the past classics is not either. I've had a look at Contour and find that the logic of its method is surprisingly well thought out--the main substance is not the software itself but the manual explaining how to use the software! That is to say, the storytelling approach that let's you use the software wisely.

(The software itself is fairly uninspiring, basically providing space to write in your info in response to the questions).

The Out-of-Copyright Old-Time Ukulele Sheet Music of the Week Club

User avatar
Lord Lightning
Posts: 652
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 4:58 am
Location: Somewhere else!

Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:23 pm Post

Yes. Everyone is right.

It is still a good idea to know where the black notes and white notes go though.

Here is a comparative look at several beat systems. It is better to know them all rather than none of them.

Lord Lightning

I'm a writer. I create worlds!
When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

Posts: 187
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 2:58 pm
Location: UK

Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:41 am Post

It seems to me this is all part of the Dramatica 'fill in a form and get yourself a novel' nonsense. As I repeatedly tell people at writing classes.... through ITW and a stack of festivals around the world over the last decade and a half I have come to know an awful lot of professional writers. I've never met one who will admit to using this stuff. I'm sure they exist. But I doubt they're numerous and I seriously doubt they get much out of it.

Most professional writers use nothing more than Word. They find Scrivener an eye opening experience - and I know that for a fact because a bunch of them are using it now. But an app that can 'quickly recognize archetypes which protagonists journey through in all the top movies'. I don't know whether that says more about the current state of the movie business or the software business right now. Excuse me while I barf.

Instead of faffing about with this sort of nonsense Mariner would be better off improving Storymill which they bought in much the same way a while back and did very little with indeed. It still lacks a word count for individual scenes. I did point this out to them and was told, 'But why would anyone want that?'

I suppose if you have 'story development software' that writes the plot for you maybe it is superfluous. Yes, as people here have pointed out, there is plenty of theory around, much of it good, in the books others have mentioned. You don't need a piece of software to lead you through a Q&A session based on those, which is what much of this software actually is. Reading the kind of fiction you like and hope to be close to in your own work is still, to me, the best source of inspiration around.

Posts: 276
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 7:02 pm

Sun Nov 30, 2008 2:12 am Post

Even within genre it doesn't always, or even usually, work. I teach Tragedy and there's a standard Aristotelian approach to what a tragedy actually *is*. Hubris, hamartia, peripeteia, anagnorisis and all the rest of it. Din it into 'em. Send them off to read a few tragedies. Ask them how they fit. Puzzled looks all round. Then ask how "Clockwise" (Michael Fray, dir. Chris Morahan) turns out to be a comedy when it's built on an immaculately Aristotelian structure -- Oresteian chthonic ending and all -- and lo!, a brick wall.

Same applies to Hero's Journey epic. I've read all the monomyth stuff, starting with Campbell and Vogler, and it's all very well but it just won't do. Vogler is a simplified recension of Campbell and Campbell's academically a bit iffy at best; all the stories he cites fit his theories perfectly because he chooses the stories which DO fit. Even if we go back to basic basics -- Gilgamesh -- it doesn't work without some grunting, wrenching and a squirt of WD40, and even then you end up with the looming theory that the purpose of epic is to deliver itself...

If you want fireworks, ask the Boss Narratologist, Nick Lowe of Royal Holloway University, what he thinks of Dramatica et al. I once gave an entire paper on computer games and second-person mythos purely to get up his nose, and it was three beers in the curry-house afterwards before he'd even speak to me.

My own feeling is the underlying theory, as Lightning says, can give you some fresh ideas. But software which constrains or offers magic solutions is strictly for amateurs. And why not? Good luck to them, because it's the amateurs that keep Keith (and Final Draft, Screenwriter and possible Montage) in business. They obviously love it. But I disagree that it puts bread on the table, any of it. (Though I don't write much of that stuff, except in the case of TV formats, so I may not know really what I'm talking about.)

Music's a different matter. And a different subject. But on the whole (what ho, Fingal) it doesn't exist to carry a narrative, but to encode a formal structure.

(First person to mention Levi Strauss gets a thump in the eye. First person to mention Derrida gets two.)

Oh nuts. I reckon I simply don't like them, is all.

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 20730
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 11:23 pm
Platform: Mac
Location: Truro, Cornwall

Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:34 pm Post

ut software which constrains or offers magic solutions is strictly for amateurs. And why not? Good luck to them, because it's the amateurs that keep Keith (and Final Draft, Screenwriter and possible Montage) in business.

???? How is Scrivener in this category? How does it offer magic solutions? How is it "strictly for amateurs"? Surely you don't mean that? Mr Bywater, explain thyself!

Posts: 1180
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:35 am

Mon Dec 01, 2008 3:51 am Post

I suspect he may have meant just that amateurs are a sizable part of the market, and there may not be a big enough market without them to sustain all of the software titles.

That is different to calling the software amateurish, or saying it is designed for or only works with amateurs.

If I am reading his meaning correctly, there is no shame in that. Everyone's an amateur until they are a professional, and if your software helps more people take that step, or even makes it easier for them to enjoy and succeed at their hobby, that is still a good thing.

That it is equally useful to those who are professional, is proof that it is a well-designed and thought out piece of software, rather than a clever advertising campaign selling magic bullets to the gullible.

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 20730
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 11:23 pm
Platform: Mac
Location: Truro, Cornwall

Mon Dec 01, 2008 3:52 pm Post

Oh, I'm not having a go - Mr Bywater has been very supportive of Scrivener and provided a nice testimonial, so I know he's not belittling the software. :) I was just querying the exact meaning, being dense and thus inclined for clarifications in general...
All the best,

Posts: 187
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 2:58 pm
Location: UK

Wed Dec 03, 2008 8:28 am Post

It seemed clear to me. He was saying the Dramatica school of crap was for amateurs while the considerable presence of amateurs in the Scrivener user base was essential to make a very different and much more useful piece of software viable.

PS. About Derrida. He knew Foucault.

Posts: 1185
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2007 5:05 pm
Platform: Mac + Windows
Location: Upstate New York

Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:48 pm Post

What bodsham said. Exactly the way I read it.

You can't conquer stupid — or cure it — with more stupid.

User avatar
Sean Coffee
Posts: 509
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 7:10 pm

Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:14 pm Post

My long journey into the Writing Software forrest is now over. I spent a good part of this year fussing with pretty much every Mac writing app out there, and I've made some personal decisions about my approach. Thought I'd share some of my observations, for what they're worth:

Note: I write for a living; I have no other job. I write TV commercials (freelance) to pay the rent, I have sold two screenplays and am working (for pay) on a third. Just so you know where I'm coming from.

The Workflow I'm Sticking To In 2009 If It Kills Me

Pen & Paper > OmniOutliner > Scrivener > Final Draft (screenplay formatting) or Nisus Writer Pro (formatting everything else)

Pen & Paper

Not an app, but the first stage of my new workflow. I just can't live without a black, sprial-bound Rhodia Classic and a decent pen. It's where my thoughts and outlines all begin.

OmniOutliner Pro

The second stage of my current workflow. It's how my handwritten outlines get onto my computer, and I use it to plan what my eventual Scrivener binder will look like. I played with the outliner in Circus Ponies Notebook (which, if you're looking for a Mac-based notebook app, is a great choice), but found OmniOutliner to be both simpler and more complex, if that makes sense.


I moved away from Scriv for my most recent screenplay, as I was sending the thing in Final Draft-formatted chunks, and Scriv's FD export is not yet where I want it to be. The thing is, I miss Scrivener. It really is a brilliant app. Writing in Scrivener feels like writing -- not merely organizing thoughts. This forum is filled with writers singing Scrivener's praises. They're right.

So, after my 2008 dalliance with the competition, I intend to return to Scrivener full time with the release of the new version. I have an idea for a play, a novel, and one more movie script, and Scrivener 2.0 (1.5? Whatever.) is where I want to spend my days.

Montage (vs. Final Draft)

With 1.5, Montage is now a mature and immensely enjoyable script-formatting application. I think Montage is on track to eventually replace Final Draft as an industry standard. "On track" as in: "it's not caught up yet." Producers still rely on FD for its its production tools, and -- ugly as it is -- one would be foolish to abandon it altogether. FD truly is the MS Word of the screenwriting world.

The good news is, Montage imports and exports FD files easily. For the sake of simplicity, I plan to live in Scrivener as long as possible, with the sincere hope that I wont have to leave it until I am ready to export to FD as a final. Montage will be my safety net, though -- a fine second option, should Scrivener not work as seamlessly as I hope. I plan to keep up with Montage's development, with an eye toward the day when I can abandon FD outright.

Notes on some other stuff (and why I chose to post this in this thread)


Now we come to this thread's controversy. I've beta-tested Contour, and it's quite good at what it does. I have found, however, that I don't particularly need what it does -- and, in fact, find it too restrictive (and yes, too paint-by numbers) for writing. To tell the truth, filling in Contour's blanks at the new-idea stage -- where I haven't had the chance to ruin a concept with my meager talent, where everything is still fresh and unique and infinite -- is pretty goddam depressing.

That said: I find Contour potentially useful as a pitch tool. I won't use it to write, but it's an instructive way to look at a finished script. It's almost like having a rabidly Aristotlean producer/editor on your side -- it holds the finished product up to it's rigid parameters, and allows you to see the underlying structure more clearly. Would I change a story element just to conform to Contour's ways? Doubt it. But if I'm headed into a meeting with a producer, I think an import into Contour might be a good way to prepare. Lord Lightning is right: if the language of the industry is this kind of structure, it's a good idea to know that language.


Well made. Nice to look at. Superfluous in a world with Scrivener.


The best app I never use. I like its looks, its functionality and its open-source politics. I'm just not quite ready to live in the could yet.


So fucking genius, I'm willing to overlook the fact that I can't really find a good use for it. But I really try. I use it to store random story ideas, to write and save long online posts (like this one), and if I had a blog, I bet I'd use it for that too. Best. Icon. Ever.


It's SO cool! love it! I'm not nearly smart enough to use it!

Posts: 1721
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 2:29 pm
Platform: Mac, Win + Linux
Location: Princeton NJ, USA

Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:50 pm Post

My only question about your process is why you need OmniOutliner.
You can start a Scriv project and place all of your early notes in the Research folder.
They're in an outline form and you may copy a set for developing in the Draft folder.
I know, to each his own, but the use of OO strikes me as a little redundant.

Posts: 532
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:17 am
Location: yet another Portlander

Wed Dec 03, 2008 9:55 pm Post

I second Druid's question. In the B.S. (that's "before Scrivener," of course -- what did you think I meant?) days, I relied heavily on OO, and I still really like it. But after a few tries using both, I just found that step redundant. Still, I kinda miss it. What does it give you that using Scrivener's Binder or Outliner doesn't?

User avatar
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: Lower Saxony, Germany / Aargau, Switzerland

Thu Dec 04, 2008 4:32 pm Post

Hi there,

I, too, move through the motions and employ OmniOutliner before going into Scrivener-mode. Probably an old habit hard to shake off. I just like to lay down my hand-written notes in OO, refining them, before adapting them to the binder.

Actually, my workflow looks pretty similar to Sean Coffee’s, apart from not-writing screenplays, but fiction. Funny how these things work out.

Something I wanted to reiterate, or rather, point out:
Sean Coffee wrote:Writing in Scrivener feels like writing -- not merely organizing thoughts. This forum is filled with writers singing Scrivener's praises. They're right.

Same here. I’ve tried a helluvalot of “Writing Applications”, and well, even the one I liked most before Scrivener – that is, Avenir, StoryMill’s father – forced me to damn organise too damn many bloody things. With Scrivener, I just add a sheet in the “research” binder describing my characters. With StoryMill and other applications, I afterwards spend too much time thinking about what meta-data to add and how to interlink them. Or set dates and times in the Timeline view. Stuff I should already know about if I set down to the task of writing a novel. Stuff that sounds sensible at first, but which I never, ever, really needed in the end.

I don’t want to diss Todd, not at all. I still think StoryMill is a great application. But I realised that, for me, less is more. Simply because I write more in the end. And spend less time organising my snippets. Others may see the whole thing differently.

Thanks, Coffee, for your approach on Contour. Sounds like something I might want to try out in the revision process. :)


User avatar
Posts: 737
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:33 pm
Location: France

Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:48 am Post

Sean Coffee wrote:OmniOutliner Pro

Why "Pro"? I am still wondering what "Pro" adds useful to OmniOutliner. (What I miss in OO, BTW, and would pay for is a filtering function - "show only lines with XXX in column YYY")