Use This for That: Scapple – Digital Stickies and So Much More

So a few months ago I got all excited and filled an entire wall of my apartment with multicolored sticky notes. It was beautiful and oh so satisfying to step back and see all of the planning I had just done. The problem was that there was no way I could make that process sustainable. It required too much paper, too much wall space, and too much time.

Sticky note wall

As I usually do, I wrote to my good friend, author of The Stars Were Right and Old Broken Road, K.M. Alexander to show off my masterwork. As he usually does, he gave me a great suggestion for a better tool. We both use Scrivener  as our primary word processor and the company who makes it also makes a helpful little gem called Scapple. It’s essentially a digital sticky note wall but with so many more great features.

Scapple Example

Sorry about obscuring the notes but I can’t go and give away my secrets now can I?

Anyway, this is just a small example of what you can do with Scapple. I’ve got the main characters on the left and I use lines to track their appearances throughout the scenes. The dark rectangles represent chapters and the stickies inside detail the general actions of each character that shows up in that chapter. I’ve also got some things going on with arrows but they are hard to see in the picture so we’ll just ignore that part.

I’m still somewhat new to the program so there is a lot I have yet to learn. Also, if you aren’t a fan of my green background, don’t worry, the default is white and you can either choose solid colors or use photos as a backdrop.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the program as its website does a great job describing its many functions.

Scapple is available from good people at Literature and Latte. It’s affordable and you can download a free 30-day trial. In this case, each day you open the program counts as one of your thirty days so conceivably you can stretch the free trial out for much more than just a month.

 

I’m not working for Literature and Latte nor am I endorsed by them. This isn’t meant to be a commercial. Their products just kick ass and have made my writing life much easier so I thought I’d spread the word. Give it a try. Or don’t.

Use This for That: Electrical Tape on Whiteboards.

Once upon a time in a land across the sea, I lived a different life and earned my bread as a teacher. There are many quick, useful, and above all cheap tricks of the trade that I gathered along the way but one that has translated well into my writery endeavours has been electrical tape.

And before you even ask. No, it’s not for researching a torture scene.

Electrical tape alone won’t do much for a writer outside of fixing a broken pencil or inspiring yourself by making a stick on Poe mustache. However, if you apply said electrical tape to every writer’s favorite office eyesore, the whiteboard, it’s a game changer. Well, really it’s a minor fix to a minor problem. But wait until you try it. At that point the skies will open and a T-Rex on a dirt bike will do a double backflip over the heavenly rays shining down on your new awesome whiteboard. Or you’ll just feel satisfied with your work. You know, either/or.

Big charts on whiteboards have endless uses. Easy to see, impossible to avoid, I use mine to track the hours spent doing various writing tasks. Also I use it to chart how often I work out. Please ignore the X below. Monday was a busy day. I really should have gone to the gym but I was cleaning up the house and rearranging some furniture and you know how hard life is.

ANYWAY, a chart made solely of dry erase marker ends up being redrawn over and over and over and over and… As a teacher, I’d die a little inside every time my eraser clipped the edge of a carefully drawn box.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I discovered, while making a grid for my classroom schedule, that electrical tape makes awesome straight lines, it never erases, and unlike duck tape (look up the history you “duct” devotees) it doesn’t leave behind any of that ungodly ectoplasm. You can take it off, rearrange it, restick it. or start fresh and the white board will always be good as new.

This may be old news to some but if not, give it a shot. Electrical tape is cheap and can often be found collecting dust at your local dollar store.