It made sense that I would turn to software in my time of need. I was going through a very rocky time with my novel. I had fallen out of love with it. (I even hated the chapter titles.) I was lonely, desperate and needy.
I was not a complete ingénue when it came to software. I used Final Draft years ago on a couple of screenplays. But the relationship was confined to a lot of heavy tabbing that a screenplay format requires. (One tab for character, two for action, etc.)
I needed a more meaningful, fulfilling connection. Who or what could I get to help me with my novel?
I went on Writerstore.com. (What's a nice writer like me doing on a website like this? Shouldn't I be able to write on my own like Jane Austen did?)
Like Match.com I found all sorts of interesting possibilities. Some were a lot more attractive than others.
Storybase. "Plug in your character information and you'll see dozens of conflict-based suggestions for scenes, relationships and motivation."
I have to admit I found the "plug-in" aspect arousing. $69.95
Dramatica. "As your creative writing partner, it takes you to a special place."
A writing partner? A special place? Now you're talking.
"Advance tools help you cast and build your characters...layer in themes with universal meaning." This was a bargain at $69.95. Universal meanings do not grow on trees.
MasterWriter for Creative Writers. "It's like having a writing partner with an Ivy League education," blurbed Andrew Davis award-winning writer, director and producer.
At $189, I felt like I was being asked to pay back an Ivy League student loan.
And finally, Great Dialogue. This software would give me the ability to whisper sweet nothings for next to nothing ($19.95) and would "give your characters the words they deserve."
And then my eyes fell upon Scrivener. It was love at first hit.
I bought it outright. No free trial for me. I'm a committed relationship kind of gal. And besides, it had everything to offer my novel and me.
• A very cool corkboard where you could pin notes on electronic index cards and shuffle them around to heart's content.
• An extremely handsome logo that I was proud to have on my dashboard.
• A way to really organize and make accessible research, which for me an historical novelist was a complete turn-on.
• A tutorial given by the creator, Keith Blount who spoke with an intimate and irresistible British accent.
• And for the (forgive the expression) climax, when your masterpiece (their term, not mine) is done "Scrivener supports the MultiMarkdown markup language that gives [it] all the power of exporting to LaTex and XHTML."
I didn't know what this last was but it sounded incredibly sexy.
Best of all, unlike my dear writing group where I have to give as much as I get, this was technology. Scrivener wouldn't be asking anything in return.
That's where I was wrong. I found myself wasting huge amounts of time playing around with and admiring the tools of my new software and not getting any real writing done. It was all about Scrivener and nothing about me.
Alas, Scrivener couldn't or wouldn't write my novel for me. Wouldn't help with dangling plot points, fuzzy characters or the lack of an arc. And when it came to my one simple question: what should happen at the end of my novel? Well, there was zero communication. I was better off asking Siri.
Where did this belief that someone or something could rescue my novel and me? My sixth grade teacher Mr. Stone had the entire class write a short story for a Junior Scholastic contest. I wrote something and my mother typed it. I won a first prize. (A $25 U.S. savings bond.) Later, I became convinced that my mother re-wrote my story before I handed it in.
To this day, when it comes to my writing I am so co-dependent. Just ask my Random House editor.
How many times do I have to fall for some sexy new software before I learn my lesson? Scrivener was just my latest heartbreak. But I know there will be more. I guarantee it.
In fact, I'm now looking again at Dramatica and that very special place my "creative writing partner" could take me to. A Pulitzer Prize? The New York Times bestseller list? The National Book Award dinner?
Follow Linda Howard Urbach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BovarysDaughter