It is time for a revising of a writing aid called Writer’s Cafe. I first reported on my experience with Writer’s Café two years ago when I began using it. I had used it daily for almost two months. I produced two books with it, then took a year off. Looking at it this week I decided to talk about it again. Writer’s Café is a text editing, story planning, writing software.
Linux has been my favorite computer operating environment for about 20 years. Linux is a base level software that competes with Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac iOS. Android, used on smartphone and tablets is related to Linux. My main computer today runs Ubuntu Linux. If I were using a Mac or Windows computer I would probably be using Scrivener. However, the full up-to-date version of Scrivener does not work on Linux. So, I searched for a similar program.
For years, I’ve written several books in Sigil. This program is not a sophisticated story building system, what it does is help with formatting ebooks. I eventually found Writer’s Café from Anthemion Software Ltd. Writer’s Café is a program for writing text and aiding with many aspects of the writing work. Let me quote from the authors of the program: “StoryLines is a multi-storyline planning tool that helps you weave a set of virtual index cards into a finished, formatted story.” Here are the features advertised for the program, Drag and drop cards, Formatting including custom styles, Screenplay auto-formatting, Text and screenplay import, Instant reports, Outline view, Navigator view, Tag-based searching, Multiple sheets (for different versions of the same story), User-customisable structure (Chapter, scene, etc.), File export (HTML, OpenDocument, etc.), Makes HTML Help books, Character profiles, Story locations, Spelling checker, Pockets (store unused scenes for later placement), and Keyboard shortcuts.
The first useful feature I found for my writing was the ability to easily see the scene and story overview and jump to any scene at any time. For me, this is a huge advantage over a flat word-processor, like Word. I also am glad for the character and location files. I can instantly look up a location or character I have entered, to check spelling and details. Now after using the program for some time, I am still most impressed with the setup that allows me to see at a glance which character is featured in each scene. I write stories with more than one POV character. It is important for me to get a sense of how often and how recently a character has been covered. I get this in one glance from the program.
Writer’s Cafe has preference screens where settings can be adjusted for how I want to write. I can adjust the font and locations of different screens. Another important feature of the program is the ability to record characters and locations. It’s important to remember the names and spellings you use over a book and series, and it helps to have a quickly accessible reference.
Finally, after I’ve produced some work, I need to get it out of the program. When printing the document out I can choose which information I want. Do I just want the raw content, to import into a word processor, or ebook creator? I can do that. Or I can choose to get other information.
Now, let’s mention some negatives, since no software is perfect. I suspect the software was probably originally written for helping a screenwriter to write a screenplay. There are extensive tools to aid with formatting screenplays. Of course, whether you find this a negative depends on your writing audience. Another daily annoyance has been an issue of cutting and pasting. When I cut to and from LibreOffice, the font transfers, but have been losing the style on emphasized words. Another minor annoyance that I now find a positive, is the forced scene structure. The program defaults to a scene structure, instead of chapter structure. This annoyed me, at first. Now, though, I would probably not go back. It makes sense to think about a scene as a unit that I work on.
All-in-all I have been very happy with the program, and plan to keep using it in the future.
So, there you have it. A quick overview of the Writer’s Café program. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The purchase price is $40 US, or $30 for students. I tried the free download first. The free version is mostly full featured, except you are limited to the number of scenes you can enter.
If you don’t have a writing program, or want to try something new, I recommend Writer’s Café.
http://www.writerscafe.co.uk Writer’s Café