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A familiar interface helps to organize your writing.
Plenty of people entertain fantasies about writing the Great American Novel. The number of people who actually get that novel written—great or otherwise—is much, much less. Besides the talent, creativity, and motivation to keep it up for thousands and thousands of words, not having the right tools on hand can hamper the endeavor. No doubt you’ve already got a word processor on your Mac, but a specialized app for novel writing can offer features that regular word processors can’t match. And while those extra features alone won’t make a novel magically appear on your screen, having the right tool for the job makes the process of extended writing projects a lot easier, not to mention better organized.
Mariner’s StoryMill presents a paned, iTunes-style interface that will be instantly familiar to every Mac user. The far left contains your sources, organized into different groupings. You can use the hierarchical Source listing to jump to specific Chapters or Scenes—StoryMill’s most basic building blocks. You can also use this list to rearrange scenes or entire chapters within your text. Additionally, you can skip to notes you’ve entered on specific Actors (characters) or Locations, in addition to details for tracking submissions, research, and to-do items.
The center section is where you get down to business and actually write your text. The bottom of the text area features live word and character counts, which are great for anyone trying to meet specific targets. Our favorite feature is a built-in counter that tracks words, pages, or total minutes written, which can be a great motivator for lazy writers. And if you’re easily distracted, full-screen mode is perfect for blocking out everything but your clever inscriptions.
The right section of the StoryMill interface contains metadata about all of your various Scenes, Chapters, and other text and notes in your project. The tagging feature is useful for assigning arbitrary tags to bits of text, and when coupled with the Smart Views feature—like a Smart Playlist in iTunes—they can help you drill down and find exactly what you are looking for in a lengthy text. And since individual scenes can be assigned to specific times, a Timeline overview can help you see how your story is progressing, even if the storylines aren’t revealed in a linear fashion.
StoryMill can output to your text easily into Word and various plain-text formats, although we were a little put off by the fact that the app stores your text essentially in a database, making it hard to just open your project file in a text editor if something were to go sideways with StoryMill itself—although frequent manual plain-text exports can alleviate that problem. And we missed a versioning system for keeping multiple edits of a Scene or Chapter. But the database-like features for tracking Actors, Locations, and other data about your writing is amazingly helpful for managing the details of lengthy projects.StoryMill offers essential organizational features for long-form writers that word processors miss.