While I work on the next installment of my Worldbuilding Like an Anthropologist series, I wanted to put together a quick post on some of my favorite resources in writing. Being a writer of fantasy means I get to create my world from the ground up. This also means I have a lot I need to organize and keep straight. So what do I use? Lets go over them. (I receive no benefits or compensation from any of these products.)
I was first introduced to software made specifically for novel writing over a decade ago by a close personal, and writing, friend @Pieterlars, when he told me about Scrivener. I tried the 30 day trial and fell in love. I instantly bought it and put it to use during my first failed attempt at NaNoWriMo. When I upgraded my laptop to the Surface 3 I made certain it was one of the first programs I installed. Two years ago however, I made a big change and switched to a Chromebook. Unfortunately they do not make Scrivener for Chromebooks, though there are workarounds that I had no interest in pursuing. That was when I started my search for a new program and came across Wavemaker.
Wavemaker (WM) has many of the same features of Scrivener (SC). While SC has their corkboard to organize your ideas, WM has the Planning Board. Which ever name you prefer, the board has long been an imperative tool for the writer and both programs allow you to easily move your thoughts around as well as add images and text.
One of my favorite benefits of WM is the fact that it syncs with my Google Drive. SC has the ability to sync with Dropbox but not everyone has one and the free account only comes with a 2GB limit. All you need for Google is a gmail account and you get 15GB free. When you combine this with the app version of the software, you can download your synced product and take it with you for offline work. Simply sync up the work you completed while offline once you have reconnected to the world and you are good to go.
Other features include the Snowflake tool, Mind Maps (which SC has as a separate program called Scrapple), Timeline, and Document Exporting. While SC does have a Timeline element in the program, it does not (as far as I can tell, please correct me if I am wrong) have a built in Snowflake or Mind Mapping aspect. There is a program called Scrapple from the makers of SC, however this is a separate program you need to run, while WM already has it built in.
I am not trying to bash SC, if that is what it seems like. To this day I still love the program, I have just outgrown it personally. Of course there are other programs out there that caught my eye. Ones like: Campfire Pro, Dabble, yWriter and many more than I can probably find. The one thing I consistantly found while looking online for novel writing software for this piece was the lack of the presence of Wavemaker. It is such an amazing program and it is absolutely FREE!
Yet another tool I came upon from the help of Pieter are Story Forge Cards! The website still has them listed as for sale, but I am not 100% certain that B.J. West, their creator, is still active with them, but they are also available on Amazon. I have come across ads on social media with newer items of similar make that are quite honestly just rip-offs of B.J.’s original idea.
Inside, you get 88 cards (78 pre-made and 10 blank)as well as a 32 page booklet with instructions on how to best implement cards, called “Spreads.” There are five different types of cards. These are: Destiny Cards, Wealth Cards, Will Cards, Emotion Cards, and Identity Cards. Each individual card has two possibilities to it. A random card chosen from my deck is a Destiny Card and upon it, one end says “The Lovers: True love, all consuming, at its most beautiful, becomes the primary focus, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.” The other end, contains its antithesis, which says, “The Jilted: Love gone awry; unrequited or forbidden love, an illicit affair or the break up of a serious relationship.” You can choose which ever side you wish when laying out your spreads as it is your imagination that creates the scenario.
There are several spreads within the booklet that are very helpful, including the Hero’s Journey, Once Upon a Time (setting the story in motion), Character Backstory, even a Character “Quick Pick” for minor characters. For those that are not working on a novel, they also include Film Noir, the Love Story, as well as one for the Action Movie. Below you will find several images from their Facebook page with different spreads. Not all of these are in the booklet that comes with the deck. Also, if you would like, I can share a spread I made myself for creating a religion in a SF&F realm., simply reach out and I will put it together for you.
There are a lot of great programs out there when it comes to map making. It is quite possible I may have gone with another program if I had a different computer to work with. Inkarnate works well for me on my Chromebook since it is 100% browser based, meaning no downloads needed. The map I have made, and continue to update, for my current WIP was made using Inkarnate’s premium package.
They currently offer three payment plans. There are free, monthly, as well as yearly options. I chose the yearly ($25) as the monthly ($5/mo) was more than double the cost for the year. The free edition is pretty good, however it does have some limitations. It offers “600+ HD art assets,” the ability to export your map at 2k, as well as creating up to 10 maps for personal use. The map limit is how many you can have saved online. Once you finish a map and export it, you can delete it online and create another map. Both the monthly and yearly plans offer “11,500+ HD art assets,” the ability to export your map at 8k, store up to 1,000 maps as well as the ability to use said maps for both personal and comercial use. This is an important factor when creating a map for a book or a potential RPG you want to market.
Here are some great alternatives out there for those that do not wish to pay a membership fee for your maps and instead want a one time purchase you can download to your Mac or PC. Two of the best, in my opinion, are Wonderdraft ($29.99)and Campaign Cartographer(Special offer at $22.45), though it does not currently have a Mac OS version. One option that started on Kickstarter and is not available as a finished product is Project Deios. There is currently an alpha available if you are interested in getting in at the ground level. To see Inkarnate and Wonderdraft in action, then I suggest taking a look at a couple YouTube videos from Nate at WASD20. The video for Wonderdraft here was created in October 2018 and references the then current version of Inkarnate, while the video for Inkarnate here is an updated review from March 2020.
Where to begin with World Anvil. I mean, WOW! This program offers so much and there are so many different avenues you can take with it. I am using it as a wiki for my own world as I create it. It allows me to keep track of who interacts with who, which culture groups have influenced others and who has history. I could probably make an entire blog post on everything World Anvil can do for you.
Like Inkarnate, World Anvil offers a free version as well as paid options. The premium plans can be paid monthly, 3 or 6 months, or an entire year. Of course the year option is the most cost effective option, however it is the highest immediate denomination. I chose the year myself. There are also four premium levels to choose from as well. There is the Journeyman ($40), “perfect for new worldbuilders & writers”; the Master ($58 and my choice), “For the serious storytellers & worldbuilders”; the Grand Master ($105), “Seasoned creators & perfectionists”; and the ultimate option, Sage ($175/6mo, $300/yr), for the “author, publisher, streamer, or artist looking for a way to increase… revenue.”
World Anvil allows for a ton of cross interaction through their articles. My dashboard hosts an impressive 27 different articles, including characters, countries, religions, languages, settlements, technologies and many more. All of these can be cross-referenced within as well as attributed to categories for quick reference. Most importantly, each article contains prompts to encourage deeper thought and creativity when fleshing out your work. In addition to articles, there is the option to create a timeline for your world in order to better track events, and to tie Inkarnate in, you can upload your created map. An amazing addition to the map is the ability to add overlays that connect to your articles. Want to have a page devoted to the tiny little village your character hails from? Connect it and with one click your followers or subscribers can easily find it on the map? Looking to track the progress of Fellowship of the Ring? Done, well sorta. You would need to create your own version of Middle Earth to do so. I want to note, as many have asked the good people at World Anvil, you can not create a map within World Anvil. You will need a separate program like Inkarnate todo so.
For a more inclusive look at World Anvil and how awesome their team are, I suggest taking a look at their YouTube page where they make tutorials as well as live stream with their community quite frequently.
Have any tools that you use or anything you may have reviewed for your own blog, let me know and I will share it. Comment below anything you like or love to use.