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Review of Storyist: Writing Software for Mac and iOS Devices

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Writing a novel or screenplay, but the enormity of the task is getting in your way? Sounds like it's time to get organized. I am a major advocate for streamlining the process of producing a story, and right now is a fabulous time for authors to get organized. There are many options for software geared toward making the process of writing a long-form story all the less foreboding. I will feature as many of these options as possible over the next few months and discuss the pros and cons of using each option. To start, I present you with Storyist.

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Storyist is a software system available for the Mac and iOS, and it works with Dropbox to make any file usable on both Mac and iPhone, so you can compose a story in the comfort of home, or jot down an idea on the go. Storyist assists novel writing and screenwriting with a user-interface aimed toward organizing the process of producing either. It centers on a page for composition of the draft, but has many functions that allow the author to keep focus on the draft while allowing for multitasking whenever brand new ideas arise in the composition process.

Whether working on a screenplay or a novel, Storyist provides an easy-to-use outlining tool for getting the basics of the story down in one place. The template for outlining is straightforward and easy to learn to use. Storyist encourages the author to outline first, as the outline itself translates into the organizational template for the rest of the draft. Once chapters or scenes are defined in the outline, they can be merged into the draft as pre-drawn divisions. In other words, once a chapter is in the outline, that part can be moved into a note card to be viewed while composing the draft.

Note cards are an essential element in the usefulness of using Storyist. The word processor for drafting is nothing groundbreaking, as it allows for basic composition and altering of basic elements in the text, but everything else that makes Storyist useful is accessible from the text editor. Note cards are one of the greatest features. The author can use note cards to divide the text into chapters, scenes, or any division that is appropriate in the story. From the text editor, the note cards are easy to access as well as hide for reference while writing. This is quite a perk for when those "eureka moments" happen. The author can pull out the tab of note cards, make a note for another part of the novel, and never lose their current place in the draft. With the note card divisions in place, no ideas have to be lost, and there is an intuitive home for brainstorming.

Storyist also allows for notes to be tucked into the draft itself. These notes appear more as post-its, with the note being placed in the sidebar of the draft itself. These notes do not appear when the draft is printed or compiled, they are simply available for reference at specific points in the text. The great usefulness in these notes is in editing. The author can read through and make a note of a part to work on later, rather than having to fix the error on the first read-through. I found this to be quite useful, as being able to leave notes during a read-through allows the author to experience the cadence and flow of their work while editing.

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Storyist is also quite useful in composing screenplays. Screenplays are quite specific in their formatting, and Storyist has you covered. Its screenplay template performs the proper formatting for you with the tap of the TAB button. Its formatting assistance is comparable to Final Draft (my review of Final Draft can be found by clicking here), and it's no wonder, as Storyist can import and export drafts in tandem with Final Draft, making the process of composing a screenplay all the more stress-free.

Storyist also takes advantage of cloud storage and Dropbox to make story composition a process that works between the Mac and iPhone. Once a file is started on either device, Storyist uses Dropbox to synchronize the file between both devices. For example, once a draft is started on the Mac, if the author has the Storyist app on their iPhone, they can save the file, leave their Mac at home, and continue composing the draft right where they left off at any time on their iPhone or iPad. This is quite a useful function for when those moments of inspiration strike while away from the laptop.

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The problems with Storyist are few, but fairly significant. First, the price can be a bit much for most authors. The Mac software is $59 ($29 for upgrade from Storyist 2), and the iOS app is $14.99. To use the function of synchronizing files between devices, both need to be purchased. However, these prices and the need to buy both programs is a common problem for any other comparable software.

Another problem I came across in using the software was that it is not quite straightforward to use at first. There is a little bit of a learning curve in getting to know all the features and power of Storyist, which can make using the software a bit daunting out of the gate. I can see many authors buying the software with their idea ready to go, but having a short period of frustration in needing to spend a week or so getting used to how the program works. Once again, this is not a problem exclusive to Storyist.

If you are interested in using powerful organizational software to compose a long-form story, I would advise you to expect needing a couple of weeks to adjust to using the software before getting too excited about the ideas spilling all over the pages in a fit of creativity. But after investing that time, the process of composing while using Storyist will be quite easy and familiar. The only other complaint is a complaint for many: the software is only available for Apple devices.

In summary, I like Storyist quite a bit. Its "problems" exist across the board for similar software. Once the time is taken to get to know the program, its power and usefulness are quite impressive. And if the price gets to you, then take part in this year's NaNoWriMo. Storyist usually offers a discount on their software to winners, so make sure you have an idea you are willing to see through until the end, which you should since you are serious enough about writing to buy powerful software to support your pursuit of the dream.

Here is a handy video overview of Storyist:

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michael haase, Novel writing, software, Storyist, writing, writing app
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