I should start by saying that yes, I’ve used the word processor you’re about to mention. I’ve tried them all. From yWriter and Scrivener, to Hank’s Writer and OpenOffice, to FocusWriter and Page 4. I’ve probably tried writing apps that you’ve never heard of. I’m the guy in the middle of the Venn diagram of: “Early Adopters,” “Beta Testers,” “Professional Writers,” and “Software Hoarders.” I won’t get into why each of these applications suffers from a near-fatal flaw, and I don’t mean to upset those who find that one of these programs works for them. I just want to build something better. And when I talk to writers about what I want to build, I hear from the vast majority of them that they hope I succeed. Because they haven’t found a writing program they love either.
The second thing I should get out of the way is that I don’t want to build a tool just for my own use. I know very well that there’s no one way to write a novel or a work of non-fiction. And maybe it’s hubris to think that my writing application would be better for most authors than what’s out there. So be it. It takes hubris to want to write a book and think anyone will bother reading it. It’s even worse to write a blog post and think anyone will care. And yet, here I am.
I’m going to lay out the design and features of my perfect word processor program, which I’ve dubbed Neo. I’m in the early stages of looking at consultancies and programming teams to ascertain what it would take to build this. It might be years. I might have to brush up on my programming chops and spend decades doing it myself. It might cost me a huge chunk of change. If it does get built, I hope to make it open source, so we can improve it over time and it can meet the needs of the most number of writers. But it won’t be design-by-committee. Bloat has ruined some of my favorite writing applications.
So let’s talk about Neo.
Neo is going to understand from the beginning that you are an author. You aren’t writing a blog, or a school report, or for a newspaper. You are writing books.
When you first install Neo, it’s going to have two sets of questions for you. The first question will be for your name, address, and pen names. You can leave all of this blank if you want, and your author name will appear as “Anonymous.” The address bit is in case you’re planning to query agents (it’ll appear on your formatted manuscript). The pen name will appear on the title page if you enter one. Again, you can leave it all blank, but entering at least your name will ensure that it shows up in every document with you as the author.
Neo will next ask if you are a pantser or a plotter (and the program will give a brief description of the difference if you aren’t sure). Don’t worry, you can change your preference at any time and for each WIP. This just changes how Neo opens new documents for you. And also don’t worry about Neo being convoluted or confusing to the user. Once Neo has your name and writing style, it’s done with the questions.
Neo is going to be kept as small as possible, so that it’s fast and can run directly from a single executable. This means Neo can live on a USB stick dangling from your keychain. Plug Neo into any computer, and start writing. Write at the library, on break at work, from a friend’s computer, from a school computer, from your desktop or laptop. You can also leave the executable on a single machine if you don’t want to go the USB route. Part of the power of Neo is that you can have your WIPs (works in progress) wherever you are. There’s no excuse not to be writing.
However you run Neo (from your laptop or a USB stick), you can password protect the program so only you can open it. Your documents can be encrypted as well. Personally, I prefer things to just open quickly and won’t use the password features, but I understand they’ll be important to many users, so the option will be included.
Cloud saves and syncing will also be incorporated. Your WIPs will stay up-to-date, and you won’t lose your work.
The last thing Neo will do when you install the program is ask if you want to import any of your current WIPs. If you elect to do so, you will be given a standard file dialog. Select Word documents, .epubs, .mobis, .txts, .rtfs, and Neo will convert them and add them to your bookshelf. Speaking of which…
When you open Neo for the first time, you will be greeted by an empty bookshelf. Eventually, this bookshelf will be full of your published masterpieces, rough drafts, book ideas, outlines, submitted manuscripts, and so on. For now, there’s just a blank white page in the upper left. A single click of this blank page will open your first WIP.
If you imported some WIPs, your bookshelf will already be populated. Take some time and rearrange your bookshelf by dragging the files around however you like. If you pulled in .mobi or .epub files, Neo will assume these are published works. The cover art will display in thumbnail, rather than a white document. Other works will just show the title and author name on the cover. Feel free to add cover art whenever you like. I find that I bend to the task of writing when I have cover art in place. It’s already a book in my mind, ready to be filled with words.
If you’ve set word count estimates for your works, a subtle progress bar at the bottom will show how far along you are. You can add as many shelves to your bookshelf as you like and scroll up and down to see them all. Each shelf can be labeled. You might have a shelf for each of your romance series. Or a shelf of outlines and book ideas, another shelf for WIPs you hope to return to, a shelf for manuscripts currently on submission to agents. However you organize your bookshelf is up to you.
You can also have multiple instances of works, and they’ll stay synced together. Maybe my novel SAND is on my “Published Works” shelf and also on my “SAND Series” shelf. This allows you to place several works on the top shelf so you can keep working on them, without having to remove them from where they need to be to stay organized. If you’re like me, you have dozens of Word docs scattered on your hard drive – works in progress, story ideas, published works – and finding them is a chore. Neo understands that you are dedicated to your writing and that you will generate dozens of WIPs, outlines, and book ideas over many years of writing. As you expand your library, you’ll find Neo is ready.
Most of your time will be spent in your WIP, getting awesome writing done. Here’s where most writing programs fail, because they make distraction-free writing seem like plan B. Like an option you need to dig around in menus to turn on and off. Neo is built from the ground up for distraction-free writing, where options only intrude when you need them.
The best writing application I ever used was an old version of Pages, back before Apple ruined the program. In full-screen mode, you had a white document with black borders on either side. At the bottom, the only things visible were the current page number and the total document word count. That was it. You didn’t even have your toolbar and start menu down there (or Apple Dock). Instead, your writing environment lived on its own screen. A three-finger swipe was required to move you back to the rest of your computer. When you were in writing mode, the other things your computer could do simply disappeared.
This is what Neo will look like while writing:
If you mouse over to the left, you’ll get a navigation pane. This will show thumbnails of each page of your book. The first page of new chapters will have a large chapter numbers on them. If you prefer to navigate by chapter, there’s a simple slider button to switch back and forth. This is to give you a general idea:
(Please note that I’m relegated to Microsoft Paint for this. The red stripe on one of the pages shows a note that needs to be addressed. More about these later.)
If you mouse over to the right, you’ll see comments and notes. You can drop these in yourself, or they might be part of the markup and track changes if you’ve gotten a work back from your editor. There’s a button here to “stick” this side open while working on revisions.
If you mouse down to the bottom, you’ll find tabs. Yes, TABS! Gone are the days of having a separate document full of notes, or a separate outline. My favorite tab here is the “Darlings” tab, which is always to the far right. This is a trashcan of sorts, but one that saves your trash. Any paragraph that’s gumming up the works, but you can’t delete because we’re writers and we fear that the last sentence we wrote will be the last sentence we EVER write, you can drag into the Darlings tab, and it’ll be saved while getting out of the way of your WIP. More on the Darlings tab later.
You can rename the tabs if you like, but one is by default called Notes and the other is Outline. If you change the names of these tabs in several documents, Neo will note this and change the default in future documents, so you don’t have to keep doing it (a simple thing to program that will make it feel like Neo is listening and learning from you).
On the bottom, you can also click the page number to cycle it through chapter number if you like. And you can click the total word count to see instead the chapter word count. Very similar to the reading interface on the Kindle. Options without the clutter.
The bottom of the document is also where you’ll find productivity prompts, which we’ll get to later.
And at the top, you’ll have your File menu and some basic formatting options. Formatting will be kept to a minimum in Neo. There won’t be lots of “styles” to choose from, and only a few fonts installed by default. Most of the formatting will be doable with a simple right-click from within the writing pane, without having to mouse up at all. Highlight a paragraph and right click to see centering options, bold, italics, and a few others. Neo knows you’re writing a book, not a presentation for work. The cool formatting stuff is there, but most of it is automatic. Let’s discuss some of that…
Formats and Formatting
Neo is biased towards .mobi and .epub files, because it knows that most books are now being sold in digital form than anyhow else. It will also output to PDF, .doc, .txt. .rtf. One neat feature is that you can output to “manuscript,” and Neo will change your font to Times New Roman, doublespace the entire document, unjustify the margins, include your name and address in the top corner, and attach any cover letters or query letters you might have included in the WIP as tabs.
The main focus, however, is perfect ebook files. Complying with Amazon’s standards will be a huge goal, as well as keeping up with them as they change. That means TOCs are in the right place. It means cover art is the right resolution and size. It also means a place to enter metadata once your work is ready to be published (and Neo will walk you through creating this metadata, and remember your choices so it gets easier and quicker over time).
Some of the best formatting magic happens in Neo while you’re writing. When you open a new document, Neo will already have a title page in place, with your author name and “Untitled” highlighted. Type a new title or leave it untitled for now. If you have a subtitle in mind, there’s a place for that (maybe this is part of a series, which Neo is also looking for).
When you hit Enter, Neo will create a new chapter, number it for you, and give you a cursor. Start typing, and you’ll notice that Neo automatically makes the first paragraph non-indented with a large drop-cap for the first letter. This is to remind you that you’re writing an awesome book that people are going to love. And as a visual cue for the starts of chapters. This formatting will be carried into the ebook files and PDFs if you so choose.
Neo also keeps up with your chapter numbers. Want to insert a new chapter in the middle of your WIP? Neo will auto-update all the other chapter numbers. A quick hotkey creates a new chapter, so no need to go to the file menu and choose Insert > Page Break, then type a chapter number and center this and make the font bigger, and then go down and left-justify the first sentence, etc. Just Alt-C and start typing the next scene.
One thing you will notice when it comes to formatting is what Neo doesn’t do. It doesn’t nag you for perfection in your rough draft. Misspelled words will not be underlined. You’re writing a historical novel or an urban fantasy story – you know this made-up word is made up, thank you very much. The last thing your creative brain needs is a klaxon shouting WRONG while you’re in the middle of a creative thought. Eventually, as you use Neo, you’ll stop thinking about spelling and typos. This will push your creativity to the next level. You can always step through a spell check any time you like. But not while you’re writing. (Word just gave me a green squiggly for that last sentence fragment. Neo would know not to bother.)
This feature is worth pointing out in its own section. In Neo, you can create a Global End Matter file. This is the material that will go in the end of your digital ebook editions. It should have links to social media feeds, links to other works you’ve written, a brief bio, an author website link, and so on. By creating a single end matter file, Neo will make sure all your WIPs are up to date. When you publish a new ebook, Neo will ask if you want to add this to your end matter. It will then update the end matter of all your other ebooks, create new .mobi and .epub files, and remind you to republish them. Professional authors know what a huge deal this is and how many more readers it will lead to. Neo will also be smart enough to keep multiple editions of .epub files for different retailers, so Apple links are in the Apple ebook.
You can also create per-document and per-series end matter. And create a new end matter file for each pen name if you like (so racy stuff isn’t linked to from the tame, or to tailor your message to a series’ audience, say). Of course, you can ignore the end matter feature entirely and publish your works without any end matter at all. This stuff may sound confusing to the new writer, but it is very important and will save metric shit-tons of time compared to doing it all manually with every file (not to mention updating older files).
If you told Neo that you’re a plotter, not a pantser, you’ll have seen something different when you open a new document for the first time. Neo will have started you in the outline tab. You’ll still name your document, but you won’t have a separate title page. Instead, the title will be at the top of a waiting outline. Here, you type a short description for each chapter (or leave it as a number if you like). And then you type a scene list, or a description of what happens in each chapter. The TAB key will move you in and out of outline levels, and the ENTER key will move you to the next line.
When you move to the writing tab at the bottom of the document, you’ll find your description of that chapter and your scene list in the notes and comments pane on the right. The default for you plotters will be for this pane to be stickied open, but you can hide it if you like. On the left, the navigation page will show your outline and where you are in the outline. You can revert back to the page/chapter navigation panel as well. Each of your WIPs can be written in either style. Pantsers can try plotting and vice versa. If you start your document in the pants mode, you’ll find the outline tab is waiting for you at the bottom, a great place to add notes and to-do items. When you open it, you’ll find yourself in the same place of the outline that you just left from the writing pane. Again, all of this is optional.
Neo will come with some cool productivity features. They will be simple to set up, not things that cause you to spend more time fiddling with the program rather than writing (as if writers were fond of procrastinating!)
The bottom of the screen will house these productivity features, right below the tabs. Here, you can enter your guess for the total word count of the project (If you are new to writing, you’ll be surprised at how good you get at estimating the final word count of your projects). You can also enter your daily word count goal. Click on these, and Neo will bring up graphs of your progress, very similar to NaNoWriMo’s excellent graphs.
You can also turn email reminders on or off. Neo will email you if you start missing your goals, and these goals and thresholds can be changed with sliders from the top menu bar. I’d love to see Neo include the last few sentences you wrote in your WIP in its email, as a nudge forward.
You can set session goals as well, with internet blocking. Tell Neo you want to write 500 words or for 1 hour, and it will disable your internet adapter and start counting. Neo will also keep track of how many total hours you’ve spent in your documents. And it’ll show you a “Total Plus” word count. This is the number of words including the words you’ve deleted along the way, plus the words written in notes and outlines. It gives you a fairer sense of how much work you’ve put into what ended up being a short story.
You can use Neo without delving into the productivity features. You don’t even need to use the tabs, which are at the bottom as well. But they’re there if you need them, and out of the way if you don’t. I see the Darlings tab as an extension of these productivity items. Often, a well-written but unneeded paragraph or scene keeps us from moving forward in our WIP. We can’t delete it, but it’s holding us back. Productivity plummets.
All you have to do in Neo is highlight the chapter or scene and drag it toward the bottom of the screen. The tabs will appear. Drop the selection on the “Darlings” tab, and those words will be saved in case you need them again. The psychological impact of this cannot be overstated. Writing continues with no remorse for what’s lost. And Neo remembers where the darlings came from if you want to restore them at any time. You can even publish a “Director’s Cut” version of the original for your diehard fans to check out. (This can include the outline and notes tabs, a behind-the-scenes version for those who will enjoy this).
The Notes tab is another productivity tool that will come in handy. How many times have you written notes right in the WIP? Now you can highlight those and drag them to the Notes tab. It remembers where you wrote the note, in case it’s scene-specific. More ways to simply highlight, drag, move on, and keep writing.
A couple of features for the in-the-writing mode. I hate having to stop writing to go into a file menu on a program, because it breaks the flow and makes me think about checking my email or any other number of things that don’t include writing. The simple em dash is an example. Unless you set up a macro, Word and some other programs don’t have easy access to this necessary literary tool. Neo has preset macros for the em dash, ellipses (which are a single unit of three periods, rather than three actual periods, which keeps them from being split up in pagination), and other useful symbols. These are easily accessed in the “Symbols” menu option, with the shortcuts for each shown right beside them.
Another thing that breaks my flow is when I need a placeholder for something to research or revisit later. I often find I need to mark a place to come back to, rather than jump onto Chrome to look something up, or pause to think of a new character’s name. I usually type “XXX” and remember to search for this latter. But in Neo, I’ll simply Alt-X and move on. Neo will insert a question mark and create a sticky note. The default will be to keep typing and not even fill out the note, but you can click over and do this in the right hand pane if you like. The point is to keep writing but have reminders to come back to these places that need more time, thought, or an internet break.
Dream additions to Neo that I am still wrapping my brain around include ways of keeping up with which works have been submitted for publication where. Maybe you have manuscripts out to agents, and you want to keep up with who has a copy and nudge them at a certain auto-preset date. (There are great standalone apps for this, but I would want to integrate it. Even if you are primarily self-published, you can keep up with which anthologies a short work is in, which books are in which boxsets, which short works are submitted to Lightspeed or literary journals and prizes, what books are in KU and which ones are published more widely).
Another dream addition would be to convince Amazon to allow KDP integration, so Neo can publish directly to your dashboard; keep up with sales, page reads, earnings, free copies given away; update end matter with a single click; and make typo fixes a cinch. Even better would be for all online retailers to provide an API for this or standardize the process, but now I’m beyond dream territory. Sadly, this will never happen.
That’s Neo in a nutshell. I know there are writing tools made just for authors. There are even writing tools made by authors (some really good ones). What sets Neo apart is the sum of its features. Less bloat than general purpose writing applications, less confusing than Scrivener, more useful than typewriter apps, and much more geared for ebook creation and publication. But also ready for querying agents and PDF / print-on-demand as well. Neo will even keep up with the draft you sent to ACX for the audio edition, so you can know how it differs from later, updated ebook editions.
Neo will be designed from the ground up to be portable, so you can take it everywhere. It’s secure and synced, so you don’t lose files or give away access to them. It organizes works on more than name and date last opened, so now you can organize by genre, series, length, publican plans, etc. Your files can sit on several such bookshelves without making undue copies. And when you’re in Neo, the focus is on writing. Not on formatting.
Ideally, Neo will be open sourced and free to use. I’m exploring any and all options. Maybe something branded for NaNoWriMo, or Goodreads, an ebook retailer, or a writing website. If you have thoughts, leave a comment below. I’m currently talking with programmers and consultants on how to get this done. Might be a decade before anything comes to light, so don’t hold your breath. But I’m willing to invest the time and money to make this a reality.
103 replies to “Neo – A Word Processor for Authors”
Thanks in advance Hugh. I’m an aspiring writher and haven’t found any program that feels comfortable to write in. All seem like square peg in round hole…..I default to MS Word because that’s what I know best but heaven forbid I should finish something and try to publish. Soooooo, is it done yet? Is it done yet??? Good luck and keep us updated on progress.
Hey Hugh big fan here!
I’m starting a free designated driving service here in Durango, CO. What our service will provide the public with is free rides home from bars and a free pick-up the next day if the rider blows .000s we will take them back to their vehicle. This will all be paid for by internet funding!
I know. What does this have to do with books right?
Well my idea is this; if someone buys my book I will give 100% of that money to fund my business start up! Anyway, I was wondering if you could offer me any feedback on this idea.
Thanks for hearing me out! SAIL ON BROTHER! ~Bob Page~
The only thing I see missing here is ‘open to last location’. This is something word does, scrivener doesn’t need to, and google docs (my current program) does not. It makes it easier to keep track of where you’re up to when editing.
Though, it would be cooler to have more in depth tracking for that. I assume you have an option to move from ‘draft’ to ‘editing’ and highlight those pesky typos? Perhaps it could have a way to track what has been edited, too.
You’ve clearly thought long and hard about this. The things you mention are gripes I never knew I had. Now you’ve pointed them out I’m aching for them to be fixed.
I know the SPP guys are taking a shot at their own novel writing program, but so far, Neo is the one I’m hanging on a thread for.
Amy — good thought about it keeping track of where you are when editing. I’ll add that it needs an option to zero that out so you can start over. A lot of writers make multiple passes, whether they’re just going over a manuscript multiple times in general, or whether they’re looking for something different with each pass. They’d need to be able to tell Neo, “Okay, I’m done with this editing pass and starting a new one, so zero out the “Last Location” field.
Yes! But without the painstaking tedium that scrivener requires (navigate to menu, open each individual file, mark each individual file).
I want it to be psychic. Also smarter than me.
FWIW, there’s a google docs plugin that takes you to your last position in the document. IIRC, the plugin is called OpenHere (I tried gdoc but failed to succeed, but if that plugin helps you until Neo is ready, enjoy!)
Sounds like how I try and configure any app I use.
Would beta test.
You’ve mentioned integration with publishing services (where possible). I’d love to see an option to auto format the book into Kindle and Smashwords formats. Having an option for a change to the front matter and end matter for SW vs Amazon vs whoever else would be amazing since SW has very specific requirements.
I know your heart will first focus on KDP and I’m more than happy with that, I just think it’d be awesome if you threw a line out to these different services to ask about integrating their requirements (or allowing options to do so quickly with Neo).
Finally, your outline sounds pretty solid. Look forward to seeing what you develop.
Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration.
This sounds truly incredible and I need it. Good luck to you!
This sounds like a cool project to be a part of. I may mess around with it for fun. I like your ideas and how you’ve presented them. It’s always easier to program something when someone knows what they want.
If you get serious about that, let me know.
I will definitely let you know if I have something resembling it.
Hey Hugh, that’s actually a terrific idea that as a writer (not to mention a publisher and editor) I would love to see materialize. To this end, do you think we can set up the time to both talk to you about it coming onboard as a wish campaign (on WishKnish), and also, offering our programming arm to see if we may be a good partner for you in putting it together / marketing it, coming as we are from a joint programming – publishing perspective?
Sure. Shoot me an email. First and last name together at gmail.
I nodded along in tacit agreement until I got to the notes and tabs features: they would be amazing improvements on anything else out there! Trying to collate and prioritise notes scattered throughout a 150k word WIP is proving… trying… in Scrivener.
This is something that’s sorely needed, and I’m glad you’re generously looking into making it a reality. I find that no matter which writing software I use, there are always issue. I’ve lost scenes to Scrivener due to the way it creates files (separate documents rather than one), trudged through the linear nature of Microsoft Word and Google Docs, and finally fought with final export to publish. So it’s nice to hear that you’re planning to have ebook files the standard during creation.
Because I’m a visual person, I find mind mapping software useful during the ideation phase. Scapple, for example, allows me to just throw ideas onto the page, move them around, connect them with other ideas, disconnect them, etc. Even when outlining in Scrivener it feels somewhat linear. Scapple just has notes floating around on an endless canvas, allowing you to play with story flow in a much more intuitive manner. Something like this may be worth considering for Neo.
I have loved writing since childhood. My attempts are amateur at best. I do however love to convert my imagination to page.
Many years ago I had, for me, some success with my partwork – “Bag Lady Popsicle”. I never made any money but loved the thrill of several hundred people reading it. Alas i lost the floppy discs it was stored on but still dream of re-writing it.
I’ve been tempted to publish on Amazon. I don’t expect to make a living writing – just love the pleasure of sharing.
Are there any helpful tips you could share on book cover design. I wonder if there are freeware programs for this for those on a low budget.
My favourite work of yours is “The Shell Collector”. It connected with me on a very deep emotional level and surpassed the excellent “Wool”
This sounds a lot like how I’ve configured Writemonkey, word, calmly writer, IAwriter, and Google docs.
Would love to be involved or beta test. You know how to get a hold of me.
I’m nearly salivating at what you’ve described so far. Here are a few thoughts that crossed my mind as I read through the description:
Productivity: Add a timer ala the Pomodoro Method.
Scene cards (like those described in Story Genius) would be nice to have as a popup from the dedicated writing window so I can glance at what my scene is supposed to be doing without having to jump completely into the outline and risk breaking the flow.
Plugins: Allow for modular additions (through opensource awesomeness) so other developers can make modules that people could choose to install (skins or mods).
Screenwriting should have a mode due to its own specific formatting quirks.
Allow for forking documents (similar to Github).
Allow for collaborative writing and opensource storytelling (again drawing inspiration from Github).
I’ve got this vague itching thought about finding ways to incorporate machine learning so that Neo learns how I like to write, what my tendencies are, and how I can work to improve. I’m thinking about something like an editing mode that helps to find overused phrases or metaphors, or an outlining mode that anticipates when and how I’ll move to drafting and when I’ll need to get back to the outlining.
The editing learning would be wonderful. I keep sticky notes with my overused phrases and I add to it as I go.
It’d be nice to have something that was my editing list overall. What are some series specific editing things I need to check in any book in that series? Then there might be some penname specific issues.
Oops that should be:
Main editing list that follows me everywhere.
But also some that are more related to a particular series or penname, etc
I’d love to see this come to life, even though I flinch at the magnitude of the task. I personally believe the best products in this market are critically flawed, which translates into opportunity.
One thought, among many: you are describing a product that needs to be optimized for two major functions (productive writing and ebook formatting). How about focussing on the writing functionality, at least at first, and leave publishing to a best-in-class alternative, like Vellum. Both pieces of functionality are major challenges and the combination (at least at first) could be a killer due to overreach.
This is a really good descriptive business requirement document, but I think you need someone to draft functional requirements to get to all the use cases. It is a big project and looks like a damn load of fun to create. I have zero coding ability, but I am a damn good business analyst. :) I write complex requirements for a very large broker dealer by day and have for the last 35 years. I would love to be involved in this.
Yeah, that would be the next step. Would be great to have you onboard. What I might do next is gather together a handful of the people who sound interested and discuss how we might put a team together.
Let me know. This sounds like such an awesome project.
I am a professional business analyst who specializes in documenting software requirement, which is necessary for most application projects. I have over 25 years experience. I would love working on your project. Let me know if you are interested.
If you’re looking for software engineers, let me know what kind of budget you have in mind. Although I like Scrivener, I sometimes find myself daydreaming about writing something more tailored to my workflow, including some of your suggestions, but then have to stop myself, because writing stories is more important to me than writing software. On the other hand if this could get me out of the day job and some better writing software, then sweet!
I am currently looking for engineers, yes. My hope is that I can find someone who is also a writer, so they have passion for the project and understand what needs to be done.
Do technical and/or screen writing count? I’ll admit, I’m a much better programmer than I am a writer, but I’ve spent some time under the words-to-deadline gun. If you want to do this as open-source, count me in!
Sounds freaking awesome. Sign me up in a decade or whenever you release!
This sounds amazing.
I do like the capacity to associate research of all kinds with a given novel/work in some way. PIcs, music, docs, webpages – that is handy.
Can’t wait :)
Love your work!
I caught your earlier FB post about this. Please check your LinkedIn messages for more about why I’m the guy to build this for you.
Hey Cliff. I haven’t been on LinkedIn in a long time. I’ll email you with a group message soon. Or feel free to email me directly. My first and last name, no spaces, at gmail.
I’ve used Scrivener for years. If this project becomes a reality, I think there is no question: I would leave Scrivener high and dry!
I’m interested. In addition to selfpublishing 10 novels, I have spent the past thirty years in IT project management and application development management. I started with xedit, published my thesis using WordStar, have taught WordPerfect and Word. I am nearing the end of my corporate life, and would love to have a project to do in retirement.
My goodness, you sound overqualified! I’ll include you in a group email I’m sending out in upcoming weeks to try to gather people together on this.
Overqualified? That is what you want. Do you want Ernest Hemingway or Joe Blow? Let’s talk. I’m willing to work for future considerations. References available. This is the most exciting idea I’ve heard in a long time.
I know you’re not looking for app recommendations, but Ulysses for the Mac checks a good number of the boxes you laid out above. Contacting them might get the ball rolling on taking care of much of the rest of the wish list — you never know. Their website is here (https://ulyssesapp.com). Merely a pleased, writing customer.
You should consider making a website to host people’s files. Either that or make it compatible with google docs, dropbox, etc, so users can sync with files online. USB stick mobility is nice but that’s old tech. Bluetooth, phone storage, cloud is the future. What if your app (let’s call it an app) connects to the user’s phone and uploads the updated files to a storage site of their choice, when a data/mobile/wifi link to detected. Ease of use is great but freedom of choice is what will set your app apart from the pack.
I like it. You will keep us updated I hope. I like your ideas. I use Scrivener but there are some things I don’t like about it. Thanks!
The name Neo might confuse some writers who remember working on the Alphasmart Neo. I’d consider a different name.
I love Scrivener, but this sounds like it will have a huge number of unique and desirable elements to offer so… I’m looking forward to it. I do happen to still use an Alphasmart Neo – a chunky little self-contained word processor from the last century. I don’t think most people would find the name confusing, but a lot of us NaNoWriMo refugees use the Neo or one of its cousins.
Can’t wait to see what comes of your project – it sounds likely to smooth out so many of the rough edges of the writing to publishing process.
Kieran, I thought Hugh was referencing that older device intentionally.
Please make a .deb so I can run it on Linux! ;-)
I’m so excited to see what comes of this. As I read the description I kept thinking of how things would fall into place from a Mac perspective vs. a Windows vs. an online iteration (if there is one). I have loads of questions to ask about how aspects will be addressed e.g. How will syncing be handled when online files are not in sync with USB stored ones. <— not a question for you, but for the project. If you find a need for someone with Mac user expertise from Executive IT support perspective, please let me know. I would love to give back to all that you've given us.
I’ve had no programming since high school BASIC (heh) but I would beta-test this in a heartbeat.
I’m using Word because Scrivener is too dang fiddly, and I will die on my creatives-can-use-PCs-just-fine hill, so I haven’t used the Mac-only software. GoogleDocs is fine if I’m collaborating with someone but will never be my preference. I was pretty fond of Q10 for distraction-free writing (and the nifty typewriter sounds), but it lacks formatting, so I ended up back at Word.
I’ve self-published six books of various length, and despite the various programs I’ve tried to use for formatting them, I always go back to Word. It may be clunky, but it’s what I know. Neo, however, sounds like it will just KNOW what I need it to do.
All that to say, if you’re making a list of beta-testers, I want to be on it!
i will code your app.
there would need to be a few small
reality-based modifications, but it
can happen faster than you imagine.
I’m an ex IT exec (IBM) from Brazil and presently a fiction author. I have developed (in fact outsourced the development as I program only for leisure purposes nowadays) several internet business.
I can contribute with ideas, my experience as a writer, as an entrepreneur, help gauge interest from investor and/or also invest.
Consider me in!
Tried ’em all, Hugh? Let’s see if I can stump you: XyWrite — my first WP. Talk about basic!
Sounds like a wonderful (and challenging) project. Best of luck with it. Here are a couple of love-to-haves after a quick read over your specs (and you may already have on the list):
1. Color Text Formatting. I use colors a lot for various purposes.
2. Tabs. Yay! But need really easy to see/get to. I use tabs a lot in Google Docs (my current WP).
3. Windows: would prefer to have more than one window open. I have at least two windows going side-by-side (with multiple tabs on each): (A) scene outline, (B) WIP. I like seeing and updating them both at the same time.
4. Advanced Search/Find. I use Search/Find constantly but would like something more robust. If possible.
Good luck with it!
I was thinking that multiple windows would be great if it would work across multiple monitors.
It’s frustrating to have 2 or 3 monitors but my writing app only really uses one.
Harald – please share how you use tabs in gdocs. I’ve got a little notebook program I use on my Fire tablet when I’m out and about I love because it has all my story stuff in one place. But I have no control over the saves, easy exporting to other programs, and would love to just do it all in docs (one master file with a tab for story, tab for research, tab for sources, etc).
1. Open a new, empty browser window that shows tabs. I use Chrome.
2.. In Google, go to Options (the little grid of square boxes at top)
3. Open up Drive (the green-yellow-blue triangle); this becomes your left-most tab.
4. Click the “NEW” box to create new tabs, which will appear to the right of your Drive tab.
Software architect by trade. Sounds like a fun project.
If I could make a few suggestions:
– open document format. You’d want to be able to leave the platform with your books, if it wasn’t working for you.
– version control. It’s sort of there with the “Darlings” concept. But sort of not. You probably don’t want to get bogged down with check-in/out, but you could have an automatic version history so it’s just there if you ever need it.
– phased approach to development. Your complete feature list is big. Is there a subset of features that adds value to the writing process? Maybe the core writing features are one release, publishing another, and library management a third.
– MS Paint? Dude. Something like https://balsamiq.com/ works pretty well for creating wireframe concepts. Of course, you’re probably better off using Paint and going for a hike up a mountain in the south Pacific than you are sitting in front of a computer learning a new tool,
Agree about version control. Automatic version control, a la Google Docs but with a more intuitive history interface is really important.
My goodness, Hugh, this is awesome.
I couldn’t get into Scrivener because I’m a pantser and I need portability. I’ll need Linux capability in the future, as well. And I’m almost drooling about all the formatting and backmatter options. Those are a dream. (And I only have a few books up, but should be updating them regularly, a real chore.)
Please… if there is any way I can help, let me know. I’ll donate. I’ll beta test. I’ll shout about it to all my writing friends. (I have no programming abilities, unfortunately.) Please make this happen!
Yes, please! I have tried a few writing programs and recently attempted to use Adobe Story. The interface for me was confusing. I use almost all of the Adobe graphics programs, so I thought the learning curve would be minimal. It was not. I returned to Word. I love the simplicity of the plain white page. Before the cloud storage, I lost work that resided on missing USB drives or on a melted laptop, so I really like your approach to portability. Another attractive feature to me would be the session goals and tracking. Fantastic. Keeping up with the “darlings” is a wonderful idea too. I have files that I keep separate from the main document that are notes or parts removed and they are a mess and a hassle. Your combination of features is something I would really like to use. If by chance you need graphics assistance, I’d love to help. And I’ve love to see this software on my computer too.
I’m sure you’ve come across StoryShop, the app built by the Sterling and Stone guys (https://storyshop.io/). I was a backer of the Kickstarter so got a lifetime subscription. It started out as an outlining tool, then the guys decided to make it a full-blown text editor.
It took an age for it to launch (it was the best part of a year late), but now the outlining component of it is available and is pretty good. The next step is to include the text editor so you can put everything in one place – all accessible in-browser and saved to the cloud.
Anyway, if you haven’t already, it may be worth trying to collaborate with S&S to make StoryShop better and more sustainable. Their philosophy seems to be similar to yours – simple, intuitive outlining and word processing. Having seen the huge amount of work (and cost) that was involved in developing it, it may cut out a lot of the work you have ahead of you if you start from scratch. They were working with a good developer who gave regular updates on progress (or lack thereof). Worth considering anyway.
I think StoryShop still has a way to go, but I use it a lot for outlining and building character profiles – then I export to Scrivener. Would be cool to do it all in one place, then export a final file.
PS: Let me know when you sail into Auckland, would love to show you around town.
Hey man, I’ll be in Auckland with the boat around mid-December. We should for sure get together.
I’ve been following SS from a distance. Haven’t talked to those guys in a while. Might be nice to check in and see where they are to root them along. But I don’t want to step in and alter the vision of an existing project. However — if someone makes this so I don’t have to, that’s the best case scenario. I just want this program to exist.
The problem is story shop is $100/year.
Scrivener, while not perfect, does everything for $40 as a one time fee.
Hugh, not to beg, but if you could come up with something affordable that would be so appealing to me and I think alot of writers.
Just checked https://storyshop.io/…US$ 99!! Way too expensive. And it has too many features also. I’m looking for something simple – as Hugh’s ideia. Something non-distracting that will let me focus on what matters.
Have you considered approaching Amazon with your product idea since you are using their publishing platform ? They may be interested in having a branded product to offer their authors, especially if it helps them output in the correct format to be published automatically.
They already have experience developing some of their own software products (or have access to developers) and may choose to pay for or support such a development, but are just waiting for some worthwhile ideas?
Just a thought…
I am absolutely giddy at the thought of using a program like this! I always keep my outlines in actual notebooks while I write in Microsoft Word. It would be amazing to have every single thing in one place like this.
I would most definitely love to sign up for Beta testing when/if it becomes available.
I’ve 15+ years of interface development under belt and am leading a frontend development unit in a startup that is doing rather well. I also have 7+ years of open source experience. Here are a few words of advice
* on scope – from your description, minus the occasional kitchen sink, you should be able to get to minimum viable product sort of prototype in 6 months with a talented dev team (max 3 devs). If you start it as open source straight off the bat (which is awfully easy with github being there and free), you’ll be surprised how quickly a project can gain momentum when it resonates. Aim for getting to the first usable version in a year, then from there it’s a never ending cycle of development that you don’t have to necessarily be part of, as long as the design principles and the character of the app have been established and are respected. See yourself as the CEO of the project, and look for a CTO of sorts. I’m not talking actual titles, but you have to find someone who knows technology, who knows modern technology, who agrees with your vision, and someone you can trust to not drop the ball; this is quite possibly the most crucial point for the project to succeed.
* technology – with everything moving into the web, desktop software is a dying breed. There are plenty apps out there that live in the web and still have solid offline experience (like google docs) – there is no reason for your app not to take the same approach.
* the team – with respect to other commentators, this is not a retirement project. While I’m a huge fan of serendipity, you also most likely do not want to just grab the first people advertising themselves as available – even if their work is free – i’ve seen all too many projects die due to enthusiasm without matching skill and talent.
* Money – while open source would be free, it would also take time to find the right people with the right skills and the matching motivation (people do open source for, both, ideological reasons, as well as to get their name out there and have something to point at in their CVs). Paying a specialist would let you speed things up, but it’s a financial nightmare that can be expressed in multiples of annual salaries (for devs that’s anywhere from 60-150k $/year, depending on skill and geographical location) – if the project flops, you might have the world’s most expensive authoring tool on your hands. Still, if you would be looking into such option, i’d recommend hiring remotely (e.g. weworkremotely.com). But to be honest, i’d look for skilled enthusiasts and aim open source. Or i’d go the completely opposite direction and from the bat think of ways to monetise the project (e.g. annual subscriptions) which would somewhat justify the risk of throwing money out of the window.
I hope my comment helps. Please don’t be shy to poke me via email if i can help with more advice!
Great advice! Definitely want to open source this if possible. My only hesitation is that a million things get bolted on, and you end up with another Scrivener. But if we (whoever “we” becomes) can keep the design focused, open source is my preference. It matches my publishing decisions, which has been to make my worlds open and shared.
Not looking to profit off of this. I understand it could cost me a lot of money and go nowhere.
What about crowdfunding? Given the enthusiasm here, I bet a lot of writers would chip in a few bucks to make this a reality – I know I will. I’d also like to help in whatever way I can – beta testing, etc. Selfishly, I’d love to use something lighter and less distracting than Scrivener. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I like about Scrivener (namely, writing on both my laptop and tablet), but Neo would increase my productivity. More altruistically, I’d love for my students to have a decent word processor for my classes – distraction-free writing in Neo would benefit them immensely.
I might be open to crowdfunding, but the plan was just to fund this myself and make it available for use. It’ll depend on what the engineers say.
Awesome idea. I’ve tried a couple of those other programs too, and nothing made me leave MS Word.
You didn’t mention a way to toggle chapters on and off. Having a new chapter pop up when you hit [Enter} after entering your title is cool if you’re writing a novel, or something shorter with chapters, but if you’re not using chapters, that could be kind of annoying. Maybe, “Will this work have chapters?” could be added to the questions asked at the start. Although that’d need to be flexible too; I’ve had short stories turn into novels before. :P
Great concept, though. I’ll definitely give it a shot, whenever you have something ready.
Sounds great, Hugh. And something I would love to try when it’s available. Thanks for the effort to create something really suited for book writers! –Dennis
Hugh, not an engineer/software geek. Just one more word wrangler. That said, beta test a lot of programs. (Have built websites.) If you’re growing a list of beta testers, please include me.
I suspect the type of writer Neo will attract value Intuitiveness, simplicity and mega powers in data collection. Bravo!
This sounds marvelous. I’m half in love already with this thing, but I do have two suggestions (and forgive me if this is in here and I missed it).
First, what about an option to draft in scenes instead of chapters? I don’t even think about chapters until I’m deep into edits, and that is the only reason why I’m working with Scrivener now—the ability to write scenes in any order and then just drag and drop them where they need to go.
And would there be a global search-and-replace function? My characters have the annoying habit of changing names halfway through a manuscript, sometimes more than once, and I doubt I’m the only one.
This sounds marvelous. I’m half in love already with this thing, but I do have two suggestions (and forgive me if this is in here and I missed it).
First, what about an option to draft in scenes instead of chapters? I don’t even think about chapters until I’m deep into edits, and that is the only reason why I’m working with Scrivener now—the ability to write scenes in any order and then just drag and drop them where they need to go.
And would there be a global search-and-replace function? My characters have the annoying habit of changing names halfway through a manuscript, sometimes more than once, and I doubt I’m the only one.
If Neo comes with those two features together with everything else you mentioned, I think I may well and truly be head over heels.
This sounds brilliant, Hugh. I love the idea of a program containing such a wealth of features in a wrapping of elegance and simplicity. Additonal things I’d like is a button which could change my British English spelling to American English and vice versa. A read-back facility would be marvellous (as you can see I’m using British English spelling here) as it would help when editing. And although I don’t use it, the ability to dictate would be great. I love the idea of it being on a memory stick and the concept of having your documents look like books in a library is inspired. When you kick it off I’d love to be involved in some way. Could I suggest a suggestion box for people to pop in ideas.
Wow. You’ve really thought this through. I love your ideas. The program is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I can’t wait to see it. Until then I’ll keep writing in the no frills Simplenote app and format elsewhere. Thanks for sharing. I LOVE your ideas. Your software will be brilliant.
I think there’s a lot of goodness in what you say.
I’d like to provide another data point based on my own experiences creating an authoring environment for technical documentation for what is now a multinational software corporation. I imagine your eyes glazing over, but hear me out.
When I started working on this company’s documentation, the process involved using regular old text editors to write documentation in what was essentially a typesetting format (LaTeX, if anyone cares). The files containing the written documentation in LaTeX would then be run through a LaTeX processor, and result would be a high quality, print-ready file (in PostScript, but that’s neither here nor there.) The LaTeX files written by the docs team would be stored in a revision control system (CVS for the geeks in the audience) that allowed multiple people to work on the same documents simultaneously, and the details regarding who changed what when and why was tracked in CVS, so it would be easy to see who added problematic content, exactly what they had changed and, with a single command, to remove it, if necessary.
While this approach had a lot of goodness to it, there were problems. Tasking writers with also worrying about how their work should be presented (i.e., the typesetting) made it difficult to stay “in the zone” while writing (“now what was that command to block quote?”) Further, if even one typesetting instruction was written incorrectly, it could prevent the entire document from typesetting, or worse—it could introduce a pernicious error that could only be ferreted out by careful proofreading of the galleys. Because this sort of thing was a destroyer of productivity, it was left until very late in the production process, where one person would take the document that would become a several hundred page manual, and repeatedly typeset it, fix a problem, check the results, and so on. And on, and on, and on…
All that said, this process was still far and away better than what was often done for software manuals back in the day (write in Word or Frame, send the resulting files to your prepress people, review the resulting galleys when they eventually come back, lather, rinse, repeat.) Still, we thought we could do better.
Long story short, we moved away from writing LaTeX files to using DocBook (first in SGML; later in XML, if you have a passing familiarity with HTML, it’s pretty darn similar. We also moved to a text editor (Emacs) that supported easy writing of DocBook files. We still kept the DocBook files under revision control. We also had to move to different software to render the DocBook files into print- (and now web-) ready output, but that turned out to be pretty straightforward, as there were a number of tools that could be used for the purpose.
But here’s the thing. In the end, this was a writing environment that I’ve never felt more confident—and more productive—in. Writing DocBook in Emacs was completely text-based; the mouse was never required; it would only slow you down. Need to start a new paragraph? A single key sequence started a new paragraph. A different key sequence started new chapters, sections, parts, etc. There was another key sequence that ended the currently “open” entity (paragraph, chapter, etc.) so just hitting that over and over could correctly end the entire document, be it a one-page technical bulletin, or a manual hundreds of pages long.
The simple act of eliminating the need for a writer to move their hands away from the keyboard made it so much easier (and faster) to dump everything from brain to document. The key sequences quickly became second nature, to the point where, more than once, I found myself halfway through writing an email, only to realize that I’d written it in perfect DocBook!
The other big win was the total separation of content and presentation. When writing in DocBook, there are no fonts, no underlines, no indentation. If the document is structured correctly, (and the rendering software is configured correctly; a one-time task) the resulting output will automatically use the desired fonts, indentation, and formatting. So writers need only think, “I am starting a new chapter; the title is, “XYZ”; the first paragraph is, “It was a dark and stormy night”; I am closing the paragraph; I am closing the chapter; and so on. And because a properly-structured DocBook document would always(*) render correctly, there was no big push at the end to take a bunch of content and beat on it until it would typeset into perfect galleys.
(*) Well, nearly always. When there were problems it was almost always due to a bug we uncovered in the rendering software. But that was rare.
Because all this was so much easier, each writer could finish their work for the day, quickly render a print-ready copy to ensure they hadn’t “broken” the document, commit their work into the revision control system, and head out the door, secure in the knowledge that, the next day, the entire docs team would get their own copies of the latest version from the version control system, and the entire process would start again.
Now, I’m not saying that Neo should be based on the exact same technology we used. There were things the environment didn’t do as well. The biggest shortcoming was that there was no real organization and linking of documents, notes, and the like into a cohesive whole. How well (or poorly) that was all done depended entirely on each writer’s own sense of organization, which basically boiled down to using file name and folder hierarchy conventions. But what I am saying is that a writing environment that allows writers to keep fingers on keyboards at all times, that does not even pretend to give the writer any way to worry about things like, “Oh, the font here should be bigger”, and that leaves the rendering of the written content to a distinctly subsequent phase is incredibly liberating.
As it so happens, because I’m currently writing my book with it, I’m writing this comment in Scrivener. If I were to rank my DocBook/Emacs based writing environment as 100% (which it was surely not, but just for comparison’s sake), how would I rank Scrivener? Well, the Scrivener writing experience alone I’d call something more like 40%, but with the addition of the way research is handled, I’d have to bump it up to 60%. Which is…workable. Not inspiring, but workable.
I’ve often thought of creating something that sounds an awful lot like Neo using the tools I’d spent so much time with. They’re all open source, so they certainly could be extended. But it would take time away from the salary continuation plan, and from my writing. And at my point in life, time is not something I have much of.
Oh, I should’ve said this in my previous comment, but I’d definitely be up for being a beta tester. For a good part of my career I’ve worked with pre-release software and, given my own work in software development and documentation, I’ve done a fairly decent job giving developers actionable feedback they could use.
I was referred to your project by a mutual friend and I’m intrigued. I’m a mobile software architect with over 30 years experience at Apple, Microsoft, eBay, Disney and others. I only do Apple platforms today and will roll off my current gig by fall, so I may be interested in helping, depending on team size.
In my experience, you can build almost any app from scratch in four months. Longer, if someone helps. :)
Your bookshelf UX sounds a lot like iBooks today. That, combined with iBooks Author for the workflow aspects. But it sound like you’re more into Windows and Android.
Having done some creative and technical writing, it seems to me that a novelist could also use some visualization tools, backed by a relational database engine like Core Data on Mac and iOS. Everything in app architecture starts with the model, and there’s no reason a basic document model can’t also extend into a narrative model in order to span documents. You can use visualizations to better organize subplots, characters and events, and track various narrative arcs as they develop, pass checkpoints and interweave.
So for example, from a list of characters or a list of events, you could select one to filter the work by just that facet or perspective. Such a model could also track dependencies (or reveals), to facilitate refactoring the story while triggering warnings about continuity, logistics or timelines being broken.
Just some thoughts…
If you’d like to encourage authors to contribute towards development, consider a licensing model that means you get to use the product free if all the work you develop with it is free.
Oh, and if you’re looking for beta testers, sign me up! I’ve got a geek background from the distant past if that gives me any street cred.
Sounds interesting. Couple things I would like is keeping my research separate from my outline. Drives me nuts in Scrivener that I have to mouse over to the Binder, scroll down to Characters or research tab, open it up, look for the information. Then I have to figure out where I was typing and reverse the process. So some sort of one stop button that pops up my character list (as in WriteWayPro) would be great.
Also the character list and research info should be able to be associated with multiple WIP, so I can find and change stuff whether I working on Book 1 or 5 or a short story in a series. I tried keeping three or four novels in one Scrivener Project, but the program would bog down (‘Not responding’) too much.
As long as its about $40, fine with paying money for it. Offer a coupon for half off if they win nanorimo.
Hugh, your writing software idea sounds awesome! Despite it’s drawbacks, I write with Microsoft Word because it’s easy to use and I’ve used it for a gajillion years. I’ve hesitated to use Scrivener despite the many pros that I’ve heard from other writers. I’ve watched tutorials for it, and took a one-hour webinar for it, and it does not look intuitive or easy to use. Your program does though. I love that you want to make your writing software open source too. If you create it and need some beta testers, please sign me up. (I will send you an email so you have my contact info.) Cheers and thanks so much for thinking of this.
One of our users pointed us at this article and said we should mention The Novel Factory in case you haven’t seen it. She reckons it meets a lot of the requirements you’re looking for, and having read through the article I would agree, and add that a lot of things on your wish list are on our wish list as well.
No worries if you’ve already seen it and decided it wasn’t for you : )
I tried the demo. A few minutes of clicking around, and I couldn’t figure out how to get to a writing screen to just start writing. I don’t want to have to create scenes and prompts and characters and outlines for every project. It’s why I always end up back at Word, which I loathe. Because it at least gives me a white page. But it sounds like there’s a need for what you’re doing and people are happy with the product, and that’s awesome.
Thanks for your reply and feedback – it’s much appreciated. Your comments are very interesting, and I’ll have a ponder about whether we need to make it clearer about the different workflows that are possible in the Novel Factory – such as skipping the characters and planning sections and going straight to a blank page.
You may want to shoot John August an email. He’s a screenwriter that also has a small team of coders/developers that have made multiple apps for him, including a simplified screenwriting app called Highland. It does part of what you want and will actually pump out a formatted manuscript with a single click. He might be someone to look at in terms of structuring a team.
Damn Hugh, Keep going – this is awesome! I’d love something like this. Only thing I’d add in is giving Neo a partner. Alexa or an updated version of her would work, and brainstorming with research would be fun. I confess, I never XXX, I switch to chrome to get it done and toggle those windows with my creative mind. With Alexxxa It wouldn’t be nearly as lonely as writing in your mind, alone with MS and your chair, desk, body and good god, your head. Options, choices, simple…the future.
I’ve fought with several word processors and scrivener, which is great in theory but practice stinks. I would beta test.
And one more thought: You should forget Open Source if you expect to profit or retain any control over your project. It’s not like this is the cure for cancer. This is your baby; a competitive edge for authors. Open Source software quickly becomes a cesspool. Too many chefs will always spoil the soup.
Let me respectfully disagree. Open source is the right approach. There will be no loss of control. It is my hope that Hugh uses Github for the development platform. Ideally Neo should be able to run on Linux as well.
Sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff in there. The bookshelf idea sounds great.
Build in shared scenes, characters, etc. between books and you’ve got a winner. I’m tired of having to import and rearrange them for each new book in the series.
I love Scrivener now, but I really miss the way scenes and characters are managed in yWriter. There were just right there and organized. Now I’ve got a text file I have to find and review and then go back. Sigh. If you have something like that with the ease of access to the outline, I hope I’m still writing when this is finished.
But yWriter has this weird bug where it will jump back into a paragraph right when you are zooming along for absolutely no reason, inserting the next text you are typing into what you already typed. It became intolerable.
I do beta testing and am all over geek speek since it’s how I make my living.
Please do not take recommendations for your software to be a web app. Sometimes I actually leave my hotspot behind on purpose when I an one of my laptops head off on the bike for some forest time.
This is great, Hugh! Please don’t forget those authors of us that incorporate both the panster method & outliner.. ;)
Ok – so this is a different concept from the NEO software/keypad I use for typing new manuscript material, then transferring it into the existing Word doc. I use this when I need to focus only on writing and not be tempted to go on the net. Old school, simple, and lightweight. What you’re describing is a whole new idea, correct?
Things I want from software- web based, keeps last versions while in revision with date in front of saved as title, able to copy to google docs, intuitively tells me the repeated errors I make and words I cling to, able to add notes from my iphone- interfaces with phone, able to voice dictate and indicate by color code the sentences corrected by voice as vocal transcription tens to make huge errors in homophones, cheap~ yes I’m a broke poet who writes long form. Love your work
It definitely won’t be web-based. I know too many writers who look for places with no internet connection in order to get writing done. This will be an installed app. And tablets / phones will get very low priority. My main focus will be to have an app that launches on Mac and PC close to the same date.
I know that on the Chrome OS and within the Chrome browser there are webapps that do not need to be connected to the internet but still allow for all of the webapp functionality when they are. I don’t know if this would work for your project, but it might be a way to have both. The Google Docs offline editing has been great for me.
YES. This is brilliant. Thank you. I’m in line for beta testing any version you develop (doesn’t matter how buggy).
As a full time developer and aspiring writer this article peaked my interest. I’ve been using a desktop & iOS editor for a bit now with reasonable success but I’ve tweaked my workflow a bit to fit it. I think what you describe sounds fantastic. Please include me in future adhoc meetings or correspondence you’re planning to brainstorm or discuss the project,
It will be great if a real thing experienced someone design the authors software. Good luck for the work. And I’ll beta test when the process enables.
Very pleased to see you want to make this open source – there are so many people around the World who can benefit from this. I’m sure the author community will get behind you on this project, and like you, I love to tinker with new software to see what works and what falls over in an unsightly heap, so I’d be keen to help with testing and feedback and getting the word out. Since you pretty much started me on my self-pub journey, it’s the least I can do. All the best with this.
This sounds like a great proposal, particularly the global End Matter and the Darlings tab. Been struggling for years with how to deal with those sentences/paragraphs/chapters that have nice bits in them but just aren’t right or go nowhere. Right now I tend to cut and paste them to another document, but there must be a thousand better ways!
I’m an almost 20 year veteran technical writer and budding novelist. I’ve used many tools for technical writing as well as for my creative stuff. So much in Neo that I would love to test. I’m currently in Scrivener and in rewriting hell that I haven’t had before because I removed the main plot line and refocused the story using the secondary plot. Needless to say, it’s time consuming to reconfigure.
Please consider me for your beta test.
This sounds awesome! Are you planning to have some sort of “track changes” functionality for editing? It would be great if authors and editors could both use this to eliminate the formatting issues that can happen when converting from one format to another.
Love to beta!
> If you go down the spell-check rabbit hole, do the following
– have the ability to tag a misspelling as a character name (essentially omit them from spell check and make sure they’re consistent)
– integrate existing 3rd party spell/grammer checks–run through them sequentially
– automatically look for double words and flag them
> For eBook formatting, offer several chapter heading templates (one could be high-tech/sci-fi, another romance, another more action… you could charge for additional templates)
I use Scrivener when I need to reorganize an entire manuscript, but I use Word for the bulk of my actual writing. My biggest complaint is that every time MS makes an “improvement,” the program becomes less ergonomic. I used to be able to quickly perform almost any task without lifting my hands from the keyboard. Now the menu hotkeys keep changing or the functionality is buried so deep it is not quick or intuitive. MS seems to want everyone to use the mouse all the time, which drastically reduces efficiency, increases repetitive stress injuries, and makes the program less accessible for those who are keyboard-only. I would love to see you include some real human factors/interface design experts who understand this stuff. I wrote requirements and tested software in a former life, so I know enough to recognize problems and realize there are better solutions, but I’m not an expert myself (though happy to beta test).
BTW Word does have some of the functionality you describe if you know how to set it up in normal.dot. And if you use Autocorrect, you can type 3 periods and it automatically becomes an ellipsis; 3 hyphens becomes em-dash; space-hyphen-space (with letters on each side) becomes en-dash. (Those are all defaults; I did not have to set them up.)