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Today is Hiveword’s fifth birthday! Or anniversary. Whatever you call it it’s been five years of helping writers achieve their dreams. I’m both excited and proud of that.
This post is a bit of a retrospective. There will be behind-the-scenes information and maybe even a baby picture. Tomorrow I’ll have some great tips from Hiveword power users so be sure to check that out, too. But for now it’s time to get retro.
In 2008 I conceived the idea for Hiveword. Man, was it going to be cool! However, I didn’t start development until 2009. Sadly, 2009 passed by. Then 2010 and still Hiveword was not available to the masses. I’m not even sure why it took so long. Crazy.
In January 2011, Hiveword was born. Sort of. You see, while I was working on Hiveword, author Elizabeth Spann Craig and I joined forces to unleash the Writers’ Knowledge Base (WKB) on the world. The WKB is a search engine for writers with nearly 40,000 articles on writing.
The collaboration was serendipitous in that I had had a back-burnered idea for capturing writing articles in a search engine and coincidentally Elizabeth wished for a way to make her tweeted articles significantly less ephemeral than the Twitter experience.
Here’s a baby picture of the WKB that I sent to Elizabeth in the early days:
You can learn more about the WKB birth story here.
So, Elizabeth got me as a developer to help with her problem. I got a shiny new project to work on which was great for procrastinating on Hiveword. What could go wrong?
Nothing went wrong and the WKB has been a well-loved resource for writers. To this day it captures Elizabeth’s tweets and makes them available to writers via the search engine. A very recent development is that the articles are now categorized such that the WKB will be a search engine AND a directory of articles on writing.
While you may look at the WKB and see a stand-alone website, it’s actually an integrated part of Hiveword under the covers. In fact, that integration is most evident via MyWKB (launched in 2012) which is a personalized form of the WKB. For example, MyWKB will show you a list of the new articles since the last time you logged in. This will eventually allow you to get emails of new articles by category if you so choose. Basically, the WKB continues to grow up.
Speaking of growing up, Hiveword had been gestating for a long time by this point. Finally, in November 2011… Hiveword was born!
Hiveword is a free novel organizer which lets you track characters, settings, scenes, etc. Tens of thousands of people have used it to organize their novels and it makes me very happy that I’ve been able to help them in this way.
Is Hiveword pretty? No, not in the least. My baby is UGLY. But, it is functional and I’ve gotten many compliments on how easy it is to use so that warms my heart.
Between 2011 and early 2013 Hiveword was steadily improved but nothing flashy. As I mentioned above, MyWKB was released in 2012 to personalize the WKB. Then, in early 2013 I approached author and writing coach James Scott Bell to see if he’d be interested in collaborating on a software product for helping writers. Luckily, he was interested and in 2013 Knockout Novel was introduced.
Knockout Novel is based on Bell’s Plot and Structure book and guides the writer through interactive, self-paced prompts to polish a story to a fine sheen. Like the WKB before it, Knockout Novel is an integrated part of the Hiveword novel organizer. In the case of Knockout Novel you can have your story with all of its characters, scenes, and whatnot along with your answers to the Knockout Novel prompts. Knockout Novel gets you lifetime access to the product and you can use it on as many stories as you’d like.
Knockout Novel was my first real foray into charging for a product. Getting some money coming in was great because it helped to defray the cost of running the site. A free novel organizer isn’t free to everyone, after all, and I was glad to have some help footing the bill.
Things were kind of quiet after Knockout Novel was released until early 2016 when Hiveword Plus was introduced. Development in that area has been at a feverish pace. Plus is a set of premium features for Hiveword including custom types and fields, image uploads, etc. While most people can (and definitely do) get by on what I now call Hiveword Basic (the free version), folks serious about organizing will love what Plus offers.
To my knowledge, no other organizer allows you to create your own types or add fields to existing ones such as scenes or characters. Want to track spells? You can do it. Want to add an area for Theme on a story? You can do that, too. This is by far my favorite feature because users can customize Hiveword to their needs.
Hiveword Plus is under very active development. It’s a subscription service and is billed yearly. Today, it’s still at the introductory rate of $25/year as a thank you to early users.
So, you’re now current on history. I hope it wasn’t too boring. I have so many awesomely huge ideas for Hiveword that I will continue working toward my original vision for some time to come.
Tomorrow I’ll continue the birthday celebration with some awesome tips from Hiveword power users.
What’s your favorite part of the Hiveword suite?
There are only two days left to win Hiveword Plus or Knockout Novel. Check it out before it’s too late!
Based upon your suggestions Hiveword has some new features today:
- Track items or objects
- Manually sort characters, locations, plotlines, and items
- Automatic scene numbering
- New city, state/province, and country fields for settings
You can track important items (or “objects” if you’d prefer to call them that) just like you do for settings, for example. You’ll now find an “Items” menu item which allows you to add a new item and list or sort them. Here’s an example item:
As you can see there’s nothing new to learn here. Just create an item an describe it. You can also add tags as usual.
Once you have an item you can attach it to the scenes in which it appears. On a scene page you’d simply select one or more items to add to the scene with the new dropdown:
With items added to scenes you can now use the powerful filtering on the scenes page to quickly see where the item appears in the story:
Filtering scenes by item
In the previous screenshot you can see that I’ve filtered the scenes by the Guitar of Fire item. Any scene without that item is dimmed. (Note that you can also hide non-matching scenes by clicking the Hide Unmatched checkbox which is not shown in the screenshot.)
Finally, you can print items and they are also included in the story export file.
You’ve been able to sort scenes from the beginning with a simple drag-and-drop index card approach. Characters, settings, and plotlines were just listed alphabetically. Now, however, you can manually set the order in which characters, settings, items, and plotlines are listed. The logic here is that you can put the most used things closer to the top or perhaps group characters by family, for example.
All of the new sorters work the same as the scene sorter so if you’ve used that you know what to do. Here’s a screenshot:
Simply drag a character to the new position and hit save. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! 😉
By default, scenes are not numbered. However, knowing a scene’s position in the story can be very helpful so you can now toggle scene numbering via the “Enable Scene Numbering” submenu under the Scenes menu. When you have scene numbering enabled you will see the scene’s number wherever the scene is displayed such as the scene list, scene sorter, exported scenes, etc. Hiveword will always keep the numbers correctly ordered even if you sort scenes.
Here’s a screenshot showing scene numbers form the Scenes page:
Extra Fields in Settings
While not nearly as exciting as the previous new features you can now track city, state/province, and country in a setting:
Geographic info for settings
I hope you like these new features. If you have any questions or ideas please let me know either in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great day!
You know NaNoWriMo is going to be here before you know it, right? Now’s the time to get a jump start on prepping your novel before the writing process begins in November. Don’t waste writing time figuring out scenes, characters, plotlines, and all that jazz in the heat of Nano — it’ll just slow you down and maybe make you miss your goal. You don’t want that.
What you might want is a free, web-based novel organizer to help you through the planning process. That’s right, Hiveword is now free so you can use it any day, any time, any where, as much as you want for no cost. Use it for Nano or any novel you might be working on.
I hope you find it valuable in planning your novels. If you like Hiveword and the Writer’s Knowledge Base why not help out your friends by spreading the word? Both resources may help them with their novels and I’d appreciate it immensely. Thanks and good luck during November!
In my last post I talked about how to generate character names so that you don’t have to spend time and brain power coming up with them yourself. This time I’m going to talk about how to generate settings. Well, geographic places, at least.
Perhaps your story hops around the world to exotic locales. Or maybe you just want to spice up some characters by giving them interesting hometowns. In either case you need to come up with some places and, if you’re like me, you’ll come up with Paris. Or maybe London. Closer to home it’s likely to be places you already know, too.
In either case you can probably do better.
I suppose if you have an atlas or map you could do the blind finger pointing trick to randomly select a place but this seems more like a job for a computer…
Unlike character name generation I couldn’t really find any online resources that allow you to generate random places. (If you know of any please let me know in the comments.) However, one of the nice things about being a programmer is that I can create such a tool if I want to. Turns out I wanted to so Hiveword now has over 100,000 places from around the world to help make your story different. After all, everybody else uses Paris, right?
How about an example? While you could choose any country in the world (or all countries at once if you favor serendipity) I’ll choose my home state of Maryland in the United States. Here’s a screenshot (click it for a bigger image):
With each click of the Generate button you get 20 new random places. Notice that you’re one click away from seeing that place on Google Maps and Wikipedia. With Google Maps you can instantly see the nature of the place (wooded, coastal, etc.) plus you can dig down into street view to get a feel for it.
With the Wikipedia link you can get a lot of details and a sense of the place especially when there are pictures. I noticed that the pictures are sometimes captivating which is great for when you need to describe the location.
When you see a place you like you can click the “Add Setting” button and Hiveword will automatically build a new setting for you pre-filled with the location information. The Google Maps and Wikipedia links will be there, too.
Finally, there was one unexpected use of the generator — generating exotic names. “Exotic” is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but as an American I find the eastern European and Middle Eastern countries to have unusual-sounding or visually interesting city names. Why do I mention this? Because they are great for sparking your imagination for character or place names in fantasy or science fiction stories. While you may not use the names as-is I’m confident that they’ll spawn some great ideas.
Do you have any tricks for not using the same cliched places?
Photo by pvsbond
Ever struggle to come up with character names?
Sometimes they just pop into your head wrapped in a bow. That’s pretty rare, though, at least for me. Other times I’ll see something and be inspired with a character name. (And sometimes I’ll even remember to jot it down!) More often than not, though, it’s painful to come up with character names, especially on demand.
Fortunately, technology can come to our aid.
If you’re old-school you probably already have a megadump of your local phone company’s database right there in your kitchen. On printed paper, no less! Just pop open that phone book and randomly point to somewhere on a page. Boom, instant character name. Unfortunately, the “character” might be Aunt Bess on the other side of town…
If, on the other hand, you favor the interwebs you can search The Google for name generators. The ones I’ve tried are hit or miss but you might find something you like.
Hiveword also has a character name generator. You can get twenty first and last name combos (male or female) at the click of a button. See a name you like? Just click a button and a character sheet will be started for you already filled in with the name.
The character name generator is just one of the new things that has the Hive buzzing.* If you like character name generation just wait until I tell you about the other generator in Hiveword. I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post but if you’re curious you can poke around Hiveword to see the new stuff.
Hiveword is novel writing software on the web. It doesn’t hurt to create an account, I promise!
How about you? How do you come up with character names?
* I’d say I’m sorry about the pun but I’d be lying. 😉