The pros and cons of writing a novel with StoryShop

And here we come to the first of the two fiction writing programs I’ve played with. Storyshop comes from a group of indie authors that, frustrated by a lack of programs they thought served novel writing well, hired software developers to make this. It’s early on in Storyshop’s life, and plenty of changes are expected, so I’m keeping an eye on this one to see how it evolves. As for experience, I worked with it quite a bit over the duration of a 7 day free trial, after which I decided not to subscribe, for reasons given below.

General Impressions:

Storyshop is the belle of this particular ball. It’s pretty. It’s colorful and dynamic. It greets you with a warm welcome that gets you excited to write. There are plenty of features here, and unlike Word, they’re all targeted to authors (particularly fiction). In my time with it, I didn’t see many useless things, though I saw plenty of tools that were only halfway there. Things like a relationship indicator for your characters (allowing you to identify siblings, parents, lovers, etc. and make a family tree of sorts) that would have been great, except it didn’t have an over-time element to it, which would be great for tracking how character relationships come and go over the course of one or more novels.

Also, because Storyshop effectively runs as a web program, even running on decent internet connections, had some slowdowns. Storyshop simply doesn’t flip between sections as quickly as OneNote or Scrivener. The writing tool can take longer to accept your text. I didn’t try dictating into it, so can’t comment on that, but I’d recommend dictating into Notepad or something and copy/pasting in. There’s also some clunkiness, like not being able to easily see a scene’s synopsis while writing in that particular scene.

But you can put in pictures for your characters, for your settings. You can interrelate everything to each other. You create “worlds” and then “stories” within those worlds – like creating a world of “Star Wars” and a story titled “A New Hope”. It’s a world-builder’s dream. It can also be a timesink, as you notice all those opportunities to find images for minor characters and settings. Ultimately, though, using Storyshop will give you a vivid base for outlining your stories. And then, when you want to start outlining, you can choose from a whole suite of starter templates, allowing you to shape your plot by emulating your favorite works.

Pros:

  1. Fun interface – working in StoryShop is easy on the eyes. It has a delightful color scheme, and once you load up your world with pictures, it’s easy to visualize the settings for your novels.
  2. Best outlining/worldbuilding system – Storyshop makes it easy to create and store the pieces that make up your worlds. From characters to settings to tools, StoryShop gives you easy ways to describe them all and reference them.
  3. Easy to access online – because it’s a web app, you don’t have to install Storyshop on anything. Like Google Docs, it all lives online, so you can access from anywhere. No worries if your computer gets crushed by a random meteor.
  4. Receptive to feedback – Developers and owners interact frequently with the audience. This is an application in its early phases, and it’s clear the creators are invested in making it better.

Cons

  1. Relatively expensive – Storyshop requires an online subscription. $8.25 per month if you pay for the whole year in advance. Compared to the “free” of Google Docs/OneNote or the one-time purchase for Scrivener, you’re quickly going to be paying more for the privilege of using the program. Still, it’s a couple of coffees a month. If Storyshop is what works for you, then this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
  2. Can be cumbersome – Where other programs in this series have been noted as lite, Storyshop throws a lot at you. Its design encourages a lot of world-building, which is great if you enjoy doing that. If, however, you’re more into writing a narrative and letting the setting flow, you might lose a lot of time building all the little pieces. And then there’s the issue that a lot of pieces don’t quite fit together as easily as they should. You can, though, see a beautiful future in the clumsy present.
  3. Online only, at least as of November 2017 – This is the big one for me. Several times during the 7 day period I wanted to jump into my StoryShop story and jot down a few things. Its whole structure, in fact, makes StoryShop great for utilizing those five or ten minute chunks of the day to get a little writing down. Unfortunately, I wasn’t somewhere with internet I could use (or internet good enough to get me into the program). On an airplane, in a park, or a coffee shop that doesn’t allow guest wifi? You can’t write with this. You can’t access it to review. This is why I didn’t sign up for StoryShop – if I could have, like Google Docs, an offline version that I could sync, this would be my prime tool.

Final Thoughts:

As noted in the final con above, I think StoryShop is off to a great start. It’s more fun to use than any other writing program I’ve tried. Its use of colors and images that you can choose gives the whole experience of writing with it a life that other programs don’t have. It makes you excited to jump into the world that you’ve built. Until you try to jump in and realize you can’t, because you’re not online. Or you start trying to write and StoryShop struggles to keep up with your typing. Or you want to reference an element you created without leaving behind the scene you’re writing.

I think you owe it to yourself to take a look at StoryShop’s free trial version. Click around. Play with setting up a world. If you like it, and you’re consistently writing with an internet connection, it’s probably the best program for you. StoryShop is going to grow, its features will improve, and in time it may well be the clear frontrunner for fiction writing software. Right now, though, I spend too much time traveling or in places without reliable internet, which makes StoryShop a non-starter for me. I’ll keep a pulse on it, though, and I hope that one day it grows into the promise shown by this early effort.

 

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