A few weeks ago I posted about how I bought and installed Storyist and that I was beginning to explore it to see if it would be a good replacement for Word, and help me get writing more. It was also meant to help me work with a client on a very big, complex project that required us to be able to share documents and easily and efficiently track changes and versions.
I’m sorry to say I hit Storyist’s fail point quickly and thoroughly.
That client and I have gone back to Word and for me, Storyist might be useful if I get back into writing screenplays, but for the rest of my work, it’s going to be a pass.
Here are a few big problems . . .
First, what Storyist touts as its principal strength is the ability to organize story elements to keep track of characters, plot points, etc. in some kind of dynamic fashion that will allow you to strip down your writing to its basic components and move it around.
I’ll admit I may not be using it right, but it doesn’t do that. At least, not in any way that’s significantly lacking in Word.
Storyist saves everything under a project heading, which was counterintuitive to me at first but once I realized that the “project” was the same as a “folder”, with separate documents inside it, that started making more sense, but then only a little more sense. Again, if the project is the same as a folder, why not just use a folder, which will allow me to see the contents of the project from Finder, without opening Storyist?
I have no explanation for that.
The various components that make up a project seem to have been only vaguely thought out. You can add a character, for instance, which opens up a document with text laid in:
New Character 1
Summarize the character here. What role does the character play in the story? How does this character drive the story? How is this character essential to the telling of the story?
Character Development Points
There are no character development points associated with this character. To create one, click on the icon on the left, and select “Add Character Point” from the pop-up menu.
There are no notes for this character.
And that’s it.
What does that get me, exactly, that I couldn’t have set up in a minute or so and saved as a Word file? And is that really all the creators of Storyist consider important for an author when creating a character? A quick list of physical attributes and “notes”? And while these are valid questions:
What role does the character play in the story? How does this character drive the story? How is this character essential to the telling of the story?
Again, is that it?
Oh, and you can drag an image off your computer or the internet into a picture box. Which you can also do in a Word file.
The Plot Point “feature” is similarly useless.
I’ve played with this thing for a while now and still can’t see how these elements interrelate at all except that you can split your screen so you can see a character sheet and your text at the same time. I can do that with Word, too, except I don’t have to view them all in ever-smaller windows but can move them around between two monitors however I choose, and at least just as easily if not more easily copy and paste between the two, which as far as I can tell is the only way these sheets interact.
And then there’s the big, big problem in terms of collaboration—more a series of problems. Storyist allows you to save your project into a Dropbox folder. So does Word. Is that it, in terms of collaboration tools? It appears so.
Storyist has no ability to track changes the way Word does, so the only way to see what’s changed between one version and another appears to be reading through both files word for word with the text split between two windows. That’s awful. I might as well be working with hardcopies.
And you can’t turn on the invisibles so have no sense of the actual formatting.
Those two things (no ability to track changes, no ability to see invisibles) makes it of no use to me as an editor.
And then of course if you want to get your final text file to anyone who doesn’t have Storyist, you have to export the file to some other format. And despite promises to the contrary, Storyist not only doesn’t preserve its own formatting when it exports to .doc format, it introduces some very, very weird stuff.
In one case—and I think this is true of all cases—Storyist’s paragraph marks appear as paragraph marks on screen in Word, but when I tried to search for them they didn’t show up. Word didn’t recognize them as paragraph marks. This led me to have to go through every paragraph and manually type over every single paragraph break by hand.
I’m going to do that for a 90,000 word novel?
No thank you.
I really do hate to give up on this so quickly, but this little program is really just Word Lite. But unlike Word, which wants to make decisions for you but can be told not to, Storyist tends to insist you only do things one way, and their way is almost what anyone else would consider a standard manuscript format.
Almost, but not quite.
Sorry, Storyist, back to the drawing board for you.