Tips and Tricks, WordSmith Musings, writing

World Building Made Easy: Notebook AI Review

Today I’m reviewing Notebook AI, a world building site for writers, RPG players, and anyone else interested in creating a world.

Maybe some of you have heard of Notebook AI. If you haven’t, let me tell you more. (If you have, skip to the next paragraph for my review). Notebook AI is a website that allows you to create a world and detail it out there to keep everything organized. You are able to create individual universes, in which can live a myriad of different things. In the free version, you can add unlimited characters, including their look, nature, socialness, history, family, inventory, pictures, and notes. You can add unlimited locations and unlimited Items, all with a large list of descriptors to help you visualize and categorize these parts of your story. The premium version adds in other categories such as creatures, jobs, governments, magics, and other helpful world building tools. On top of that, you can write within the program or add documents. In the premium version, they are also working on an AI that analyzes your writing for readability, clarity, and themes.

Now, you may wonder if Notebook AI is worth it. In my opinion, YES!

PSA: The links I have included have a referral code (aka if you sign-up, I might get a small profit), but honestly, whether or not you click that or type it into google, I highly recommend this program. Seriously, if you have qualms about referrals, check it out yourself and sign up for the free version. I recommend this on its merits alone.  Read below for the pros AND the cons of it. (I like to try to see both sides).

I began with the free version months ago and I felt like I got a chance to learn about my characters more in depth. They have numerous promptings under each category and I feel like I gained the ability to create a much more rounded character. And one that I can remember later while I’m writing. For a long time, I had a word document with each character listed out and a long blob of text to describe them. Every time I needed a small detail, I’d stop and read for five minutes, completely interrupting my flow. This fleshes it out and makes the information easy to access.

The ease of access is the second reason I would recommend it. It is organized well. You can get to each of your characters, locations, etc easily, it’s user friendly, and it encourages you to keep adding things from the home page. It has been phenomenal having everything in one place where I can quickly jump to. “What color was his hair?” “Was that scar on the right cheek or the left?” “Did that pommel have rubies or sapphires?” I have those answers and I didn’t spend twenty minutes searching my story  to get them.

Another great feature, which I mentioned above in my description, is the writing portion. You can upload documents and write on them right in the program. And for premium users, you’re able to have an AI analyze it for you. I learned how many times each character’s name appeared, who the story seemed to focus on, the themes it could see. And this is still being tested so it isn’t perfect but it gave me a good outside perspective of my story that I sometimes have a hard time getting elsewhere. Who else is going to tell me that the current emotion felt most often by my characters is sadness? It also let me know the readability of my story by age range which was helpful to gauge my audience when I begin to look towards publishing.

Finally, in the same writing section is a feature called ‘prompts’. You can go to that and it’ll just prompt you to answer more questions about the world you’ve already built. “Who was Amel’s father?” “What year was Callaway City founded?” These things that you may not have had an answer to right when you created it but you can now think about and create. It’s a really fun way to spend an hour, just beefing up your story. (For me, it tends to be a killer way to get past writer’s block while staying in the story).

As with every program, this one isn’t perfect though. There are a few flaws that I’ve noticed and I don’t want you to go in blind. First, creating multiple universes is easy (five in free version and unlimited in premium) but it can sometimes get confusing. Each character, location, item, etc is tagged with a certain universe. But when you go look at the ‘Character’ sheet, it doesn’t automatically sort that out for you.  Each section helpfully allows you to search by universe and other tags. But you have to choose to sort or otherwise you just get one long list of every character in every universe. A few of my characters have accidentally made jumps from one to another because I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Second, some of the really cool features are premium features. The extra world building pages (creatures was the one I really wanted) are all premium. Free does give you unlimited characters, locations, and items, which sustained me for many months and through a lot of short stories. But I finally did have to bite the bullet and go to premium for the extra content. The AI function is also a premium feature which wasn’t really in my original consideration, but I have loved since discovering.

The plus side of premium is that it is only between $7-$9 a month (depending on if you’re billed monthly or yearly). Seriously, you can skip two lattes a month and be able to enhance your worlds. Completely worth it to me (and I really love lattes).

So, to sum everything up, I recommend Notebook AI. It is a helpful tool for writers to assist as you build, maintain, and add vibrancy to your stories. It has been revolutionary in my writing!

Sign up here if you’re ready to try out Notebook AI for yourself.

If I missed any pros or cons, please let me know. Again, the links are referrals for me (so if you like this review, I would ask you use them) but if they throw you off at all, check it out for yourself and enjoy the more vibrant world you’ll get because of it!

Thanks!

Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #2

Is your story one blob of text that looks daunting to the most enthusiastic reader?

Here are the times when you should make a new paragraph:

  1. When someone new is speaking.
  2. After dialogue before action that is not directly related to the speaker.
  3. When a new person arrives
  4. When the setting changes
  5. When you introduce a new idea or thought
  6. When the time changes
  7. When your paragraph is getting lengthy.

Are there any more you would include? Add it in the comments!

Tips and Tricks, writing

Starting Your Story: Tips For That First Sentence

We’ve all been there. The best novel idea is bouncing around in your head and you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, trying to figure how to break the ice and start putting words to paper. 

Oh, that feeling is rough. It’s like, “C’mon, I’ve got gold in here, I just need that first sentence to really kill it.”

Well, let me tell you. You will rewrite that sentence. Now, I would recommend doing it later instead of six million times before you even start. You’ll lose that golden idea you’ve got before you finally put that last punctuation on your sentence, trust me. So, I’ve come up with some tips to help combat that. These tips are things I’ve used (or learned the hard way that I should have).

 

  1. Write the most cliche thing ever.

You will rewrite this later in your editing phase, so sometimes I start out with something like “Once upon a time” or “It was a dark and stormy night”. It lets my mind move past it but it also sounds kind of right (thanks Disney) so that you won’t keep worrying over it.

  1. Skip the first page all together.

I know, this one sounds a bit strange. But jump right into the middle of a scene. Keep it near the beginning, but craft the scene bouncing around your brain rather than forcing yourself into one that isn’t there yet. Act as if you already have those entry scenes. This gets you into the action fast.

  1. Tell us the ending. 

This only works in some novels, so use it cautiously. But, telling your reader the ending with the very first sentence brings in this tension throughout the whole novel of how we get there. Many novels have done this well, starting with something like “This is the story of how I died” or “This is how I ended up becoming queen.” But remember, it adds suspense throughout which means no big reveal later. Weigh the options. 

  1. Tell someone about it

Things tend to come more naturally when talking so get with someone you don’t mind giving a brief overview of your story. Explain the premise and then ask yourself and answer to them “So, how did all this begin?” See what flows out and tweak that. 

  1. Don’t procrastinate

This is the most generic bit of advice but the most important one. A lot of people, myself included, try to nail that first sentence and never get anywhere else with their story. Put something, anything down and move on. If you start researching or brainstorming and it just begins to take away from your story, you’ve hit the danger zone. Remember, this is a first draft. You can perfect later.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #1

Beware “turning” words, a word or phrase that helps shift your story to go in a new direction usually by telling rather than showing. A heavy reliance on them lends towards less action and less engagement with the reader. 

Turning words to avoid: suddenly; then; out of nowhere; surprisingly; shockingly; seemed

Examples: 

Turning words: Suddenly, Kevin threw a punch at Ben.

Action words: Kevin’s fingers tightened into a ball and took a deep breath. He swung quickly and Ben’s eyes widened as he jerked backwards.

Turning words: It seemed to me like Alicia had no idea he would be here.

Action words: I watched Alicia’s mouth form a tiny ‘o’ and the color slowly started to drain from her cheeks as her eyes locked onto his.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Guest Post: An Edit Vs a Re-Write: My First Draft Problem

By: Jeremy C Kester

In the spaces where I’ve done my research, I’ve found quite a number of other writers who would argue that in every story I do, once I complete my first draft I should crumple it up, throw it out, and start fresh. The idea is predicated on advice to ignore quality (or rather, not to let it get in the way of progress) when attempting to complete the first draft.

I can’t say that I am a fan of that method. It would be a waste to just re-do it all, similar to throwing all that work away.

Though I won’t dare say that the first draft of any of my stories is a work of pristine art, I was more in favor of strategic editing, lopping off chunks or adding where needed to bolster the weak parts of the story. I would argue that there are great stretches in what I write that is worth keeping. Basically, I believe that the above advice to completely re-write the book from scratch \ was more for when one’s first draft was really bad. Like really bad— like where a surgery is more likely to kill the patient than the disease itself.

Still, I never considered it. Even when my first drafts were terrible, I stuck with the strategic editing concept… that is until I have a book with over 170,000 words staring at me with a plot that indeed went awry somewhere in there. It would take so much work that I realized something: they were right the whole time.

There’re a few projects of mine, particularly in the last year, that I plowed through the writing to get the draft done. When I was struggling with plot, I simply ran through. Eventually, when I finished these stories, I found that they were a teeny-bit away from the intentions I had put forward initially. My inadequate planning bit me in the ass. There was too much wrong to fix with simple editing. Yet, I became determined to try.

Gravity 3 was like that. As is Gravity 4, Gravity 5 (note that I am revamping that saga anyway, but this only reinforces that), Of Earth and Ice (a sci-fi epic I am working on), Antlers (a novella that I am not fully ready to say much about yet), and a few others. I learned to write a lot, and write a lot I did; although, I ended up failing at achieving the real goals I wanted to get to with those stories.

Without my planning, without the skills I’ve been working on to better the prep work before I start a project, I would have to become comfortable with the understanding that a crappy first draft would act as a substitute. It would install a rough skeletal structure to hang a re-draft onto, allowing me to take on re-writing I said project with more confidence. The first draft is the rough outline I needed to begin with.

I am throwing a lot of these projects away now (metaphorically speaking). Committing to a re-write just seems… right. Sure, it would be a lot of extra work, but wouldn’t the degree of editing I would have to do to bring a bad manuscript back in line be even more?

 

Today’s guest author is the talented Jeremy C Kester. To read more of his works and support a great writer, check out his site jeremyckester.com.

Jeremy C Kester is an independent writer living with his family in DuPage County, Illinois. He works as an engineer with a polyurethane chemical company while he obsesses about writing. Petting cats is another hobby he would love to have more time for if he wasn’t writing, spending time with family, reading, and drinking coffee.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Ten Tools To Help You Write the Next Bestseller

Every writer wants to write the next bestseller but many lack the tools beyond natural talent. Here are the top ten items I’d recommend to help you create a work of art.

 

  1. A lamp to help your eyes

You most likely spend a large amount of time staring at a computer screen. Take care of your eyes and use a lamp that helps your eyes and makes you feel like you’re in the sunshine. It’ll boost productivity if you’re not fighting a headache from eye strain. This lamp has seven brightness levels, five color modes, and is adjustable so you can make it work exactly how you need it.

https://amzn.to/2HKl4Jj

 

  1. A notebook designed for handling the weather

This notebook is perfect when you are ready to explore and research the nitty gritty, but don’t want nature to destroy your notes. It’s waterproof, resistant to tears, flexible, and dependable. Never worry about losing your story again.

https://amzn.to/2OvyJnO

 

  1. A planner to help you be a great writer but also to help you be a good human

My Brilliant Writing Planner wants you to be a phenomenal writer, but also a phenomenal person. It pairs a regular planner, a writing notebook (full of storyboards, habit trackers, and other useful tools), and a personal tracker (which helps you keep track of career goals, life activities, your spiritual life, and reflections).

https://amzn.to/2OvyZTO

 

  1. A character development journal

The journal will help you plot out a truly fleshed out character. Starting off with basic personal characteristics, it pushes deeper, providing prompts and ideas to create a well-rounded and deeply rooted character.

https://amzn.to/2OuVcBN

 

  1. Pens that are classic and stylish

I know, you may spend all your time typing on a keyboard, but picking one of these up will make you feel like you’ve been turned into one of the great authors of old. Plus, they’re stylish and make your desk look great.

Chris-Wang 5Pcs Creative Lovely Artificial Feather Gel Ink Pens Office Supplies Students Staionery, Black Ink, Fine Point 0.5mm

https://amzn.to/2HKenqq

 

  1. Headphones to keep the noise out and the fun going

As a writer, I tend to spend a lot of time listening to music and one of the worst feelings is jumping up for a cup of coffee and forgetting I’m tethered to my computer. These wireless headphones will block out sound so you can write in a busy coffee shop and still have the mobility to move about your home or office without worrying.

https://amzn.to/2CWPLac

 

  1. A water bottle to stay hydrated and read great quotes

Keeping your body running well is important if you plan to pump out a novel. Staying hydrated will make you feel better, prevent headaches, and make your body work like it’s supposed to. It can be way too easy to forget to drink water, especially if you’re dehydrating yourself with coffee or other caffeinated products. Try this water bottle out which you’ll have a blast trying to read your favorite, redacted stories and will keep you in tip-top shape.

https://amzn.to/2U1dLmX

 

  1. An Emotional Wound Thesaurus to make your characters come to life

One of the most important parts of any story is the emotional experiences behind it. But if you don’t hold a degree in psychology or have gone through something personally, often times that emotional trauma can feel unrealistic or stereotyped when written out. This thesaurus gives you a crash course in the most common emotional wounds and helps you write them accurately. Readers will be able to connect much more deeply to characters that feel real and relatable.

https://amzn.to/2I2dUjQ

 

  1. First Lines of Literature Mug

Whether you are a tea, coffee, or hot chocolate drinker, a mug with the first lines of some of the greatest novels of all time will help kick that writer’s block and inspire you to make your own bestseller.

https://amzn.to/2I3eLQZ

 

  1. Writer’s Market

This is one of the most important tools in a writer’s kit. The Writer’s Market gives you a detailed description of publishing presses, magazines, and literary agents. Each entry provides pricing, what they publish, how to reach out to them (with contact information in some cases), the best way and time to send in your manuscripts, and a short description about them. This will save you an exponential amount of time in your publishing process. On top of that, Writer’s Market has a list of writing contests as well as a section on how to write a query letter and reach out to companies. Whether you are a first-time author or a well-seasoned novelist, this book is gold.

https://amzn.to/2JJjwRB

I hope you love the products I list here! Just so you know, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Enjoy!