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Sep

6

“My Types” Menu Improvements

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on September 6, 2017 6:39 pm

Things have really been buzzing in the Hive of late. My previous posts described several new features:

In this post I’ll describe some improvements to the “My Types” menu. It’s not terribly exciting like the last two features but I think it is a nice usability change.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • The number of custom types is now in parentheses
  • Types are sorted
  • The list scrolls (as opposed to having one long list)
  • There’s a quick link to manage types
  • Removed the submenus in favor of inline icons

If you have Hiveword Plus (the upgrade to the free Hiveword plan with a two week trial) then you know about Custom Types and Fields. With this capability you can add your own fields to characters, scenes, etc., and you can also add new things (types) to track such as Spells, Spaceships, etc. When you define a custom type you get to add all of the fields you want to describe it.

Once defined, you add an instance of your custom type to the story via the “My Types” menu. Here it is in collapsed view:

You can see that it’s right there with the other type menus such as Scenes. You can also see that there are two types defined.

Upon clicking “My Types” it will open up:

Now we can see the two sorted custom types, Spells and Wands. There are two spells defined in the story but no wands yet. This part hasn’t changed but the other parts of the expanded menu are new.

The “Manage types and fields” menu item takes you to the Custom Types and Fields management page. This saves a click because before you’d have to click on the Dashboard link or Hiveword logo to get to the Dashboard page and from there select the “Types and Fields” menu. Too much work! 😉 Now, you can get there easily.

There are now three icons for each type: Add, List, and Sort. Clicking on one will do that function assuming it’s not disabled (grayed out). Before, these functions were accessible via a third-level menu which required too much dexterity. It’s much easier now.

Finally, the entire list will scroll, if necessary, rather than having an extremely long dropdown menu. In this example, no scrolling is necessary because there are only two types.

I hope you find this tweak to be more user-friendly than before. As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this or anything Hiveword-related. Thanks to Darren B. for making many of the suggestions for the changes mentioned in the last several posts.

Sep

5

Custom Field Descriptions

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on September 5, 2017 6:47 pm

In my previous post I talked about the icon on the right below and that it toggles the default Hiveword fields off and on if you have custom fields. I also teased the new icon to the left of it. These new icons appear on the edit pages for characters, scenes, etc.

This post is about the icon on the left. This icon toggles the display of custom field descriptions if any are provided. The icon won’t appear if there are no custom fields with descriptions. The show/hide description toggle works like the show/hide custom fields icon next to it: namely, the setting is remembered across sessions.

Here’s a screen of custom fields with descriptions turned off:

By clicking the little document icon you can turn on descriptions. Here’s an example:

Whoa. There’s a lot happening here:

  • Text-only categories
  • A category description
  • A field description
  • A field without a description

Let’s start with the simple field description. The field “Little text” has the clever description “Here’s a description.” This is the most obvious use of field descriptions since it applies directly to a field and explains it in more detail. For example, if the field was called “Range” the description might be “How far (in feet) the character’s psionic abilities are effective.”

The field “Little text” is in a category called “Bunch O’ Fields.” Who names these things?! 😉 Categories are logical groupings of related fields. You can see that the category as a whole can have a description that encompasses all of the fields within it.

Finally, the Intro and Outro categories demonstrate that you can arbitrarily place text-only sections. Note that in the screenshot without descriptions the Intro and Outro are not displayed. The reason is that they are pure description (that is, the categories have no fields) so they get hidden.

These text-only categories can be anything you want. For example:

  • Overall description
  • A checklist of things to do
  • Whatever clever thing you conceive

Field descriptions are optional. I recommend keeping your field names short and using the description to explain it in further detail if it warrants explanation.

If you’ve used custom fields before you know that you’ve always had the option to add descriptions where the fields are defined. What’s new here is that the descriptions are used right within the page where the custom fields are being used such as a character page or within your own custom type.

If you haven’t used custom fields before, there’s a Fields Management page that allows you to edit your custom fields. Here’s an example:

This set of custom field definitions matches the screenshots above.

The field description capability discussed here is part of the Custom Types and Fields feature available in Hiveword Plus which is the upgrade to the free Hiveword plan. There’s a 14 day free trial so you can try it with no risk.

I hope you like this new feature. I’d love to here your ideas for how you plan on using it!

 

Sep

4

Show/Hide Factory Fields

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on September 4, 2017 6:27 am

In Hiveword Plus you can add custom fields to the “factory” or default types such as scenes, characters, etc. Your custom fields display above the factory fields under the assumption that, since you added them, they must be pretty important.

Here’s an example of some custom fields on the character page:

The “Bunch O’ Fields” section is custom, obviously, and the default fields start with the Basic section.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Hiveword Plus user Darren B. has taken Hiveword’s customizability to stratospheric heights: he’s done a full replacement of Hiveword’s fields. (As an aside, I don’t recommend duplicating fields that Hiveword already has. The reason is that, as a developer, I know what the default fields are for and will likely use them in innovative ways in the future. If they’ve been duplicated as custom fields I don’t know what they are and can’t use them.)

Since Darren’s done a full replacement he doesn’t want to see the Hiveword fields that he’ll never use. So, there’s now a way to hide the factory fields. Each factory type (i.e., characters, scenes, etc.) screen now has some new icons:

The icon that looks like a piece of paper will be the subject of my next post but clicking the factory icon will toggle the factory fields off and on. This setting will be remembered for all types and across sessions so you can set it and forget it. Furthermore, the icon will only appear if there are custom fields.

When the factory fields are hidden, the only thing you’ll see is custom fields like this:

To my knowledge, no other novel organizer offers this level of flexibility. Besides custom types and fields, the Hiveword Plus upgrade offers the ability to add notes and images to everything, a journal, and the ability to search everything. It has a 14 day trial so you can kick the tires. Try it today!

 

Sep

3

More show/hide capabilities

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on September 3, 2017 9:05 am

Quiescent. What a fun word. Quiescent is what this blog has been over the summer. But, as everybody knows, winter is coming so I have a flurry of blog posts planned about recent additions to Hiveword.

Today I’m going to talk about the new show/hide details toggle on list views. While this feature won’t save the world it will reduce scrolling for serious Hiveword users.

Previously, only the story, scene, and chapter lists had a summary/details toggle. Those lists try to convey a lot of information at once and the toggle on those pages is for adding data (the summary, actually) to each row. These toggles have not changed.

The remaining list pages are for characters, settings, items, and plotlines. These lists now have a toggle to hide information. Why? Because if you have a lot of these things the list can get very long which requires you to scroll to find the character, setting, or whatever it is that you are looking for. Hiding the details compresses the list.

The following screenshot snippet shows the toggle which appears above the lists:

If you’re a Hiveword Basic (the free plan) user then the problem is most evident on the character list page. You’re likely to have a lot of characters and if you’ve filled in a bunch of fields the details column can make the rows fairly tall which means more scrolling. Hiding the details will compress the rows.

Here’s an example from the sample story with details on:

When the details are hidden the list will get shorter:

If you’re a Hiveword Plus user the problem can be even worse if you’ve added custom fields to the characters, for example. In Hiveword Basic, only a subset of character fields are displayed in the details column. Hiveword Plus users see this data along with any custom fields they’ve added under the assumption that a custom field must be important. Hiveword has no way of knowing. So, with custom fields, the rows can get really tall.

This feature and the forthcoming ones that will be described in my next three posts were requested by Hiveword Plus user Darren B. He has hundreds of custom fields and more than a hundred custom types! Holy cow! While Hiveword Plus was designed for this sort of customization, Darren’s volume has exposed some usability issues that needed tweaking. Stay tuned for what those are…

 

May

30

List View Updates

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on May 30, 2017 6:48 am

Hiveword user Matt N. requested that extension fields be included on the various list views. This feature is now live and affects both the basic and Plus versions of Hiveword.

First of all, what do I mean by “extension fields?”

Hiveword Plus has a feature called Custom Fields and Types. A better name might be Custom Templates. To my knowledge, this level of customizability is unique to Hiveword. Anyway, with this feature you can create new classes of things to track such as spells, spaceships, etc. But, you can all extend the factory types such as scenes, characters, etc. For example, you could add “Date” and “Scene Purpose” fields to the scene detail page if you wanted.

Prior to today’s change, you wouldn’t see your two new fields on the scene list view. Now you can!

Scene list

As you can see in the screenshot, the data for Date and Scene Purpose is shown when the fields are filled in. (For scenes, the summary field has been displayed for a while. That was also Matt’s idea. 😉 )

The same treatment applies to the other built-in types. Take characters, for example:

Here, the custom field is Role and the character Hismione has an entry for it. You can see how the custom and factory fields are seamlessly displayed together.

While doing this work I revamped some things for consistency. These changes may affect you even if you are not a Hiveword Plus user. For example, the story list page now allows you to optionally display the story summary in the list. Another example is the settings list. It used to have columns for City, State, and Country. Now, there is one column but the data is displayed in a fashion consistent with the other lists. So, if you never supply data for the State field, space will not be taken up with the placeholder for it.

I hope you like these tweaks. I think the changes are nice because it concisely presents relevant information without having to drill down to details all the time. Thanks for the idea, Matt!

What do you think?

 

May

13

Hiveword Newsletter

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on May 13, 2017 1:55 pm

TL;DR: The inaugural Hiveword newsletter is coming soon. You should sign up now to learn and maybe win a prize!

As an overall entity, Hiveword currently has two newsletters: one for the Writer’s Knowledge Base (WKB) and one for Knockout Novel. I’m going to phase out these two newsletters and make one all-encompassing Hiveword newsletter. This will give me much more room to explore content which will range from interviews to highlighting new features in all of the Hiveword products.

The first Hiveword newsletter will have an interview with an author who will open your mind to the educational and business aspects of short stories. It could change your life. Or at least how you approach your writing career. If that’s not enough, I’ll also be giving away Knockout Novel and a lifetime Hiveword Plus subscription to folks who are signed up when the first issue is sent.

Finally, don’t forget about the WKB link subscription feature. You can now get daily or weekly emails with the latest links that were added to the WKB. You can even customize your emails by selecting the categories of writing articles that you want to see. This feature is totally unrelated to newsletters. Learn more about WKB link emails here.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to sign up for the Hiveword newsletter.

May

12

Search Everything!

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on May 12, 2017 6:51 am

You can now search everything in Hiveword Plus!

What do I mean by everything? Well, I’ll say it again: Everything. 😉

You can quickly search characters, scenes, settings, items, story summaries, plotlines, chapters, notes, journal entries, custom types/fields, and tags. In other words, everything.

There’s now a little search box at the top of every page:

Upon searching you’ll see the results page:

The search reaches across everything you have in Hiveword. So, you’ll see hits for journal entries and other things that aren’t attached to stories. You’ll also see hits across stories but the sample screenshot only shows one story.

While search seems like a simple thing these days, I am really excited to have it because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had trouble finding something. Now, that something can’t hide. 😉

I hope you like this new feature as much as I do!

(NOTE: Search is available in Hiveword Plus which is an upgrade from basic Hiveword.)

Nov

29

Generating a book query with Hiveword

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on November 29, 2016 9:40 pm

As a developer, it’s fun to see how others use your software in unexpected ways. For example, my previous post was about how power users do cool but surprising things.
 
Jeremy Menefee is another power user who says that Hiveword produces “world-class content for a book query.”
 
I thought, “It does?” 😉
 
Turns out that Jeremy convinced me. What I thought of as a simple backup mechanism to prevent lock-in actually serves a secondary purpose.
 
Who knew?

Nov

27

Tips from Hiveword Power Users

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on November 27, 2016 9:14 am

hwbirthday

Hiveword’s birthday celebration continues! I thought it would be fun to get some tips from power users on clever ways they leverage Hiveword.

I’ll start! 😉

Generating Exotic-Sounding Names for Characters or Locations

If you’re writing fantasy but you’re having trouble coming up with character or place names then look no further than the Location generator!

The location generator allows you to pick a country for which to show places. For English speakers, selecting a country like Morocco or Azerbaijan produces exotic-looking names that can be used for characters or setting names. Now, you probably wouldn’t use the names as-is (since they are real places, after all) but it’s easy to see that tiny tweaks make for some very interesting names.

Here are some examples from Morocco:

locationnames

With just a quick scan I noticed Agadir Melloul. Now, that’s a cool name. I could use “Agadir” or maybe “Agadin” as a character or place name and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never hear “Agadir” called out at Starbucks!

From a quick search of Azerbaijan I came across a great name for a wizard or alien: Qazax!

Tracking Flashbacks and Character Arcs

Next up we have Lisa L. who has not one but two clever uses of the plotline feature. She says:

I use the plotline tag for flashbacks.  Because flashbacks — by definition — occur before the main story, it can be difficult to determine what happened when if I just stick them in my main narrative without tagging them.  However,  using the plotline tool to tag them, as well as writing a description within the plotline section enables me to keep better track of my story…within a story.

Also, even though I can tag scenes by character, I typically make plotlines for character arcs, so that I have a summary of their growth, relationships with others, etc.  The more checks and balances I have, the easier it is to follow my sprawling novel.

I should point out that when Lisa uses the term “tag” she means attaching plotlines or characters to scenes which is different from Hiveword’s generic tagging mechanism. Here’s an example of Lisa’s alternative plotline usage in action:

plotlineoverrides

Of course, since each “plotline” is a legitimate Hiveword type it can be tagged, described to any length, and if you have Hiveword Plus you can add custom fields, images, or notes to it.

plotlinearc

Chris B. writes in with three tips:

Using Notes

(Notes are a feature in Hiveword Plus)

“…I put the number for my foot note within the text of my scene summary in the scene summary box and then I put the corresponding number and description in the note box which is above my scene summary box.  I find it cleaner and less distracting then putting the foot note description at the bottom of the scene summary page.

…I hate to throw away major chunks of material during edits, rewrites or at any time.  I feel like I just wasted my time if I do that.  I find myself very reluctant to let go of the material.  So, instead I simply create a note, above the summary box leading with a title such as “Initial Chapter Summary,” or “Material That Can Be Used For Book II,” and stick the cut out material in there.  That way I feel free to take the material out because I feel it is saved for possible future use.”

Placeholder Scenes

“I label 5 scene fields, “Prologue,” “Act I,” “Act 2,” “Act 3,” and “Epilogue.”  I don’t put any other data in these scenes. I just use them as space fillers. I sort them in the proper order amongst my developed scenes (I don’t use chapters). That way when I look at my scenes in list or sort view, I have a more organized at-a-glance break-down of my story structure.”

Chris’ placeholder scenes is such a genius idea that I might try to formally incorporate that somehow. Let me show you how cool that is with some screen shots.

The first screenshot is the list of scenes. The placeholder scenes show you where the acts start. For example:

scenelistwithacts

This is so much better than using tags or prefixing your scene names with the act because you have ultimate freedom to move things around without having to manage those little details that can get stale. Freedom is a perfect segue into the scene sorter with placeholders:

scenesorterwithacts

The scene sorter is very simple to use: simply drag and drop a scene card where you want it. With placeholders, though, you know exactly which act you are adding the scene to. And the best part is that you don’t have to modify anything on the scene itself. Like I said, genius. 🙂

Many thanks to Lisa and Chris for contributing such great tips!

How about your tips? Please consider sharing your clever tips in the comments below so that everyone might benefit.

There’s only ONE day left to win Hiveword Plus or Knockout Novel. Check it out before it’s too late!

Nov

26

Hiveword Five Year Retrospective

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on November 26, 2016 9:27 am

hwbirthday

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:

wkbmockup

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.

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!