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Liquid Story-bonics

Some writers love it. Others say it's overkill. Black Obelisk says the key to it is choice.


I believe all those things are true. Liquid Story Binder XE is, quite simply, the sh*t. There are drawbacks, though. I admit it was a complex little piece of software -- at first. I didn't understand its file system. I didn't even know where it put my books after it claimed to save them. I knew immediately it wasn't like any other program I'd ever used because a) it's gorgeous, b) it seems frickin vast, but c) it's only 8 megabytes.


For two weeks I played with it a little each day. The only thing I can compare LSB to is an operating system, a small one exclusively for managing and creating stories. Once I realized that's what it was I became a more productive writer. Seriously. Before LSB I wrote as slow as evolution. One of my books, an alternate historical, was such a pain in the a** work on. You know historicals -- tons of research and cross-referencing, very little actual writing. It gets old. Now I keep all related references, chapters, images, etc in each "book", all neat and tidy and accessible in one click. I can focus on the premise of the book instead of burning out on the research.


Please note: I did not say LSB improved my writing although, inevitably, writing more leads to better writing. Please also note: I am not advertising LSB and have no affiliation with LSB. Good writers' software is hard to find, and if it's good then shout it out I always say; thus this little demo/tutorial.


First -- there's a difference between writers' software and word processing software!


MS Word is a word processing program handy for correcting grammar and spelling with Auto-correct and Auto-format. Great for essays, research papers, proposals. Perfect for writers concerned with grammar.


Liquid Story Binder XE, unlike MS Word, handles various file types. It does not correct your grammar. It facilitates your creativity by allowing extreme leeway to do whatever you like.


Some environmental differences between Word and LSB:
While Word runs on a "ribbon" menu that uses tabs, LSB uses windows. Thus LSB feels more like an operating system than a program. This platform allows writers to click between scenes, to jot down notes and ideas, bring up references, keep lists, edit timelines, etc, etc in easily accessible files that can be opened, edited, viewed, saved, whatever in one click.


One more thing . . . . There are already some great tutorials online for LSB. The best source of information I've found is in the Help feature, located in the About menu. This is only a basic demonstration to show how I built my fantasy novel using LSB files. And to show those writers daunted by the program's many features that LSB is, with a little practice, a very sweet and writer-friendly program. At the very least, it's worth giving a shot.


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From the Library menu, choose Create New Book. Name it and, if you already have some in mind, type in any chapter names you want to create. Hit return after each title to create separate files. Then click Create New Book.


1_create-new-book.jpg



Don't worry about the parent folder; your book's fine where LSB wants to put it, which is in your Documents folder. If you change the book's location later on, say, to your Desktop, then the next time you open LSB your books will be missing. This is remedied by choosing View Library from Library and Adding Existing Books back into LSB.


Ok. I've created The Godward Sea.


2_plain-library-the-godwardsea.jpg



If you like, go to Display on the main menu and select Wallpaper. Select Change Wallpaper. (Desktop images are peachy because they fit the entire screen). If you like, tinker a bit with the Color Scheme from the Display menu. Choose from gradients, customize your colors, etc. Save the Scheme, name it after your book.


Here's my galactic Display.


3_image-display-of-planet.jpg



Now I want to import an existing story from MS Word. From Shortcuts on the main menu I choose New then locate said file and save it as a Shortcut. The Shortcut will open in 'Read-only' mode. However, I can edit it externally (and save the edits at the same time in LSB), but right now I am more concerned with transferring the content of this Word file into LSB. Shortcuts are also good for URLs to online books and articles.


Now I need to create a Planner. 'Planner' is LSB's informal name for a table of contents or an index. It's the key to my organization with a 120,000 word fantasy novel, two more behind it, 45 single-spaced pages of notes, 11 hand-drawn maps, 300 images, and a playlist. If you love your stories that much, then LSB was made for us.


Choose New Planner from Planners to get it started. The first item has already been created and it's automatically named after my book, but I'd like to use my Planner as a table of contents so I'll change that to the name of my first chapter. I'll also put a little description of that chapter in the second textbox. Create more 'items' by hitting the new item button on the left. Save it for good measure.


4_image-planner-and-wallpaper.jpg



Create Chapters from your Planner by double-clicking on any of the new items you've added to it. If you've begun your novel in LSB, it might be a good idea to create a Checklist. Use it to plot out the action you want in a chapter or in an entire story.


If it suits you (and it did me), create a Gallery. First, import your images into LSB. Go to Library and select Import Documents, then Import Images. My Gallery for The Godward Sea has several hundred images and photos that inspire characters, events, places, etc. Name your Gallery after your book. If you want to maximize one image at a time, double-click it. Or put all of your images in an animated slideshow if you like.


5_planner-chapter-image-of-angels.jpg



There are so many options that LSB can seem wildly complex at times, but keep Black Obelisk's motto in mind. LSB is about malleability and personal choice. You don't have to use every feature; they're simply . . . available. It's unnecessary to use all of them. Start off by getting used to the files that work best for you.


For instance, why use Timelines to chart events when you can use a Journal, which allows room for notes, ideas, or scenes? Or use a Journal to write as your character would if he or she kept a journal. Or record your own thought processes and keep little personal notes about your story like Poe did.


Vice versa -- instead of using Journals to chart events, try Timelines. These can be used to plot sagas or events that are extraneous to a main storyline, such as flashbacks that fall in sequential order as your main character remembers his forgotten past.


Next are Associations. Associations aren't as good as Listings (to me), but I will explain them because they do have their use. From your Planner choose File. Pick Associations. A dialogue will pop up showing the various file types LSB has to offer. If you choose Sequence for example, it'll ask do you want to make a new Sequence titled after your book? Yes. Voilá -- an Associated Sequence.


Associations are based on the names of your files. If my book is The Godward Sea and my Gallery is The Godward Sea, LSB will automatically recognize their Association. Open the Association menu at any time after creating a file like a Planner and you'll see that all the file types have already been named after your book. The text is gray to indicate that they haven't been created yet. Click one, and there it is.


6_association.jpg



No two people will use LSB the same way. There's no need to. It's like customizing a character class in an RPG; I don't want to go through the game using the exact same character someone else is using. I wanna play my way. That said, take everything in this "tutorial" with a grain of salt.


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More on LSB soon.

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