Software Review Update: StoryBox

A week or so ago, Mark Fassett (Author and Software Developer) asked if I wanted to beta test his newest update for StoryBox (see reviews: Original, Pre-Release, Revisited). Sure, I said. ๐Ÿ™‚ After all, I do all my writing in StoryBox. Why? because it ROCKS! Great timing also. As you might recall, I was just gearing up to polish Control Freak: Regina’s Story. Well, Regina’s Story is published, and I’m going to share with you how easy it was to do by using StoryBox (SB).

For a more detailed pictures, click on the images. By the way, the emerald green is a new theme for SB. Very pretty. ๐Ÿ™‚

Image 1

Starting at the top, you’ll notice I have two items circled in Image 1. So, let’s familiarize ourselves with a few of the features of SB.

File Drawer ~ The right circle features the File Drawer. This is where you’ll find all your documents (Story, Chapter, Acts, Images, etc). They’re all here. If your file drawer isn’t open, you can find it by clicking on the view menu and choosing file drawer.

Document Propertiesย  (Properties) ~ On the left side is the Properties box. This is where you’ll give a type to your documents. For instance, you’ll notice I have this particular document set as Story. Likewise, you can find document properties in the view menu.

One thing I’ll mention, SB is fully customizable. You can move the File Drawer, Document Properties or other features simply by dragging. So you’re not stuck with my view, and your SB view likely won’t look like mine unless you do some dragging. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now to the highlighted area in the left circle ~ Control Freak: Regina’s Story. It’s important you label your Story properly. Once your file is created in the export, this is the name assigned to the actual download. For example, when I pull up the mobi created by SB in my Kindle, it’ll show Control Freak: Regina’s Story. I mention this because the default name for the Story document is “Story.” If you don’t change this, then the name on your Kindle will show “Story” and not the actual name of the story. Got it? Good.

Within a Story you have Chapters. The chapter I’m working with here is “Regina’s Story.” I use Chapters as dividers. Typically, I leave them blank or use one of the macros listed in the Help menu under Export. I’ll talk about the actual story later, which I chose Scenes as the type rather than something like Chapter, Story, Image, etc. For now, let’s hit the front matter.

Image 2

Front matter ~ For my stories, I like to divide my front matter into sections (everything circled on the left). I created separate documents and use the Scene type in the Document Properties. For my front matter, I included documents for my works and copyright information. Though I didn’t, you might even include an acknowledgement or forewords here. If you notice, the portion within my funky square on the left (Image 2), you’ll see front matter for the major indie distributors (Kindle, Goodreads, Smashwords, Pubit). That’s because each distributor requires their own copyright notice. You could include more, but that’s all I needed for the time being. The example provided is one for Smashwords. Instead of typing each copyright notice separately, I generally just copy and paste then change a bit of the wording (Smashwords edition substituted with Kindle edition, purchase from Amazon.com instead of Smashwords.com, etc.)

Over to the left, you’ll notice a few more items circled. Notice this particular document is NOT included in the manuscript. However, if I were creating a Smashwords file, I would check the box.

Because I want a page break between my list of works and the copyright notice, I chose to put a page break before this document.

According to the help file, it’s recommended to not preserve formatting so all looks right in the ePub files. I’m a bit of a rebel sometimes and chose to include it. Do so at your own risk.

So now we’ve reached the actual story! Woot.

Image 3

Notice the [doctitle]ย  at the top of the document in Image 3. This is optional. As I mentioned, the Help file has an entire list of macros. Because Regina’s Story is a short story, I chose to use this label instead of chapter numbers earlier. You’re free to be as creative as you want. Each work is different, so I’m not going into details here.

You might notice the [br] macros throughout the document, both here and in the front matter. Use these to force carriage returns. When SB converts your story into an ePub the spaces between paragraphs (carriage returns) disappear if you don’t use a forced [br]. Just a little FYI.

On the right side, I’ve checked all the boxes. Yours might look differently. For example, if you have multiple scenes, you might not want to include a page break between each scene, only chapters. Remember, each document is different. Fiddle around a bit to get the look you want.

Back Matter ~ I like to include a bit of encouragement to readers to review my work in the back, along with my author profile. Others might also include an afterwords, excerpts, or other features. It’s really up to you.

Last but not least… drum roll! The Cover Art!

Image 4

To include your Cover Art, go to the Document menu and choose New Picture. It’ll pull up a box which will allow you to choose the picture you want. Next, go to the Story Properties and select the appropriate picture in the Cover Image pull down menu (circled in Image 4). If Story Properties is not one of your boxes, you can select it from the View menu, like you did for the Document Properties and File Drawer. When you export your file, SB will automatically include the picture for you.

So that’s the basics… now for the fun part: Exporting your file.

Image 5

Right click your Story and choose Export. Everything which is checked “Include in Manuscript” (see the circled area on the right in image 2) will be part of your export file. An alternative, which I did with Regina’s Story is to only export sections of your manuscript. I collect Control Freak Stories in one file in order to keep everything together. So instead of right clicking the Story (Control Freak: Regina’s Story), I right clicked the chapter “Regina’s Story.” Doing so only exports the documents under Regina’s Story.

A few interesting items here. At the top, you have a choice to export to a .txt, .rtf, or .ePub file (see image 5). Each serves a wonderful purpose. The Smashwords Formatting Guide mentions a nuclear option. That would be your .txt file. It’ll take all the formatting in your document and strip it. The .rtf file is also great for Smashwords (SW). Though SW only accepts .doc files, you can use the .rtf as a base. Simply follow the guide and when you’re done, save as a .doc file. Voila! All is well.

Then we have the ePub file. Oh how I love you, ePub file. Pubit accepts a variety of formats, including ePub. Goodreads says it’ll accept files other than ePub, but does a crappy job converting. One thing nice about using SB to export into an ePub, you don’t have to worry about inadequate meat grinders. So if you’re looking to put something on Goodreads, this is definitely the way to go. Likewise, I had no problems with submitting my ePub to Pubit.

You’ll notice at the bottom of Image 5, I’ve circled “Prepare for Kindle Conversion.” Amazon has a free program called KindleGen, which allows you to convert HTML, XHTML, XML (OPF/IDPF format), or ePub into Mobi files. If you have KindleGen installed, SB will do the conversion for you. First, you have to make sure SB is properly configured to use KindleGen.

Image 6

In the View menu, select Preferences, then browse for your KindleGen path. If you followed the instructions for KindleGen, your path will be the same as the one in Image 6.

Once you choose whether you want to export as an .txt, .rtf, .epub, or .epub with Kindle Conversion, click Export and SB will do the rest.

***One note. If you choose to export using the Kindle Conversion feature, the ePub file will not include the cover art. If you want cover art with your ePub file, do not choose the Kindle Conversion. Basically, your Kindle Conversion and ePub file should be done with two different exports.

So for Regina’s Story, I ran the export 4 times — one for each distribution channel (Pubit, Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads).

That’s it. You’re ready to upload your files to the distribution channels. Now tell me,ย StoryBox is da bomb! Right?

Try it for yourself, then come back and tell me how it worked for you… or if I missed any important steps. ๐Ÿ™‚

Software Review: StoryBox Revisited

It’s almost here! That’s right, Mark Fassett is set to release StoryBox 1.0 tomorrow.

The software for Novelists that lets you write the way you want to write.

Yeah? So what? ๐Ÿ™‚ Hmm. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. A few months ago, I reviewed this software version 0.54 (see review here). I found it easy to use, eye pleasing, and full of great features. It almost fit my needs perfectly. Awesome potential. It had a few glitches, but still a nice product in the making. Mr. Fassett put StoryBox through a host of fixes and added quite a few features in the process.

Being the needy person I am, I had a few wants of my own. ๐Ÿ™‚ A quick look at my wishlist when I wrote the first review.

  • Thesaurus – Got it! Woohoo!
  • Spellchecker while typingย  – I didn’t get this, but Mr. Fassett did add a spellchecker.
  • Tutorials and Help Guides – Got it! And it’s nicely formatted also.
  • Iโ€™d like the chapters to be automatically numbered in the File Drawer instead of every new chapter having the label โ€œchapterโ€ – Got it!
  • I prefer NOT to have a separate tab open when clicking on the the items in the File Drawer, it gives me a sense of clutter. Yes, I know I can close them all down in one swoop. Personally, Iโ€™d just like it to do what I want in the first place rather than cleaning up after the fact. An option maybe in the preferences? – This was already available, I just didn’t know how to do it.
  • Would like the labels for the character interview to be semi-permanent. That way I can do a simple tab to the input fields (as it is, the interview is a document with questions for the user to answer, but not separated into labels and input fields.)
  • Would love to have a find and replace feature – Got it.

As for the character screen? Well, not sure if I’ll get that. After all, it’s not called Reena’s Personal Writing Software. And the character template is very functional as it is. But 6.5/7 isn’t bad. ๐Ÿ™‚

One big feature, Mr. Fassett added is the Outline Builder. I’ll be honest, I haven’t given it a real go. The idea behind it is to have a place to store important ideas for the story, then insert them as needed. In my mind, it’s a neat feature when used correctly. It works great for catching stray ideas such as scenes, dialogues, etc. In fact, if I used it, I’d have fewer problems with jacking up my word count, since I tend to jot my stray thoughts directly into the document.

He also added another features I’ve yet to try, the ability to Split and Merge Documents. Sounds wicked useful, but I’ve not had a reason to use it. If you haven’t tried StoryBox in the past, you probably won’t notice tweaks he’s made to prior features, so I won’t even get into them. For a full version you can visit his download page and see the journey for yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway. Today is your LAST chance to order StoryBox for the prerelease price of $25 Version 0.9.82. If you like StoryBox, now’s the time to buy. ๐Ÿ™‚ It includes version 1.0 and all the updates until version 2.0.

Software Review: StoryBox Pre-release Version

Mark Fassett began development of Storybox just before NaNoWriMo last year as an alternative to the Mac only software Scrivener. I had the opportunity to try version 0.54. According to Mr. Fassett’s blog, users can expect frequent updates. Keep in mind, StoryBox is still in the development stage, so Mr. Fassett has a bit of tweaking to do. As such, I’m doing a different kind of review with this one. Rather than just spewing my likes and dislikes, I’m also adding my wish list for the software. But first, the brief description of StoryBox.

The software for Novelists that lets you write the way you want to write.


Yep. ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s it.

First thing I noticed about StoryBox was the eye pleasing interface. Remember–I’m that gal who first judges a book by the cover. Software is no different. ๐Ÿ™‚ If I’m going to stare at something for hours at a time, shouldn’t it be pretty?

Next, there was very little in terms of a help file. I’m laughing as I say type this, because the software isn’t finished and bound to change as time passes. So a comprehensive help file seems frivolous. Because it lacked major documentation, I had to wing it. Even so, I had little problems figuring out how to use this program. For someone looking for a novel writing software a bit more straightforward than Liquid Story Binder, this’ll do in a cinch.

A quick look at the features:

Editor – Yes it has one! There’s nothing spectacular about it. It doesn’t have all the formatting features of MS Word, but I believe it fits most writer’s needs. Italics Bold, Underline–yep! It’ll do it. Copy, cut, paste? Check. Plus you can change your font.

Now my favorite part of the software is a feature called the File Drawer. This is where the user organizes their work. It’s rather flexible. Though there are some default names such as “chapter,” “characters,” “locations,” “notes,” and “items,” they’re not set in stone. The default names can all be renamed to suit the needs of the users. Additionally, each heading allows the option to create subheadings (a hierarchy system). Nice!

More about the File Drawer in terms of the story line and editor: Mr. Fassett did a great job in integrating. For my test story, I started by adding chapters. There’s a place to add a synopsis for the chapter and a title. In the top level (the Story) the program automatically creates an outline and storyboard for the chapters. I cannot express how much I appreciate not having to do this separately. Likewise, the same goes for the scenes within the chapters–automatic outline and storyboard.

For you slave drives out there, StoryBox also has a goal setting feature. It includes a daily and project word count goal, while also tracking the time spent with the program open for the project.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have days when my computer overheats and zap! it shuts down. OMG! Did I save? I don’t know. Thing with StoryBox is it has a nice autosave feature. My understanding is the program saves the work as it’s written. However, the developer encourages users to BACK UP BACK UP BACK UP.

Now here’s something I found interesting. It may or may not work for you. As I deleted items from my File Drawer, I noticed I didn’t receive a confirmation. Instead, there’s a drawer called Trash where all your deleted files get stored. The nice thing about this is if you change your mind, you have a place to search. All is not lost. ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, you’ve finished your story. Now what? Export it! Storybox includes a feature which allows the user to export into an RTF file. Now, here I think it could use a bit more tweaking, as I didn’t find anything to change the default output. My output looked like a plain text file, completely stripped of the formatting. I imagine Mr. Fassett knows about this issue since the software only accepts documents with minimal formatting at the moment.

Even so, if a user would happen upon a bug, StoryBox has an easy to use form to report them.

Now I usually leave out the costs. However, I think it’s important to mention the deal Mr. Fassett offers while the softwareย  is in the pre-release version. StoryBox is free to try right now. If you do decide to purchase while it’s in the pre-release version, the cost is $25. According to the website, this is a significant discount over the full price (whatever that’ll be). So, if you like StoryBox, you might want to get it while it’s in development rather than later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now for my wishlist!

  • Thesaurus
  • Spellchecker while typing
  • Tutorials and Help Guides
  • I’d like the chapters to be automatically numbered in the File Drawer instead of every new chapter having the label “chapter”
  • I prefer NOT to have a separate tab open when clicking on the the items in the File Drawer, it gives me a sense of clutter. Yes, I know I can close them all down in one swoop. Personally, I’d just like it to do what I want in the first place rather than cleaning up after the fact. An option maybe in the preferences?
  • Would like the labels for the character interview to be semi-permanent. That way I can do a simple tab to the input fields (as it is, the interview is a document with questions for the user to answer, but not separated into labels and input fields.)
  • Would love to have a find and replace feature

Now remember, this is a pre-release version. Expect changes and additional features in the future. My personal opinion is it’s a nice start, and I’m hopeful about future developments.

Storybox created by Mark Fassett

I didn’t get around to reviewing software this week. Didn’t get any suggestions last week’s software post. That’s okay, folks! I found a piece of software to review called StoryBox today.

It’s currently in development (not even version 1) yet. But I hear it’s very similar to Scrivener, but for Window users. Thank you, Mark! And the developer is a writer! I’ll be checking it out this week with a story idea I’ve been playing with for several months now. I’ll let you know how it goes next Wednesday.