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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

What Is Scapple?

I am currently beta-testing a new piece of software from Literature and Latte, the same folks who gave us Scrivener.  It doesn't have a formal icon yet (the one shown here is temporary), and you can't buy it, but it should be available by the end of February.  This post is meant to whet  your appetite.

What is Scapple?  Here's how the developer explains it:

Scapple is the software equivalent of how I work out my rough ideas on paper. (If I didn't hate the word "brainstorming" so much, I'd probably call it brainstorming software.) When I'm in the early stages of any project, whether that's a writing project or a software project, I tend to throw a bunch of ideas down on a big piece of paper, spacing out as-yet unrelated ideas, clustering related notes, and drawing connections between them, trying to work out how everything fits together. 

In short, then, Scapple is a tool for getting early ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. The main advantage of doing this in Scapple instead of on paper is that you don't run out of paper (the Scapple canvas expands to fit as many notes as you want to create), you can move notes around to make room for new ideas and connections, it's easy to delete and edit notes, and it's easy to export your notes into other applications when you know what you want to do with them.

Scapple isn't mind-mapping software - rather, it's more like a freeform text editor, allowing you to make notes anywhere on the page. It doesn't force you to make any connections, and it doesn't expect you to start out with one central idea and branch everything else off that. There's no hierarchy - every note is equal, so you can connect notes in circles or even connect every note to every other note if you so wish. Individual notes can be a short or as long as you like. Creating and removing connections between them is as easy as dragging one note onto another.

Most importantly, because its purpose is to allow you to get ideas down and make connections between them quickly, Scapple is dead simple to use.

I've used it to create an imaginary family tree for my new fictional family.  It came out looking like this:




























Then I tried mapping out a preliminary plot outline.  Here's a section of it:





























As you can see, you can change the color of your notes, or put the text in different colors.  You can connect events with arrows or straight lines.

What I really like about this program is the ability to save the drawings in a variety of formats, including PDF, and then transfer them into Scrivener.  I expect that functionality to improve even more in the final version.  I've always liked the idea of jotting down notions and then tying them together.  Here's an easy way to do hat, and I plan to make further use of it.  For example, I have several little scenes for this book running around in my brain.  I'll add them to the sides of this plot outline and then see where I can best connect them.  I'm looking forward to it!