By Lazette Gifford
Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
SuperNotecard can be found
A new novel idea often grows in odd ways: a character here, a bit of
worldbuilding there, some notes from a book and a bit of plot. The
imagination is not tied to any carefully laid out path that will take
you through each step.
Keeping track of the chaotic mass of information that goes into a novel
can be difficult. The program that I most often use is SuperNotecard.
There is a free trial download, and the program itself is $29US. You
will see a fiction/nonfiction version and a scriptwriting version. I'll
be showing you the basics of the first version, and specifically the
fiction set up.
SuperNotecard has a helpful .pdf file (found in the Help menu under Help
documentation) that goes into far more detail than I can do in this
short article. My focus will be on using the program for more than just
(Numbers in parentheses reference the picture above.)
SuperNotecard is set up in a project format. You can have several
projects going. The one you worked on last will open when you start up
the program (unless you use options to set it up differently), and the
rest will appear as tabs at the bottom of the screen (1).
For the fiction version, SNC opens with three decks -- Beginning, Middle
and End. Each deck is automatically created with two cards. The
program has all the usual menu lists, and I won't walk you through those
since most of them are pretty easy to understand. Instead, let's leap
straight into story creation using SNC.
There are several view items that you can play with in this initial
screen. Two of the most important are the 'Explorer' window and the
main screen choices. Explorer opens a side panel on the right that
shows you everything in the project. In the Explorer view, you can
expand sections to show all the decks and cards within each section (2)
The main screen choices allow you to work with or without grids and for
the grids to be in rows or columns (3). You can move the cards or decks
around on any of these types of screens, but grids also allow you to
leave empty spots between the sections so that you can fill them in
later. You can also move decks and cards in the Explorer window, but it
is easier to do it on the main screen.
At the bottom left of the screen you can see a number of small graphics
(4). These allow you to play with different versions of how you view
the main screen. Click on them and see what appeals to you. Please
note that if you click on the Hide Project Hierarchy button, you must
use the Options button to get back the visibility on some of the areas.
The Option button also allows you to set up the overall display,
including background color and font.
There -- that's a few basics. Let's move on to using the program.
Starting a Project
I start by naming the project (Wildlands in the example above) and then
clicking on each of the decks and either deleting or renaming them. I
can also add some general information in the note area of each deck.
Since I am going to use this for more than just outlining, I want to
have everything set up for easy access. The three decks I usually start
with are Worldbuilding, Characters and Storyline.
You can add more decks if you want things like References, Culture and
anything else you like. You do not need to add them all at once. If
you find that there is something you want to set up in a deck, just
create it by right clicking anywhere on the screen and inserting a deck
or using the 'add deck' or 'add card' links on the upper right side of
the screen. You can move any deck or card by grabbing it on the screen
and pulling it to where you want. This is especially helpful when you
are working with the outline.
You can add additional decks within a deck. This can be useful if you
have a deck for a country, and then want to do a sub-deck for a city so
that you can note things specific to that location. If you have two
feuding families, you can set up a deck for each one inside the
character section and then add cards for each family member -- and move
the cards around within the group to show rank or age or whatever else
you think helps.
If you create a card and later decide that it should be a deck, you can
create a deck and move the card into it (this is done best in the
Explorer view), or you can convert the card into a deck and add more
cards to it. You can assign colors to cards (use the box of colors at
the upper right).
Explorer view is often the best way to quickly maneuver around a large
collection of decks and cards. All of this is pretty normal stuff.
However, there are some extras in SNC that make it more than just a
simple note card program.
Tension, categories, factors, flags -- these are all extras pieces to
SNC that you can use to help with the creation of a story. All of these
items can be assigned from the buttons at the upper right area of the
main screen. The full lists can be accessed via the larger buttons on
the left side.
Using the 'assign tension' factor can be especially helpful when you are
looking at scenes within a chapter. If you can actually see how the
tension flows from one piece to the next, you can see where you can
improve the flow and interest in the story. Tension can be assigned in
numbers from 1 to 10 and is shown by a little thermometer.
Categories allow you to assign things to various groups and then show
everything in that group. This can be really helpful for people working
on a series because you can create a category for each book and assign
things to more than one category. If you have a minor character, for
instance, you can assign him to a category and then see where he shows
up. For a single book, you might use a category to track a theme, or
perhaps clues to a mystery. Categories are shown by squares of color at
the top of the card. Each category can be assigned a different color.
Factors allow you to highlight things within each card and call up data
showing how often and where that item shows up. This can be especially
useful for minor characters to see where they are appearing in your
story. Tag anything that might turn up multiple times and be able to
pull everything in one list. Factors have both color code and a small
graphic pictures representing person, place, thing and others.
Flags can be used to show cards that need additional work or any other
reason a card needs special attention. It opens up a small screen on
the side of the card where you can note the information. You can also
press the little clock (visible after the flag is set) and record the
date and time. The flag can be set to either red, yellow or blue, which
means you can red-flag problems and use other colors to indicate
Once I have an outline in place, I usually export the data to an .rtf
file and print it off for easy access while working on the story
itself. There are several print, export and even import options listed
in the File Menu.
Think Beyond Story Creation
SNC can be used for a number of different things. It can make an
excellent submission tracker, especially with the flags and clock
function, which will allow you to see what items are out and when you
My largest SNC project is a database I'm slowly working up that lists my
work, characters, places, books, series, etc. Since I have three major
story universes and several books in each, this allows me to see who is
where and when I have dropped them into cameo roles elsewhere. It also
makes it easy to see what names I have used -- a major problem when an
author has a number of works and tends to like certain types of names.
In this case, I use factors to list out the main characters, and
categories to cover a number of things, including story universe,
series, manuscript title, genre, locations, timelines, etc. Flags will
cover novels and short stories, as well as problems.
A database like this can
also include a submission tracker like the one mentioned above.
(Click to see larger version showing story database)
This is a versatile and useful program, and well worth trying out. It's
fun to explore the many options and features -- more than what I've
covered here. Download the trial version and give it a try!
SuperNotecard can be found