Do you Scapple?

Text: Writers Forum Book Review: Encouraging One Another in the Craft

Today at Writers Forum, we have reviews of a couple of writerly products from Writers Forum member Dave Smith.

Take it away, Dave…


Do you Scapple?

By: Dave Smith


Good things should be passed along.

Here are two I found worthy of passing along: Scapple, and Alexa Donne. If you’re not familiar with them, let me tell you.

For the past few years I have used the writing program Scrivener. I got it because, first, it had a 30 day free trail. Yes, I’m cheap so this immediately appealed to me. I was impressed enough to purchase it because, yes, it’s not expensive. I paid $45 for it. A forever license.

Scrivener is a quality program, and I continue to discover more of its abilities as I write. Because of this, I recently decided to try another program designed by the same folks, Scapple.

This is a user friendly brainstorming type of program. I know what you’re thinking, but it is in my opinion well worth trying. This program is simple and intuitive, like my sentences.

It also has a free 30 day trial (not necessarily consecutive, so if you skip a day, you won’t have it taken off your free trial. Isn’t that sweet?)

How does it work? Well, it’s like taking all your ideas on a project and splattering them all over the page, like index cards on the floor. But then, you can connect them with lines, directional arrows, colors, and more, and you can move them around, and change everything you just did EASILY. You can import documents, and pictures, and export to other file formats.

Personally, I have difficulty keeping track of the various threads in stories I write. (Think subplots, or inner thoughts, or what nots.) This program takes care of that. I tried it with a new idea I’ve had, and it amazed me how it kept me unmuddled. Now I can see where my problems are, and move ideas and scene parts around accordingly, and can go from here to an outline, or just follow my thoughts on a Scapple page, pantser style.

Did I use Scapple to write this article? Yup.


Alexa Donne. Like everyone, I use YouTube to learn things; how to re-pot a bonsai, or replace a headlight on an old Toyota, or discover why my tomatoes look like they do. Sometimes I stumble across videos about writing, and if they’re interesting enough, I make it all the way to the end, dodging ads along the way.

I came across Alexa Donne and her video Harsh Writing Advice. I made it all the way to the end. For some insight and a few chuckles, check it out. You might see a familiar style if you look close enough.


Like a Good Story?

Today we have some book reviews by Writers Forum member Steve Westall.

steve-westell-ovalI thought it would be fun to pass along a sentence or two recap of books I’ve read over the last few weeks.  Maybe another member might do the same for next month’s newsletter.

We all use different approaches in selecting reads.  Personally I enjoy just about everything…A good story is a good story, ya know. I read the book reviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal religiously every week, occasionally watch “The Book” on CSPAN, listen to “Nancy’s Bookshelf” on NSPR, and of course my reader friends always have recommendations.  I take my picks to Amazon for pricing…never buy a hardcover unless it’s on sale at Costco.  Amazon Prime Membership (free shipping) is a great deal if you buy any quantity of books.  I don’t buy anything without price checking Amazon first….So here we go…

  1. Cutting For Stone: Abraham Verghese. Story of love, betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles and orphaned twin brothers whose fates are intertwined.  Set in post war Ethiopia. A book I never would have selected off the shelf. Extremely well crafted.  5 Stars
  2. The Nest: Cynthia Sweeny. Tension in a dysfunctional New York family that had made a pact to split a wealthy sibling’s fortune to repay a loan that he had taken from the family trust (Nest).  Good story but I thought amateurishly written.  Shows how an author that has close friends in the publishing business  (Harper Collins) and the WSJ Books Section… gets a book published that might have been difficult otherwise.   3 Stars
  3. The House of The Spirits: Isabel Allende.  Triumphs and tragedies in three generations of a political Latin American family.  Story of love and revolution.  Excellent primer on developing characters for novice writers. I felt the skillful construction of the story was better than the actual story.  4 Stars
  4. The Zebra Striped Hearse; The Chill; The Far Side of the Dollar. Ross Macdonald. Three Mystery novels from a series of detective stories around central character Lew Archer written in the 1950’s.  I’m not a detective story fan but these are so well written you can’t stop reading.  5 Stars
  5. Killing The Rising Sun: Bill O’Reilly – Martin Dugard.  I really like Dugard’s  easy read writing style. All the “Killing” books have been extremely well researched. For history impaired people they are a great catch up on eighth grade history.  Martin does all the work and Bill adds the hype.  Hard not to sell a million copies when your title is before the public every night seven days a week.   3 Stars
  6. Breaking Through Power: Ralph Nader. No Ralph is not dead.  This short book just came out the middle of September.  A very well documented analysis of what the politicians refer to as the “top 1%”.  It’s alarming to see the power that a mere 500 U.S. families have over all of us.  I’m not a fan of political books but this one’s more of a layman CPA’s view of what happens in a society controlled by money and wealth (Plutocracy).  Great outline of how Democracy works…good read for every concerned American.  5 Stars

Steve Westall

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