Ever wonder how we do it? How we organize jumbles and scraps of thoughts and make an actual story or video game or coherent plot line out of what could very well be an endless labyrinth of mumbles and forgotten scribbles on napkins. This is what I have found, mostly free and opensource software, that have become great tools to support my worldbuilding and storytelling.
Tools for maps, art and other visual aids:
A free open-source alternative to adobe photoshop. this program can be hard to get used to as there are almost too many things you can do with it, but I have used it for pretty much all map making and for creating proof-of-concepts for my artwork. It has become a mainstay in my process of creating visual aids for my worldbuilding.
Not sure about the overbearing nature of Gimp. Try Paint.NET. It combines the ease of use of windows paint with more advanced features that will cover 90% of what anyone would need.
Tools for organizing notes:
Windows now offers its ultimate note taking and organizing software as a free download. Combine this with one drive and you will have access to your notes from anywhere in the world.
Like wikipedia’s way of linking articles to other articles and creating a web of interlinking notes and articles. Now you can make one on your desktop that syncs to an Android App(and vice versa) through dropbox so you can edit and take notes on the go. There are also many other flavors of wiki and even free hosted ones that you can share with others in a group. But I am partial to EmaWiki due to it’s lightweightness and ease of use.
Tools for Writing:
This is available to anyone who has a gmail account. Now I wouldn’t suggest using gdocs as a tool for finalizing writing, but I’ve used it extensively for years as a simple way to get words on the page no matter where I am. You can also share documents with friends and G+ groups which makes it great for group projects and editing.
Duh. Everyone knows how to use Microsoft Word. But it’s also kind of expensive if it doesn’t come with your computer (like mine). LibreOffice Forever!
This is a paid application that I have used to go from notes to chapters to print ready manuscripts. I like it a lot but I also realized that after paying $40 dollars for the windows license and software that it is missing a lot of features that the Macintosh version has. I have to say I felt kind of ripped off. but it is still a great tool and if you plan on self-publishing there is no easier way to go from beginning to finished product.
Want an opensource version of Scrivener and don’t need pretty buttons then this is for you. Has great tools to link characters, places, to notes and is another way to go from start to finish within one program. I couldn’t use this for my upcoming novel The King’s Challenge as I wanted to break it into parts, and this was unable to do so. But I want to try it again for a less strict project.
Tools for Mindmapping:
Have a need to map out a plot line with multiple characters, POVs, or what have you. If you create anything other than a linear A to B story line than you will need something to make sure you don’t get stuck in a plot hole or that your characters are all accounted for at the end. This allows you to zoom out in any direction in near-infinite expansion, so as your story grows so can your mind map and organization.
Never Underestimate a notebook and sticky notes:
Sometimes because of the confines of the screen or sometimes you just need something that allows more free-form of thought and you don’t have to wait for it to work or learn how to use it. A notebook, a red pen, and sticky notes and you are set to design the next GRRM novel with interlocking time travel and never having to worry about losing track of that one event that creates the big plot hole. Or something like that, I wouldn’t know.
I like and believe in opensource software. I work with Linux and CentOS for my paying job and opensource is the place you want to go for stability and knowing that you didn’t just download a virus. Yes, you will lose flashy buttons and pretty lights but you will be in control of everything on your system just like your world. I recommend trying some of these tools most are free or come with free trails, try them see what works for you. And if nothing on here is what you are looking for use altenativeto.net and find what you need.