Software for Writers: Liquid Story Binder XE
Liquid Story Binder XE is one of the few pieces of for-pay software for writers that I think is worth its salt. Mac users have their Scrivenir, which is beautiful and seems perfect for writers, but I don’t have a Mac and so I don’t have Scrivener. Liquid Story Binder (LSB from here on) is the next best thing for those of us stuck (by choice or circumstance) in the Windows world.
To say that LSB is a novel-writing program hardly scratches the surface of what the program does. To be frank, the program does so much that I’m not even entirely sure what it does! Let’s start with the metaphor of a binder. In a pen-and-paper world, a writer might put together a binder with all the information they’d need about their book-in-progress: character sketches, plot outlines, setting notes, drawings, random thoughts, todo lists, and so on.
Once you get the ideas behind it, LSB essentially offers a digital version of the paper binder, integrated with a workspace where you actually write your novel.
Or your not-novel. While LSB is clearly designed with fiction writers in mind, it is easily adaptable to any sort of prose, from short essays to non-fiction monographs. Character forms can be used to store information about sources or historical figures, setting forms can be used for place descriptions, and so on. In fact, for the essayist or short story writer who may want to compile their work into a book down the line, LSB is ideal — each chapter (or essay or story) is stored as a separate file (in Rich Text Format, which can be opened by virtually any word processor on any system) so it can be manipulated on its own, but when it comes time to collating everything together, LSB automates the process completely.
LSB also includes some other nice features, like the ability to create playlists to use while writing (consider this: a “heroic music” playlist for action scenes, a “romantic idylls” playlist for romance scenes, and a playlist composed entirely of Prince songs for sex scenes — you can soundtrack your own book while you write!) and reference works like a dictionary and thesaurus.
LSB comes with an example “Book” (its jargon for everything related to a single project) that includes examples of every function and tutorials on how to get started (which are complemented by some nice tutorials on their site). I had originally planned to do a walkthrough of the book creation process, but Tom Colvin of Becoming a Writer Seriously has already written a good introduction to Liquid Story Binder that covers most of the ground I would have.
Though it has a pretty steep learning curve, which the tutorials go a long way but not all the way towards alleviating, LSB is a worthwhile investment for any writer. I’d suggest getting it at the start of a project, so you don’t have to deal with cutting-and-pasting existing material into LSB and can focus instead on working with the program’s workflow. At $45.95 US, LSB isn’t cheap, but it’s nowhere near as expensive as much of the lesser software out there that promises to make writing easy. LSB makes no such promise; it only aims to make writing more organized.
Liquid Story Binder XE ($45.95 US)