Novlr weekly update No1

So, we thought it might be quicker and easier, and therefore more likely to happen if we posted a regular update by video. So here’s Kim with our first one.

It’s all coming together

Exciting news friends! Novlr is getting close to ready for beta. All of the functionality that we are going to have in the test version is there and we are just doing some front-end development to make it work like a dream on as many devices as we can and then its time for some alpha testing (that’s the kind of testing the developers do, the beta is where you lot come in).

We are both working every hour we can pilfer from our regular lives on this project and cannot contain our mix of excitement that it’s nearly there and terrified anticipation at the thought of you guys taking a first glimpse. There is always the nagging feeling in the back of my head that you’ll see it and go “Is that it?” after the anticipation of the last few months. Obviously the hope is that instead you will find it easy to use, simple and ultimately will change the way you write your novel in the future. So here’s to hoping for reactions on the latter end of that spectrum!

You can read about what’s in the beta in my blog post from last month and if you missed sign up for beta you can sign up to be notified when Novlr is ready for public release (boy will that be an exciting email to get!).

So whilst you quell your enthusiasm for another day, we’ll get on with fine-tuning this.

Not long now!

Meeting node developers

Thomas and I have had an exciting week of meeting some more members of the node community in a bid to find myself a teacher or two! We went along to the LNUG meetup last week and met some cool people there and then later posted a job ad on their board. Since then, we have met with a few really great guys who are interested in helping develop my node skills alongside the build of Novlr. They have all be really enthusiastic, passionate and excited about the prospect of working with us so I am looking forward to spending a day with each of them to see how we work.

I am excited about being able to pick the brains of experienced node developers and really get our teeth stuck into the plan for build and make a start on it in the next couple of weeks! Good times.

Learning node at LNUG

So one of the benefits of choosing a fast growing technology like node.js is that there’s a booming node geek scene. I’m sat at LNUG (London Node.js User Group) with about 100 other node developers, implementers etc. We’re hearing from a range of impressive node community contributors sharing some of their great work.

There really seems quite a buzz around node, which is exciting for us as we start using it. We (I say we but I really mean Kim) will be learning as much as we can from this community.

You can follow the action at @LNUGorg

Why we’re building Novlr: Part II

Thomas is Novlr’s CEO. You’ve had a post from him already. It may or may not come across in his words, but he is an incredibly perusasive man. So when he asked me what I thought about building an online novel writing software – oh and you’ll have to build it, you’ll be CTO – my initial reaction to these sorts of questions was curiously amiss (supportive humouring with a slight air of whimsy) in favour of a curiosity about what was going on in his head.

After, passing the idea around a few times, we realised that we were both excited, we thought it would be desired and it would help not only him (the eternal procrastinator) but thousands of other novel writers the world over. We can make novel writing painless. Simpler. We can make something that makes people rue they day they ever thought a word processor fixed to their desktop would do.

Then it hit me. You have to build it. That thought keeps hitting me. Weekly. Daily. Hourly in particularly challenging sprints. But the idea of what I could produce is too intoxicating and I’m too far gone! I am building Novlr and I have never been more excited about a project. It’s late nights, early mornings and an awful lot of learning but I am enjoying it.

To give you some background. Thomas and I have worked together for 3 and a half years in two different digital teams. Myself as Producer and Thomas leading both teams. I also do freelance web development in my spare time (not that there’s any of that anymore!). I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at university but taught myself basic programming over the summer when I realised I wanted to go into digital and have continued to teach myself a number of different languages in the meantime.

Novlr is being built on node.js, which is a language I knew nothing about before October 2013. I am learning as I go along and that journey is tumultuous to say the least. You can read about that journey in a separate post where I talk about the reasons for choosing node and where we are at with it.

I will be writing about the journey to build Novlr from a CTO’s perspective. The ups and the downs. Because yes, we’re a business but we want to be open, honest and frank about every part of Novlr, even if that means we break some cardinal rules of business from time to time. It’s more important to us to build the best possible novel writing software and we can’t do that without having followers who trust us and can feedback to us as honestly as we share with them. We would love you to take this journey with us.

Why we’re building Novlr

“So, instead of writing a novel you are building a novel writing platform… I see. So will it write your novel for you?”

Too many of my friends have suggested that building Novlr is just a determined feat of procrastination for me to completely deny that they might have a point. However, I feel that in a small way we are procrastinating so others don’t have to. Finding a simple place, that strips back distraction, gives you a nice place to write and makes the inevitable logistical things involved in novel writing easy, is quite hard. It doesn’t yet exist so we thought we’d make it happen.

Only a bad workman blames his tools

No one needs a tool to write a novel. The list of authors who managed just fine with a pen and paper, or a typewriter is clearly endless. You still could use a pen and paper if you wanted to. However, if all else is equal, having a good tool helps. Novlr isn’t going to write your book for you, but we intend it to be the best tool for the job.

I have tried to write a novel. I started on Word. Then I tried Scrivener. Then finally I moved to Google Drive. Each of them frustrated me. Each of them weren’t quite good enough. Of the three, Google Docs is without a doubt the best. It saves every word, it has a clean writing interface, it is available on any device and anywhere, but I found little things hugely frustrating. It wasn’t built with novel writing in mind. Each chapter was a document, but then ordering chapters and being clear which chapter was in first draft and which in second etc got confusing. I ended up using the document titles to store things, but it meant… I’m confusing myself just trying to explain it.

Starting simple

It got to a stage where I just couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a web based tool that made a lot of this easy. I was sure it could not be that difficult – most novels have chapters, characters and words – couldn’t you just make a really simple tool, broken into chapters, that saved so it never lost your words and was a pleasure to write into. I’m coming to understand that simplicity is hard. However, we’re up for the challenge. And, if I’m honest, we can’t help but get excited about all the things that could be possible in the future to make it even better… but as we keep repeating to ourselves (actually out loud – it’s becoming a mantra): FOCUS. We’re focused on getting something simple and good out as soon as we can.

We’ll follow this post up with lots more posts about who we are, how we’ll be building it, and how you can get involved – help us make it work.