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Author Topic: Flying Logic for Writers?  (Read 14314 times)
Jottce
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« on: September 27, 2007, 12:26:20 AM »

As it is, Flying Logic is not designed for writers -- as far as I can tell after having tested it for a few days only. However, I do think it has the potential to be quite powerful for both academic and creative writers -- as well as for teaching writing. I am in literary studies and could use a tool that would help me visualize the textual evidence that supports an interpretive claim, that would allow me to make warrants or underlying assumptions explicit, as well as possible objections and their rebuttal (sort of Toulmin-style). But such visualization would be particularly helpful in teaching.

I used the template (or "domain") for evidence-based analysis to test such an analysis and was quite happy with how it added clarity to the complex problem. I found myself wishing for a way to turn this analysis into an argument, and to export the argument as an outline. I realize that this would be a complex thing to accomplish since you have to turn the spacial representation into a linear one, but, well, I was wishing.

I hope that this discussion will start a process that leads to the development of such templates.

Best,
j
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Robert McNally
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2007, 12:43:58 PM »

Thank you for your comments!

As for "turning analysis into argument," I would need more understanding of what is involved in this before determining how the software may be adaptable to the task. Exporting to an outline is not a technical problem at all, and it's now on my list of features to add for future versions. It would be helpful to know what outlining software you believe is popular, so I can figure out what export file formats to support.
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AndreasE
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2007, 01:36:04 AM »

I discovered "Flying Logic" thanks to a post in the Scrivener forum, had a look and found it being a kind of software I was looking for since ever without knowing it... After the first half an hour I said to myself: "I will have to buy a licence after the 30 days test period." And then I couldn't help but to aquire a licence the next day...  Wink

First, it helped me in fact thinking. It helped to clarify vague thoughts and nebulous ideas in a way paper could not - this impresses me because I always thought of paper as the unbeatable tool for any thinking outside my head, as the best tool available. In the first 2 days, I got a grip on a number of problems that were plaguing me for long - now, they are turned into to-do-lists! I developed the concept for a writing workshop I am going to give next week, and I was ready to go after two or three hours - in the past, this was something that costed me half a week! So, chapeau, Mr McNally!

Next thing will be the development of a novel plot. I aquired the Professional Version because it allows to create one's own domains and classes: My first attempt was to create a domain "Plot" and classes for each POV or each plot thread. Using a direction from left to right one should be able to easily create lines of events and interweave them later - just to drag an arrow from one entry to another would mean "this happens after that" -, until one arrives at one long chain of events. That could be grouped into chapters and acts to have an overall structure. We'll see.

The possibility to export an outline (that is, any list that contains the title of an entity and its notes together) would be a great help - not only for writers, I think.
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Jottce
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2007, 04:52:46 AM »

First, it helped me in fact thinking. It helped to clarify vague thoughts and nebulous ideas in a way paper could not - this impresses me because I always thought of paper as the unbeatable tool for any thinking outside my head, as the best tool available. In the first 2 days, I got a grip on a number of problems that were plaguing me for long - now, they are turned into to-do-lists!

Hi Andreas,

I had a similar experience of sudden clarity with my first attempts at testing Flying Logic. I had also discovered it at the Scrivener forum and was working on a research problem; using the "Evidence-Based Analysis" domain as a starting point, I was able to pinpoint a paradox at the heart of my problem. It took me a while to understand that it is quite easy in the Pro version to create your own custom domains. I was quite frustrated at first that all that thinking was locked into Flying Logic -- unless I retyped everything. To me, the ability to export into a format Scrivener can read is crucial.

Next thing will be the development of a novel plot. I aquired the Professional Version because it allows to create one's own domains and classes: My first attempt was to create a domain "Plot" and classes for each POV or each plot thread. Using a direction from left to right one should be able to easily create lines of events and interweave them later - just to drag an arrow from one entry to another would mean "this happens after that" -, until one arrives at one long chain of events. That could be grouped into chapters and acts to have an overall structure. We'll see.

The possibility to export an outline (that is, any list that contains the title of an entity and its notes together) would be a great help - not only for writers, I think.

Indeed! In the end, what you need as a writer -- regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction -- is an outline to turn into a readable text. It would be wonderful if Flying Logic included the ability to export as OPML -- or even better come to think of it as MultiMarkdown file. You could import the outline directly into Scrivener, turning every node in FL into a document and thus a card on the pinboard. Bliss! OPML would probably speak to a larger number of applications, and you can import an OPML file into Scrivener via fletcher's trick over at the Scrivener forums using a MultiMarkdown file as an intermediary.

Andreas, now I have a question for you: how would you turn your storyboard, or your map of the plotlines into an outline? You would probably want the groups (i.e. chapters) to be top-level items with the events in those groups as children, right? So you would end up with an outline that gives you the chapters in succession. It seems to me that flexibility in what ends up where on the outline would be a killer feature.

Just wondering…

Best,
J
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Tripper
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2007, 10:33:11 AM »


Next thing will be the development of a novel plot. I aquired the Professional Version because it allows to create one's own domains and classes: My first attempt was to create a domain "Plot" and classes for each POV or each plot thread. Using a direction from left to right one should be able to easily create lines of events and interweave them later - just to drag an arrow from one entry to another would mean "this happens after that" -, until one arrives at one long chain of events. That could be grouped into chapters and acts to have an overall structure. We'll see.

The possibility to export an outline (that is, any list that contains the title of an entity and its notes together) would be a great help - not only for writers, I think.

Hi AndreasE
I too came to this from Scrivener forum and am playing with the demo, particularly with a view to tracking plot, what are the consequences of certain actions, what prerequisites need to be in place for things to happenm what are the desired and undesired outcomes etc. I'm interested in what new classes you might create. I can't afford the professional version at the moment but would be interested in your experience of using it, particularly with regard to tracking the different plot points in an outline.
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AndreasE
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2007, 11:29:49 PM »

Andreas, now I have a question for you: how would you turn your storyboard, or your map of the plotlines into an outline? You would probably want the groups (i.e. chapters) to be top-level items with the events in those groups as children, right? So you would end up with an outline that gives you the chapters in succession. It seems to me that flexibility in what ends up where on the outline would be a killer feature.

In the moment, I would export the line of events as a jpg - maybe print it out on several sheets of paper - and the notes as a text file and fiddle it all together in Scrivener. To have an outline function would make this process more convenient, but it is not crucial (in the sense that you can't do without). And yes, my final novel outline consists always of acts (or any other larger segmentation of the story; sometimes a story suggests another big structure than acts), chapters and finally scenes:

+ Novel
   + Act I
      + Chapter 1
         - Scene 1
         - Scene 2
      + Chapter 2
         - Scene 3
      ...etc. (where the "Act" usually don't make it into the final book as a segmentation; I divide the story in acts only for my own purposes - to see whether the book is well balanced, to spot important turning points easier etc.)

Speed in the transferring step is, BTW, overrated in my opinion. For a writer, it does no harm if one is forced to write something a second or third time. I very often develop my plot lines several times independantly anew from scratch, just to find out whether I arrive at the same conclusions or not or to have alternatives to chose from. It might very well be that I will use Flying Logic only for a very early stage of the developing process - when I have bits and pieces of a story that have to go in, but no idea how. And once the basic structure is fixed, I might create it again in Scrivener, this time focusing on other aspects - time, place, characters involved etc.

We'll see. I have to give my seminar first next week, after that is Frankfurt Book Fair, and then home again, I'll have to fine-tune the second half of a novel in progress, and I'll attack this with Flying Logic. After that, I'll be able to tell more.
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Jottce
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2007, 12:44:15 AM »

AndreasE, thank you for your response. Do you have classes for Acts, chapters, and scenes in your domain? It seems to me that in writing narrative, there would be different types of maps that would not easily come together in an outline -- but this may be my lack of imagination in this area. E.g. I could imagine a graph that charts out conflicts between characters (sort of like a reverse conflict resolution graph). These conflicts are what drives the narrative and since they happen in time, they would turn into a chronological structure. But you wouldn't necessarily tell the story in the same chronology, right? I am trying to wrap my head around this conundrum not just because I'm nosy, but because much of my work revolves around the analysis of narrative. In terms of mapping, I think, there would be a lot of similarities between a map that facilitates the creation of a narrative and one for its analysis.

Narrative theory distinguishes (very helpfully, I think) three 'levels':

(1) the bare bones of the story material in chronological order
(2) the arrangement of incidents as presented to the reader (some events may be left out or told in different order)
(3) the way in which this story is actually expressed on the level of text; the sentences the reader actually reads

It seems to me that there would be value in mapping on each of these levels, but each would require different domains and classes. Your outline with Acts, chapters and scenes would be on the third level here. Level 2 is what makes your story different from other stories that use the same basic material; this is where I would expect you to do your mapping as a fiction writer. Level 1 would enable you to see what basic material you use. It seems to me it would be very difficult to model the transfer from a level 2 map to a level 3 outline, but perhaps I'm on a completely wrong track here.

Speed in the transferring step is, BTW, overrated in my opinion. For a writer, it does no harm if one is forced to write something a second or third time.

I agree with you that re-typing is potentially creative; but here, I think there may be a difference between fiction (narrative) and non-fiction (argumentative) writing. To me, direct transfer to an outline would add tremendous value to the software in mapping my own writing. I am working on an academic book and am using Flying Logic to map a chapter that I had been struggling with; I find that my graphs get very extensive, and I tend to write full sentences in the nodes. But speed of transfer is not even the main point here, perhaps: seeing my work in outline view gives me a wholly different perspective on the flow of the argument. Export to outline would enable me to go back-and-forth between a potential outline and the graph. Here, the difference between the structure of the argument and its expression in my text is very small, meaning that the outline of the argument will look very similar to the outline of my text.

This would be very different if I used Flying Logic to analyze a narrative. There would be no pressing need for me to transfer the outline of such a map. But, since I haven't tried that yet, I am not sure here either.

Best,
J
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AndreasE
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2007, 02:26:30 AM »

Just arrived at home for a short stopover...  Tongue

And just want to mention that to analyse a novel and to create a novel are two completely different things that can hardly be compared and can tell each other almost nothing: Whatever works in analysis might very well be of zero value in creation.

If one analyses a novel, one wants to create a telling image from the text. This is something I would rather use an application like OmniGraffle for, not Flying Logic.

But as I promised, more later this month!
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Jottce
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2007, 04:18:21 AM »

And just want to mention that to analyse a novel and to create a novel are two completely different things that can hardly be compared and can tell each other almost nothing: Whatever works in analysis might very well be of zero value in creation.

If one analyses a novel, one wants to create a telling image from the text. This is something I would rather use an application like OmniGraffle for, not Flying Logic.

Oh, I did not mean to suggest creation and analysis are the same thing -- I would absolutely agree with you that they are completely different activities that have quite different requirements. However, I would like to respectfully disagree on that they have nothing to tell each other and that they cannot be compared. Approaching a text from the perspective of creation when you are trying to analyze it can yield valuable insights, although it is certainly not the only way to approach a text. Of course I will not disagree with you that processes that would be helpful for analysis could well be worthless in creation -- or even detrimental to it. It seems to me though that at some point in the creative process some writers may rely on analysis if only as a diagnostic tool.

I am absolutely willing to concede though that Flying Logic may not be the right tool for analysis of fiction. I just haven't found a good reason why it would not be. OmniGraffle is all about options and freedom -- you can focus on the visual aspects and are free to create new shapes on the spot, which is definitely helpful for some analytical tasks -- for example to show character relations or how they move in space. The advantage of Flying Logic to me lies in constraint - each element has very specific meaning and you have a limited number of elements. This may be very valuable for a structural analysis. But this is just hypothesis; I will report back when I have tried it myself.

All the best,
J
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ickarus.john
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2010, 05:07:47 PM »

Yes. creating such template would make flying logic a great tool for writers.. Smiley
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Dreaming in public is an important part of our job description, as science writers, but there are bad dreams as well as good dreams. We're dreamers, you see, but we're also realists, of a sort.
William Gibson's essay
David P
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« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2011, 06:55:48 AM »

Hi,
This is just to introduce myself, to cast a vote for keeping this topic open, and to see if anyone else out there is interested in using FL for writing. I'm a professor of Russian and Comparative Literature near Boston, MA, and am interested in using FL for:
a) mapping out the arguments I find in others' writings;
b) mapping arguments for my own writing; and
c) helping students map their arguments.
I'd love to hear others' ideas.
Cheers,
David
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