2 October 2016

Special Guest Interview About 'Notebook' with Andrew Brown, CEO of Indent Labs

One of the great things about using Twitter as a writer are the new ideas you pick up from people you meet there.  A recent example is my discovery of the new Open Source Notebook - a ‘digital notebook’ which grows and collaborates with you as you create magnificent universes — and everything within them.

Notebook is on a free promotion throughout October aimed at helping writers with the courage to tackle NaNoWriMo. I soon found myself creating a ‘Tudor universe’, complete with castles – a king (Henry Tudor) and a queen. One you’ve created your ‘universe’ the application is designed to track every aspect of its characters, locations, and items. An AI (Artificial Intelligence) writing assistant prompts with questions about your content, helping you dive deeper than ever into your world.

Intrigued, I contacted Andrew Brown, CEO of Indent Labs, to find out more about how Notebook came to be developed.

Hi Andrew and thanks for taking the time to visit my blog.

Thanks for connecting on Twitter. I'm glad you had a chance to give Notebook a quick play and I hope it made a good first impression.

Yes – I found it surprisingly intuitive and easy to use.

Wonderful! We’ve been working hard to make sure Notebook is in a polished, stable state that allows authors to detail and track their characters, locations, and items. It scales with your ideas (meaning you'll never have another "full" notebook) and can actually politely ask questions to keep you fleshing out your ideas even when you're not in the creative mindset to sit down and create things.

I found the ‘prompts’ useful, although I did wonder about the AI behind them?

There's the beginnings of a very basic AI on the backend right now that, for example, can see you have a character named Alice without a hometown listed, and asks you one question at a time from the sidebar of any page (e.g. "Where was Alice born?"). If you answer, it saves your response back to Alice's notebook page and categorizes it for you.

My ‘universe’ is fairly simple so far but is developing fast. What happens when I try to reflect the complexity of the world I’m writing about?

We've also worked hard to make sure Notebook remains relevant to what you're writing about even if you have multiple universes of ideas in the same notebook. By sticking your characters, locations, and items (basically: people, places, and things) in "universes", you can easily do things like scope your notebook only to the universe you're currently writing in (from the universe dropdown in the top-left), effectively filtering out all other content that obviously isn't relevant right now.

I liked the way you can easily establish the relationships between characters.

Yes, you can also link content together semantically! If you create a page for Alice's best friend Bob, you can actually link Bob as Alice's best friend (and vice-versa), meaning whenever you are looking up anything about Alice, any ideas related to her are only a click away (in other words, clicking on Bob's name from Alice's page will take you directly to Bob's page). This is actually really important for the AI improvements that are coming.

What would you say to writers who worry a little about being able to access their information in Notebook in the future?

Of course! There's also a slew of benefits to Notebook inherent to it being digital: their ideas are available from any device, completely private (unless they mark pages public and share them with others for feedback), backed up, and always available, indefinitely, for free. 

What plans do you have for further development of Notebook?

There's a handful of other usability features getting ready to release in the new few weeks, but the biggest benefit authors can expect in the future is an improved AI. The same system that can realize, "Hey, Alice doesn't have a hometown set. I should ask Tony what it is and store it for him" will soon also be able to recognize relationships and ask stimulating questions and writing prompts like, "How did Alice meet Bob?" or "What does Bob not like about Alice?"

In addition to an improved AI, there's also features in the works to actually use the content in your notebook as you write, for example letting you hover over character names in your manuscript to instantly pull up relevant information about them, so you never have to dig out your notebook (or break your writing flow and jump back to an earlier chapter) to look up even the small facts about your characters.

I'm excited to launch Notebook out of private beta this week, but I'm even more excited for what's to come. I'm always happy to answer questions and field comments as well. This is what I love doing! 

Thanks again for the connection, I wish you the best,

Andrew Brown
CEO, Indent Labs
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About the Author

Andrew Brown is the founder of Indent Labs, LLC, a startup focused on blending creativity with artificial intelligence to create smarter writing software. Currently travelling the world with just a laptop and a suitcase, Andrew is preparing for his eighth year participating in National Novel Writing Month (and third published novel—hopefully!). His poetry and short fiction are available at www.drusepth.net and you can follow him on Twitter at @IndentLabs

Special Launch Promotion

To celebrate the launch of Notebook.ai, anyone who signs up for an account during October 2016 with promo code NANOPREP will have their $19.99 completely waived and enjoy a full account — free for life.

After October, new notebooks will cost $19.99 each, but authors on the fence will be able to try out Notebook.ai for free with our free Ethereal plan. Ethereal notebooks can be upgraded at any time, with no loss of ideas.

For more information click HERE

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