#52Tech | Week 2: Story Skeleton (iOS) with Scrivener export

This is a catchup post for my year of #52tech – promising a post every week on writing or creative technology. This is week 2.

This time around it’s the Story Skeleton app for iOS – which promises a story structure or mapping experience for iPhone or iPad users. But the reason I was particularly interested in this one was it’s export functionality to Scrivener.

First up, this is quite a costly app. Secondly, I use several other (and in my opinion better) index card apps that have similar share, dropbox or export file type options.

I found the app quite contra-intuitive to learn – it took me a while to work out how to create a stack of cards into a new stack. And I think the user interface is a little bland, particularly on the card deck view.

On first installing you can open the tutorial deck of cards. But even then, I didn’t find a great lot of help. On the card explaining the two title options – card type and plot point – it explains the predefined ones can be added to “easily” by taping ‘edit types’ – a button choice I could never find on the card.

It’s perhaps those predefined title options that really limit my own structuring ability. I started off a brand new fiction project to try the app out, in the hopes of getting my structure or ideas into Scrivener – which I use on Windows. The Windows edition of Scrivener is still at version one, and missing many of the good synch options that Mac users have.)

I went in with a kernal of an idea I wanted to develop,but on creating a new card, I found the title already limited – card type was predefined as ‘Act 1’, and Plot Point as ‘Inciting Incident’. The Plot Points appear to be a version of the beats or points found in the hero’s journey. But there is no area or card type / plot point for general story ideas, or character or setting development.

So, I had to create a plot point called Story Idea, but would much prefer to be able to name a card as I wanted it.

I input some small amount of ideas onto a couple of cards. This was typed easily onto the card itself via the iPad’s screen keyboard. The latest version of Story Skeleton is compatible with iOS7 bluetooth keyboard commands, which means it’s still plain text based all the way – you can’t use bold, italics or bullets for emphasis.

The website for Story Skeleton is one page only. It has a video of the app in use. But more information is available from reading the full description at the Apple store. The following excerpt might explain where I went wrong in my understanding –

Using StorySkeleton:
As opposed to apps designed for writing out your entire screenplay on your phone, the idea behind StorySkeleton is to touch-type LESS. You can type cards in short bursts, by writing brief sentences or quick reminders for yourself, wherever you are.

For example, a typical index card might only say “Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan.” That’s all! Just enough to trigger your mind and move you forward, to give you an impression of the big structure pieces. The title of that card would read, “Act 2: Mentor Disabled” — and with the custom predefined card types, you don’t have to type that part manually.

So, I decided to export to Scrive format for Scrivener. Story Skeleton was first linked into my Dropbox so that the file would appear on my computer after exporting. Once I opened up Dropbox at my PC, I found the app had created it’s own set of folders in there – I eventually found the exported file under Apps\StorySkeleton\Exports\and a zip file called the book name-scrivener.

I had to unzip this to access the normal Scrivener project files including the actual project.scriv file I could open into the Scrivener program itself.

Eventually, after working this out, unzipping and opening the project inside Scrivener, I found that the cards I’d created were there, but where I’d expected all my typing would appear inside the text editor, it actually appeared as the synopsis on the card. I had to copy and paste this back into the actual editor, plus set all the structure, and labels again myself.

To be fair, the app’s descriptions suggest that export files will work with .Scriv for Scrivener 2.x versions. As Windows Scrivener is still at version 1.6, it may well complicate the issue, and require the zip file as an interim. If you do use a Mac and current versions of Scrivener then your Story Skeleton experience may be different.

Back in Story Skeleton at a later date, I found that in setting up the export originally I also caused an auto backup, meaning that my Dropbox containers now contain Autosaves for both my story project and the tutorial project found in the app.

If you are after a very simplistic structural app which does provide .scriv files for importing into Scrivener, as the reviews on the iStore say – this app shows great promise.Screenwriters who like the predefined hero’s journey titles and structure may well also get a lot out of the app for on-the-go carding.

But for the cost, the fact I can only really input a few words into the text, to appear as a quick synopsis; and the amount of post-export work required on a Windows PC to get the file into Scrivener, I’d get more out of something like Index Card app or Cloud Outliner.

App Overview

storyskelStory Skelton website. | iOS Store Link


Ideas strike wherever you are. Be prepared with StorySkeleton, the best story-mapping and organizational tool for iPad and iPhone.

Create the structure for your project with StorySkeleton’s snappy and finger-friendly interface. Export to a variety of useful formats, including native Scrivener and Final Draft documents!

Quickly swipe from card to card, enter text content and descriptions, move cards around — anything you can think of doing with a regular ol’ stack of index cards, and more!

 Export your cards to:
.Fdx for Final Draft 8
.Scriv for Scrivener 2.x
.Opml, a popular mind-mapping format
.Rtf and .Txt for use with any major word processor
.Skel (StorySkeleton native format)

Import projects from:
– to import files, put them in the Exports folder that is created when you export. If this folder does not exist, export a project and it will be created for you. Within your Dropbox, the folder will be Apps/StorySkeleton/Exports/

52Tech 200This was a one in the #52tech goal – to investigate and share one technology post once a week for 2014.

You can find all the posts indexed via the #52tech tag, or top menu option at huntingdownwriting.wordpress.co

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