There’s an app for that. We’ve all heard that phrase before, and honestly, it’s a little worn out. A couple of months ago, I was in between projects and trying to figure out what I wanted to write next. When I finally settled on a story idea—a fresh one that had zero development—I decided I wanted to try something new with outlining.
And I. Hate. Outlining.
It’s probably my least favorite part of the writing process because it’s like putting together a puzzle but you have to create the pieces and you don’t even know what the picture is supposed to look like. I wanted to try something similar to the notecard method again, where you write out a plot point on a notecard and can rearrange them any which way until you find a story you like.
Now, I try not to use paper, opting instead for all digital. (Maybe that’s why I can’t read e-books? Because staring at a screen feels like work?) My sister who’s also a writer suggested Campfire, so I thought I’d give it a try.
When I first started using the site, I got really excited because you can set it to different themes according to the genre of your story. I picked sci-fi for this particular project, but I also like the look of fantasy. You can also use Campfire to outline other projects, not just stories.
There are more options than what I list below, but I included the ones I used for this particular story.
- Names. Nicknames. Age. Role. Personality Type. Positive and negative character traits. Description. You name it. There’s lots of options to choose from, and you can pick and choose what you want to fill out. You only get 10 characters in the free version, which is fine because not every story needs to have 100,000 characters, but still. When it comes to named characters, I think my last novel had about 20-something.
- Like character descriptions but with different attributes. In in the free version, you only get 5. Good thing I wasn’t working on a travel story. Oh, wait… Any extra details I wanted to include if I didn’t have room, I just crammed into the timeline. Mwuahahaha!
- Not to be confused with locations, though you can link the items together. This particular option allows you to upload a map, which is cool, but I wish they had the option to develop and edit a map. That would be awesome, but I understand why they don’t. To make my own map, I used the Polygon Map Generator by Red Blob Games.
- My favorite part of the app, and yes, you can rearrange the events! I only used the description section, but you can link your characters to events. In the free version, you only get 20 events and 2 timelines. I was going to make a secondary timeline but decided to focus on my main timeline and ended up combining a bunch of events. There’s no limit to how much information each item you have access to can hold.
- Want to include a list of stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit in anywhere else? Use this option! I particularly enjoyed the statistics table and the description column. In the free version, you can have 5 articles, but I only used 3.
- Lifespan. Sleep cycle. Average height. Average weight. Kingdom. Habitat. Descriptions. I actually used the subtitles here to add made up Latin names. In the free version, you only get up to 5 species. Sure, I only used 3 for this particular story, but I can come up with dozens of others if I was writing a fantasy novel.
- Other: Manuscript, Research, Relationships, Magic, Cultures, and Items.
- The other options I might consider using for future projects include Magic and Cultures. Normally, I would use them, but I didn’t need them for this project.
- If you’re like me and you like to collect pretty things, then you might just enjoy this site. Not only does it have genre-based themes, but you can also add your own pictures. It’s almost like having an aesthetic board for your story on Pinterest but not really. The theme option really helps set the mood for creativity.
- Easily accessed organization.
- Once you figure out how to navigate the site, you can link everything together. Or not. It’s up to you. But it’s really convenient to find exactly the information you want without having to scroll a bunch.
- Plenty of options.
- Seriously, all the options! I didn’t even use them all, but they helped me a bunch with things like character development, world building, and my timeline.
- Fun to use.
- I actually enjoyed outlining for a change. Maybe that’s because the site is shiny and new to me, but I just might enjoy using it again in the future.
- Limited use with the free version.
- I maxed out my characters and timeline events. I might have accidentally broken the timeline and ended up with 21/20 events. Don’t know how that happened, but I’m sticking with it.
- Limited availability.
- I know the site claims it works on mobile devices, but my sister and I couldn’t figure out how to access it on both Android and Apple. So if I want to outline my story or develop my characters, I have to use my computer, and I have to have internet. It’s not difficult, but it’s not always convenient.
- Slow processing.
- I’m not the fastest typist, but I can get up to 90 words per minutes when I’m on a role, and Campfire doesn’t always process typing that fast. Maybe it’s my computer? Also, the autocorrect suggestions are not as helpful as Microsoft Word.
- Characters are geared towards humans.
- This one’s a little easier to work with considering you don’t have to include all the character development options. For example, I usually skip over character description, option for the bare minimum such as height.
- Timeline dates are limited to Earth eras, and you can’t get rid of the date option.
- If you’re like me and you’re writing a sci-fi story that takes place in a new mythical era, or you’re writing fantasy and yours don’t even use Earthen months, this bit can be frustrating.
Overall Review of Campfire Write
Overall, I give the site 7/10 stars. To me, the pros outweigh the cons. For the first time in a long while, I actually enjoyed outlining and was ready to start my rough draft within two weeks. Which is great considering it usually takes me two to three months. Thank you, Campfire! I will likely be using the site more in the future.
Let’s chat! Have you tried Campfire before? Do you use any sites for your writing process? Which ones?