Programming note: I will revisit this post from time to time to add new principles as they emerge in practice.

Tinderbox is more than just a piece of software–it’s a way of thinking. Adjusting your thinking is a critical aspect (and benefit) of using Tinderbox. In particular, given a target audience of writers, there’s several things to keep in mind.

Don’t throw anything away.

Storing things, particularly texty things, has become affordable to the point where it’s essentially free. You never know when you’ll need something again. Destructive deletes are forever–why risk it? This is especially true for writers, who are known to squirrel away older drafts, and hang on to entire cut scenes and chapters, which might find some use later.

Focus on making it easy to store things.

(as opposed to easy to retrieve things)

Arrange your process to make sure the important things happen–and what is more important than capturing a potentially fleeting bit of info? This comes from Marie Kondo in her fantastic book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Many people are stuck in a 20th-century mindset about information storage. If your mental model resembles filing cabinets and alphabetized folders: reconsider. Well-crafted tools like Tinderbox have powerful search facilities. Making things easier to retrieve is no longer the critical path against which to focus your efforts. Embrace the tool–the more you put in it, the more useful it becomes. Don’t miss an opportunity to save something you might need later.

Let emergence happen.

You don’t need to have the entire game plan in mind when you start. In fact, it never happens this way. Just like with writing, it might take an initial draft to figure out what you’re trying to do. As you work delightful unexpected connections will emerge from the mist, almost as if you had planned it out. Maybe some back part of your brain did. Some things will require adjustment and refactoring as you go, but in the end you’ll end up with a polished gem.

Don’t fear the docs.

I realize that it has become fashionable for commodity software to omit manuals entirely, but Tinderbox is anything but commodity software. From the menu, choose Help -> Getting Started With Tinderbox for an excellent tutorial, and go back to it from time to time. You’ll get more out of it in subsequent readings. There’s a few other goodies buried in the Help menu…have a look for yourself.

Be part of the community.

Lastly, Tinderbox is a community, not a solo effort. Stop by the forums (Help -> Tinderbox Forum) if you get really stumped, or just to lend a hand to those newer than you.

Got more Tinderbox Principles for Writers? Comment here or send email.