S. J. Kelley

Week of May 4, 2015: Cannot find simple floor plan software to help me visualize my world

Stat summary for the last two weeks can be found here.

I think it’s good that I’m starting to track how much time I spend on the business side of indie publishing and how much I spend on actual writing. For the week of April 27, 2015 I spent a total of 13:25 on the author career, and 9:41 of that was used on business related things (learning the business, trends, advice, etc). This is not an acceptable ratio!

I got my butt in gear the next week but came to a point in the novel where my Main character is exploring the school, and I realized I needed a clear picture of the school in my mind. I tried program after program to draw a “simple” floor plan of the school so I could orient myself. It was a major block; I couldn’t keep going unless I knew where I was. Going through the motions made me realize that the space I had envisioned was physically impossible because I had huge rooms next to ones that were very small, but for the plot they had to be similar in size. It was a mess.

I spent 26:07 last week on this career, and used 15:17 for trying to come up with a good map. I’m still not there. That said, the exercise was not entirely fruitless. I added more groups inside the school, and came up with their past histories, which groups conflict on a number of different controversial topics, and how the groups work together. Lots of this will be important to the plot, and I feel I have a much better grip on who these people are. I started an excel sheet to lay out what the different groups think about various things (I’m being intentionally vague).

That said, I still do want to make a floor plan. I tried several software programs. I just want one that lets me edit the walls with a snap feature, and let’s me copy floors for multi-level buildings, and maybe see the floor beneath. Just something simple to let me draw boxes and stick windows and furniture in them! Here’s a quick summary of the software that fell short:

  • Sweet Home 3D was nice, and let me see the floor beneath, but the interface wasn’t great, and it was slow. Amazingly, they had no pan ability in the 3D view. The only way to get around it was to do a “virtual tour” and make the person 20 feet tall. The walls wouldn’t line up well, but at least I could copy them.
  • Room Arranger was the best I think; it had a nice guide feature, but you had to edit the walls separately from the contents of the room (including windows and doors), and there was no easy way to copy a bunch of walls to make multiple storeys. I did the most work in this program, but in the end it took almost a whole day to plan out the first floor of a dorm and the bathrooms. o_O’
  • I tried Home Designer but it wouldn’t run under my Windows XP Virtual Machine.
  • EZBluePrint 3D seemed ok, but lacked a grid and the interface was just plan odd, but the snapping feature was one of the best.
  • I even watched some video tutorials on Google SketchUp, but you have to make things like windows and doors from basic shapes and that’s way too time consuming.
There seemed to be quite a selection of online options, but I have to make a massive building and grounds, and don’t trust that my information won’t go piff. I like having things as files that I can put on Dropbox and my external hard drive.
I don’t yet have an answer to this issue, except maybe drawing everything by hand. I think it would go faster that way, but my space perception is about as good as a one-eyed newborn kitten’s. Software programs let you add furniture to the room so you I can say things like, “gee, when I put everything I need in that room I only ill 20% of the space… it must be the size of a football field!” To draw it by hand I’d have to lookup the normal sizes of things for scale, and I couldn’t just drag a wall smaller to get it to fit.
Next week I’ll probably come in here with my head between my legs and say I drew the damn thing by hand, and spent the whole week doing it… at least it gets me thinking about the world.
Oh I just thought of something! I’ll ask the folks on KBoards! Stay tuned…

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