Novel Writing Software

Thursday, November 01, 2012
What You Should Look For
by e. lee caleca
If you’ve never used novel writing software, it may take some getting used to but it can be very helpful in many ways. Writers use all sorts of organizational tools to keep their stories on track - spreadsheets, documents, outlines, file cards, and even notes spread out across your dining room table. Notebooks or files of your characters’ traits, possessions, backgrounds and links to other characters often create a pile of material.  

We have to organize and document the story summary, plot, subplot, red herrings, protagonist and villain, logistics, timeline, and keep track of dialog and word usage so as not to repeat ourselves (or have our characters repeat themselves). And the list goes on. Novelists must be extremely detail oriented. I like to see everything in front of me at once so I work long hand in the beginning. With pen in hand and piles of paper, I write, organizing sub piles of notes for the beginning, middle and end, bits of dialog that I want to use later for a particular character but just don’t know where yet. Perhaps I’m obsessed or maybe even possessed. I just get a lot out of writing longhand. 

The problem with this way of writing and organizing your story is that these files aren’t connected to each other. I have to search through bits of paper to find the piece I want. Not difficult for me but probably more time consuming than it needs to be especially when I start dealing with timelines and dialog halfway through the writing. It takes time to go back and read to find a particular bit to make sure everything is correct.

How Novel Writing Software Helps
The best feature of novel writing software programs is that they help you keep track of what you’ve done, allowing you to develop elements of the story individually and bringing them all together in the end. You’ll get help creating structure and timeline consistency, character development and paragraph hierarchy, proofing and formatting. Some programs offer questions about plot, character, and tension to help you through the process. Others offer scriptwriting and epub formatting features.

Creative writing software is available for novel writing, poetry, screenplays, and more. What writing software can’t do for you is write the story.

What to Look for in Novel Writing Software

Outline feature - the outline feature helps you develop a story line. It should be flexible so you can make changes to the plot and easily add, take away or move things around.

Organizational tools - the best programs will contain templates for building characters, settings, plots and subplots, and all the other aspects of writing a novel, in one place.

Character template - character development, defining character traits including possessions, history, clothes, friends, family and connection to other characters. Some programs offer a name database to help you find names for your characters.

Structure template - helps build scenes, settings, and conflicts and helps with timelines and paragraph hierarchy.

Grammar and spell checker - imbedded in the software.
Navigation and installation - should be easy so you don’t spend a lot of time frustrated with setup and learning how to use the software.

Customer support - instructions for use should be simple to understand and support from the software company’s tech team should be easy to obtain. You don’t want to wait several days to have someone help you with your software problem.

Top Brands of Novel Writing Software

The most popular novel writing software programs include (based on anecdotal surveys):
Ø  CharacterWriter
Ø  Dramatica Pro
Ø  NewNovelist
Ø  PageFour
Ø  PowerStructure
Ø  PowerWriter
Ø  Scrivener
Ø  StoryBlue
Ø  StoryBook - Free
Ø  StoryMill (MAC users only)
Ø  StoryWeaver
Ø  The Marshall Plan Novel Writing Software
Ø  Writer’s Blocks
Ø  WriteWay
Ø  YWriter 5 - Free
Many writers wonder how they ever wrote a story before they used novel writing software. Go to the software websites and learn which programs have the individual features you need. Many offer a free trial period (usually with limited functionality). It’s worth taking the time to try these programs out because they all vary slightly in the way you use them. You may discover you don’t want or need any of them.
The best writing tools are those that help you accomplish your novel writing goals. If word documents and spreadsheets work for you then that’s all the matters. I still prefer a pen and paper.



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