Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Does Anyone Use Novel Writing Software?



I am in the thinking stage of my novel... thinking about whether I am actually ever going to make a start!

To be fair, I have been writing the third instalment of my People's Friend serial and planning a fourth - as it's been suggested that it could run to a further instalment - and that has taken up most of my time this week. It's made me realise that I have to prioritise. I've also sneaked in a short story as well... and so the procrastination begins.

What I have been doing, though, is looking into the mind-blowing world of novel writing software. I had no idea that there was so much out there. I wasn't looking because I'm silly enough to believe that it will write my book for me, but because while working on my serial, I have realised I am a hopeless organiser! I have resources and research all over my computer. It's like a study that hasn't been organised, with scraps of paper in different drawers and files (actually I have that as well).

During my search, I have found programmes that will develop your characters and plot, collate your research, process your words, spit out the book the other end, make the tea and walk the dog. They range from hundreds of pounds to nothing. I have also found people who say, Stop wasting time and just write the damn thing in Word.

Anyway, what I want is something that will keep all my electronic research together (easily accessed when I am writing) and which will help me write my novel in manageable chunks (scenes and chapters) that can be easily moved around. I've found it hard enough to keep track of a 5000 word serial instalment so the future looks bleak if I have to write 80,000.

This is why I have downloaded free trials of Scrivener and WriteItNow - although I can't see the latter on my desktop so I don't know where it's gone - not a good start! I haven't looked at them yet, but I shall and when I do, I shall let you know what I think.

In the meantime, do any of you use anything other than Word? Whether or not you use any novel writing software, I would be really interested to hear how you write?

34 comments:

  1. I bought Scrivener a couple of months ago, but I must admit I don't use it. For me the problem is that it takes time to learn its many uses and I just don't have the discipline to settle down and experiment. I have writing buddies who swear by it, though.

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    1. That's the problem - setting aside the time, Parlance.

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  2. As above I don't feel I have the time to work out how to use any of these tools. I'm relying on a good old-fashioned hard-back notebook & coloured index cards. Sorry, Wendy. Please share if you get to grips with one that does work for you.

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    1. I shall certainly pass on my knowledge if ever I get round to trying them, Tracy.

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  3. No Wendy, you're such a fantastic writer, and bubbling with ideas, don't wast time with more technology. Just write, in word, and then print out and file each chapter in one of those, or lots of those old fashioned cardboard folders. On with the writing, you know it makes sense. (says she who spends too much time on blog, twitter, facebook, etc etch.::))))

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    1. That's probably sound advice, Susan. I'll let you know what I end up doing.

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  4. I haven't used either Scrivener or WriteItNow. At the moment I am keeping all notes, research, individual chapters etc. in a separate Doc for Novel Writing and another one for my short stories. I like Tracy's idea for using coloured index cards especially as I'm partial to coloured highlighters and post-it notes and can see myself using them for character notes! I only used Word. Good luck with the serial and the novel. :-)

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    1. I might have a little try out today, Jan... after I've finished the serial instalment and the story. I may well just end up with Tracy's index cards.

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  5. Wendy - look forward to hearing how you get on. If I have to move copy around I highlight it in a different colour first so I can keep track of it. But that's as techy as I get – so far.

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    1. That actually sounds a really good idea, Kate.

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  6. I definitely don't use anything apart from typing in Word and don't think I could ever be bothered trying anything else! I just start typing and I make notes on paper for anything that needs to be checked as I go. I write in chapters but keep all the chapters flowing in one continuous file. I do find it helpful to write with pen and paper in my fav café once a week then I redraft as I put it on the computer.

    You might spend more time trying to get to grips with something you don't find useful than actually writing! But we'll all want to know how you get on.

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    1. I'm beginning to think food old Word is all I need, Rosemary. I never write in pen and paper though. By the way - I'm enjoying Midwinter Masquerade... Jane Austen eat your heart out!

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    2. Oh, just saw your comment, Wendy - thanks so much! I'm relieved you're enjoying it.

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  7. I've never felt the need for any kind of programme or device; just a notebook for each novel, with a list of characters at one end, and summary of each chapter at the other. Easy!

    Good luck, Wendy.

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    1. If you can write a novel as good as 'Dead Ernest' with just a notebook to keep it all together then I might consign Scrivener to the recycle bin.

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  8. I stick pics and notes on the wall and have a chart showing what happens in each chapter. I use the back of a roll of wallpaper so there's always plenty there. But the real reason you're wondering what to do is, like me, you are putting it off. I'm putting it off because mine is such a huge project, I'm scared.

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    1. You see through me like a pane of glass, Lynne (bad simile... sorry). Good luck with yours and keep me posted as to how it goes.

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  9. As a retired journalist I have always been a fan of Word, attempting to have multiple folders for a project. My first just-published novel was written primarily on Word, over 13 years. Then I discovered WriteItNow and switched to that. Bliss have the whole project/novel in one place along with an outline that I could move around. However, I am now a convert to Scrivener and use it all the time. Still use Word for my blog posts as compatible with Wordpress. Plus everything starts as a notebook/back of envelope scribble.

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    1. I can't believe I have found someone who has used both! Interesting that you moved from WriteItNow to Scrivener - I've read reviews from others that have done the same. Thanks Roland,

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  10. I actually love Scrivener and have been using it for over a year.
    I don’t claim to understand all that it can do, but then I don’t have to. I just need to know what I need to know (if you know what I mean).
    I particularly like the way you can see all your scenes/chapters at a glance without having to scroll back through reams of text. Scenes and chapters can be viewed on a corkboard and moved around if you need to restructure your plot.
    I love the way you can scan and copy in pictures of characters and research material and then, with a click, have it all there instantly on your screen. No more having to search through endless files.
    You don’t even have to save your work, Scrivener does it automatically.
    This kind of software may suit everyone, but don’t be too ready to bin it, Wendy. Spending half-an-hour on the tutorials before making up your own mind if it could work for you won’t be time wasted. Good luck with it. Rx

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    1. The reasons you have given for liking it, Rena, are the reasons I have for feeling I might need it. 'No more having to search through endless files' - exactly what I want.

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    2. Must say you've almost convinced me to try it, Rena!

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    3. Yes, I agree, Rosemary - Rena's enthusiasm is very convincing! I use the bog standard index card method but Scrivener looks to offer that plus all the advantages of cut 'n' paste too! Mind you, it's easier to carry a pack of cards around with you than a PC or laptop and I sometimes plot in the garden. Though not on a lovely day (not) like today, obviously.

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  11. Forgot to say that (a) decision is always what fits your writing approach; (b) used David Hewson's Writing a Novel in Scrivener to get my head round the software change.

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    1. I'll use the tutorial and then if I still don't understand, I'll look up the book.

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  12. I did have a look at some writing software a few years ago. They all seemed to require quite a bit of time to learn and lots of fiddling about to enter all the data. I quickly decided I'd rather just get on with the writing.

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    1. I think it must be one of those things where you have to spend some time to start with to save time later... I'll let you know!

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  13. My personal favorite is Writemonkey. Just a distraction free text editor but it has tools that can help you write books as single big files as you typically do in Word or as smaller chunks (like a scene or a chapter per file) that can be moved around, like Scrivener.

    I sometimes use an instance of Resophnotes, which is a Windows clone of Notational Velocity (and syncs with Simplenote, if that means anything to you; doesn't matter if it doesn't) as a power tool for doing full text search through all my notes and content for a project and for doing quick file creation and note taking.

    I really don't like Scrivener for Windows. Ugly, no matter how much effort I put into prettifying it and feels unnervingly unstable. Part of me wants to love it, but I doubt that's happening anytime soon. Here's hoping it gets better, eventually.

    I would actually rather use Word, assuming we're working in Windows and have access to the 2010 or 2013 versions. The thing's new Navigation Panel allows for a really good and useful outline view of a doc, with search built into it and the ability to drag and drop whole sections for reordering. Sure, for me to use it I have to dig in to set up appropriate keyboard shortcuts and build templates that don't make me want to dig my eyes out with spoons, but other than that, Word has actually become perfectly useful for novel writing, recently (not to say that I haven't written several in the 97 and 2000 versions; 2003 began the reign of utter Word crap and is probably responsible for all these distraction free options we have today). Oh, and there's an addin, which I haven't tried recently, mind you, called something like Outliner for Word, which seems to try to give Word Scrivener style functionality, like an outliner and a corkboard and a whole slew of other stuff, that you could try (though frankly it scares me more than a Scriivener beta ;-p ).

    Good luck figuring out what you want to use and settling down with it to get that next book out.

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    1. Thank you for your detailed comment, Todd. I am sorry I missed it earlier - it will be very useful to anyone coming across this post.

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  14. ¡Hola a todos!

    Scrivener es sin duda un gran programa, he usado la demo y parece muy potente, pero no me decidido por él, al menos de momento.

    Pero permitidme compartir otras alternativas, algunas de ellas gratuitas:

    1.- Celtx, aunque es un programa especializado en guiones también tiene un módulo para novelas. Lo uso para escribir teatro. Es muy potente, intuitivo y tiene casi todo lo que se puede pedir a un software de escritura creativa. I love it! A su favor: trabaja a nivel local y en la nube. Para bajar el programa de escritorio (gratuito) hay que registrarse primero en la web (www.celtx.com). El registro es gratuito y te brinda 100 mb de almacenamiento para trabajar desde la plataforma online.

    2.- PageFour, es de pago. Funciona como un organizador de archivos y procesador de textos con pestañas. No es tan potente como Scrivener, pero apenas requiere aprendizaje. Compré mi licencia en 2006 y hasta hace poco lo usaba para casi todo. Casi no lo utilizo, pero a su favor debo decir que mi experiencia con él ha sido muy satisfactoria. En su contra, que se ha quedado un poco anticuado. Una buena alternativa para los que trabajan con diferentes archivos y no tienen mucho tiempo para aprender a usar un programa (softwareforwriting.com).

    3.- yWriter. Gratuito. Es un potente organizador todo en uno (capítulos, escenas, notas, personajes, lugares, etc.). Realmente constituye una alternativa real a Scrivener, pues su autor es escritor, aunque visualmente no es atractivo. Lo uso habitualmente para relatos largos y complejos. Requiere un gran esfuerzo de aprendizaje y adaptación al entorno, pero no es tiempo perdido. Viene acompañado de un estupendo manual. Yo mismo redacté su manual en español (www.spacejock.com)

    4.- Para posts, traducciones, relatos cortos o de trama poco compleja uso WriteMonkey porque necesito un entorno completamente libre de distracciones, pero que me permita mantener organizada y accesible toda la información que necesito. Me sorprende de él su simplicidad y al mismo tiempo su potencia (http://www.writemonkey.com).

    5.- Para los perezosos está FreeWriter (www.freewriter.com), parecido a Scrivener. Tiene una versión gratuita y otra de pago con algunas funciones añadidas (principalmente fichas de personajes, lugares y objetos y mayores funcionalidades en el tablón de corcho). Lo más interesante de este programa es que tanto la versión gratuita como la de pago admite el dictado por voz. A su favor está que es muy intuitivo y que no necesita apenas aprendizaje. En su contra: es poco personalizable. Puede ser una alternativa para quienes no quieran o no puedan gastarse mucho dinero.

    6.- Trelby es otro buen editor gratuito para guiones.

    7.- Similar a Scrivener es Writer's Cafe (http://www.writerscafe.co.uk), que es de pago, pero en mi opinión se ha quedado anticuado.

    Espero que esta información os pueda ser útil.

    Un abrazo desde Aragón, España.
    Ferran

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    1. Here is a translation of Ferran's post. Thanks Ferran!

      Hello everyone !

      Scrivener is definitely a great program, I used the demo and it looks very powerful, but I decided to leave it, at least for now.

      But let me share alternatives, some of them free :

      1 - . Celtx , but is a specialized script program that also has a module for novels. I use it to write plays . It's powerful, intuitive and has almost everything you could ask for a creative writing software. I love it! In its favour: it works locally and in the cloud. To download the desktop program (free) you have to register first on the web ( www.celtx.com ). Registration is free and gives you 100 MB of storage for work from the online platform.

      2 - . PageFour, charges. Works as a file organizer and tabbed word processor. Not as powerful as Scrivener, but just requires learning. I bought my license in 2006 and until recently I used it for almost everything. I hardly use it , but to its credit I must say that my experience with it has been very satisfactory. Against this, it has been a bit dated. A good alternative for those who work with different files and do not have much time to learn to use a program ( softwareforwriting.com ) .

      3 - . YWriter . Free . It is a powerful organizer all in one (chapters, scenes , notes, characters, places , etc. .) . It really is a real alternative to Scrivener, because its author is a writer, though not visually appealing. I usually use for long and complex stories. Requires a great deal of learning and adapting to the environment, but it is not wasted time. It comes with a great manual. I myself wrote the manual in Spanish ( www.spacejock.com )

      . 4 - For posts , translations, short stories or use complex web little WriteMonkey because I need a completely distraction-free environment, but allows me to keep organized and accessible all the information I need. I'm surprised it its simplicity and also its power ( http://www.writemonkey.com ) .

      . 5 - For the lazy is Freewriter ( www.freewriter.com ), like Scrivener. It has a free version and a paying some added features (mainly chips characters, places and objects and enhanced functionality on cork bulletin board ) . The interesting thing about this program is that both the free version and the paid supports speech dictation. In its favour is that it is very intuitive and does not need just learning. Against: it is slightly customizable. It may be an alternative for those who do not want or can not spend much money.

      6 - . Trelby is another good free editor for scripts.

      . 7 - Similar to Scrivener 's Writer 's Cafe ( http://www.writerscafe.co.uk ), which is chargeable , but in my opinion is outdated.

      I hope this information might be useful.

      A hug from Aragon, Spain .
      Ferran

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  15. Hi, again! I just discovered a free word processor tabbed for creative writers: "Judoom" (www.judoom.com). It is a new version of PageFour, limited with respect to future paid version, but fully functional. The Project trees are one of the key features of Judoom. They allow you to easily manage a work in progress.

    Regards,
    Ferran

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    1. Ferran's got a good cross section of stuff that's available. In fact, surprisingly, he mentioned something I haven't even seen (I've spent way too much of the past few years hunting and trying out every piece of writing software, text editor and word processor imaginable). Freewriter, which I hadn't seen, was, unfortunately an odd duck that I can't imagine being very useful. It certainly was non-standard in appearance, I'll give it that ;-p

      Anyway, something Ferran said in his description of Freewriter struck me personally. He started off by saying, "For the very lazy," which I'm not sure is exactly what he meant or if it was an artifact of the translation (Google, Google, Translate ... ), but it makes me think that something overwrought like Freewriter isn't meant for actual "lazy" people, but for people who might not, deep down, be intent on actually writing, and might actually welcome software that makes them look serious but doesn't really force them along at all.

      Following that line of thought I realized that there was a pretty simple divide among these various applications, and that I could point to one reason why Scrivener has been so successful converting users. It straddles the line that I had unconsciously put between the two major camps of writing software.

      On the one side is things like Freewriter and yWriter and PageFour and Liquid Story Binder and on and on. This stuff is basically mouse driven. No matter how far you dig into the software, you can never really get decent functionality without regular use of the mouse. In fact, most won't even give you any chance to try.

      The other side is keyboard driven. Fingers on keys. Very little lost effort or time, even for the most complex of file management or text reordering operations. This may seem very old school, with a learning curve not only for the app's particular function set but also for its set of keyboard shortcuts, but much of the modern software we discuss in places like this is actually much more cognizant of the needs of a writer and rather than attempt to force us to use the conventions of early coding text editors like Vi or Emacs, default to behavior that should be more familar, shortcuts that are these days default across the entirety of each OS.

      Scrivener can be used either way, though. Its obviously a mousers delight, click, drag, double click and all that jazz. Under the hood, though, its got keyboard shortcuts for pretty much anything as well as an editor for changing the defaults to things that make more sense to the individual user. Its got a standard OS chrome interface as well as a decent full screen mode. Tons of functionality, but you're technically not required to use any particular part of it.

      I personally don't care for the first category of applications. They make me feel slow. They seem to trip me up bad enough that I can sometimes loose details that I desperately wanted to capture. As usual on the internet, though, YMMV. For every app I don't like, I've seen at least one person use it to successfully create something.

      I try not to evangelize like I did when I was younger, but I do tend to ramble. Sorry for that, but I guess I've got a couple of points to make. First, you can waste a lot of time that you should have spent writing hunting apps and trying them out, so you need to learn the warning signs about which ones you might actually end up liking versus apps you can quickly discount as useless to yourself. Second, and conversely, a good deal of this software will have much of its utility hidden away from you at first, so you should 1) realize that this is often true and 2) learn how to quickly discover and assess this functionality.

      Yeah, I've spent alot of time researching software for writing, and only some of it was actually spent in worthwhile pursuits, so I'm hoping to keep others from wasting quite as much time at it as I have ;-p

      Good luck, folks.

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  16. Writer's Blocks is a novel writing software that will help you organize ideas and information so that you can write any type of complex written material easier and faster.

    http://www.writersblocks.com/novel-writing-software.htm

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