When it comes to novel writing, having a good writing program can make all the difference. There’s hundreds of different software out there, some intended for certain tasks, it’s hard to narrow down which you should choose. Taking a look at software available, we’ll try and help you find what’s best for you.
When it comes to note-taking, you won’t find a better option than Evernote. While there are options to upgrade (plus, £19.99 per year; premium, £34.99 per year), you won’t need to. Upgrading allows you to share your notes between people which can be useful for collaboration but not necessary otherwise. Evernote is a program available for your computer and as an app for your phone (android, iphone etc.) that syncs across platforms. You can use it just to make standard notes but it also syncs up with your internet, allowing you to save a reference page at the click of a button. Notes can also be taken in more than one form, if you have touchscreen you draw/handwrite your notes and pictures can be easily added. From there everything goes into Evernote, and within that you can organise them into notebooks (and notebooks within notebooks) to better organise all the information you need. Tags can be attributed to your notes in order to easily search for them.
It’s a very useful tool in the research stage of writing and because it works using an account, it’s easy to access your notes anywhere. If you’re away from your computer and still need to see your notes, just log into Evernote and you can view it all online. Though you do need to be connected to the internet to sync any data you can still save it while you’re offline and next time you’re connected it will sync to your account, this also means you can view any notes that are already synced to your device if you’re offline at the time.
Update (June 2016): Evernote have restricted it’s free features. You are now limited to only having Evernote sync across two devices unless you pay the increased fees for plus (£29.99) or premium (£44.99). If two devices is enough for you then you’re fine. If not then there are alternatives. Evernote’s crippling of services seems like stupid decision in light of other programs like Microsoft’s OneNote and Google Docs offering the ability to sync documents across devices without limitations or increased fees for services.
Planning/ Story Development
Storybook is an open-source writing program, intended to help organise multiple plot-lines. While the Pro version was available for a price, Storybook has since been discontinued but the free version is still available to download from Softonic. It has multiple functions available to help you plan and manage your story, though you can’t write the story within the program. Content can be viewed in four different ways; chronologically, chapters and scenes, book, and reading. Its key feature is to help manage multiple plot lines and to help you keep track of your scenes. It also offers a detailed character description system, leaving lots of tools to assist you planning.
Story Weaver ($29.95)
Story Weaver shares a lot of functions with Storybook with the added perk of no ads and the fact it hasn’t yet been discontinued. Chapters and scenes can be easily laid out. There are over 200 story cards to help you organise and plan your story and scenes can easily be adjusted on the timeline. Unfortunately Story Weaver doesn’t offer a free trial but there is a 90 day money back guarantee if you don’t find it useful.
Distraction Free Text Writer
Writeroom ($25, Mac)
These days, writing programs come with hundreds of features. Even Microsoft Word comes with more features than you know what to do with. So when we strip it all back to just a text writer and you get Writeroom. Distraction free writing that’s intended to be just you and the computer screen. So type away without distraction. Unfortunately Writeroom is only available on Mac but their are Windows alternatives.
Dark Room (free)
Dark Room serves the exact same function as Writeroom, except this is the Windows alternative. Again, it’s nothing but a blank screen and unlike Writeroom it’s completely free!
Ommwriter is one of my favourite tools. Just like the previous software, it’s nothing but a full screen text editor. The difference is Ommwriter has a few added perks. There is a selection of backgrounds to choose from that can help set the scene for your story, there’s also audio tracks that help you focus and a selection of keystroke sounds. Ommwriters gives you your distraction free writing with something extra.
The new version, Ommwriter Dana, only recently came out and instead of charging a set price, a donation is requested. The minimum is $5.11 but beyond that it is your choice how much you want to pay for the program, they recommend you base this off your experience with the original Ommwriter and as a result it may be possible to get the old version of the software for free.
Novel Writer and Jack of All Trades
yWriter allows you to break your story down into chapters and scenes and organise them in relation. While using a standard word processor might be good enough, when you start pushing 20,000 words you’ll be wishing you had a better way to organise your story. If you need to return to a scene it should be a lot easier to find your way back to it. Though I don’t have any personal experience with yWriter myself, I know it’s one of Elizabeth’s favourite programs to use and one of the best free writing software available.
Before I splurged out on Scrivener, while Elizabeth was using yWriter, I was using Celtx. In hindsight yWriter might have been the better option for me but Celtx has a lot of tools at its disposal. Originally intended as a tool for screenplay (though it does serve the function for novels) it has a lot of room to add character description and scene details that can help with development.
Scrivener ($40 for Window and $45 for Mac)
I’m always going to recommend Scrivener as probably the best writing program in the market. While $40 may seem costly, this is a one-off payment and you more than make your money back. Every year, they act as a sponsor for NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo. This means that as a participant you get 20% and if you win you can get Scrivener for 50% off. There’s also a 30 day free trial (which is 30 days of use, not just 30 days from when you activate it), so there’s no harm in trying it out.
Scrivener comes with so many features I’m still finding new uses for it. It’s not just a novel writing software but a tool that helped me with my dissertation. As well as organising chapters and scenes you can use it for planning, scenes can be described and displayed on a ‘corkboard’ feature. There’s also areas to describe your characters and settings. Scrivener organises your story into ‘manuscript format’ with the default text and spacing to fit publishing standards. There’s also the option to export in different formats, including eBook, which makes sharing early drafts with your betas readers easy.
Ulysses ($44.99, Mac)
I figure it’s only fair that I make a Mac suggestion even if I can’t afford one. This has been highly recommended by a member of one of my writing group. Though he had used Scrivener in the past, Ulysses gave him an added feature: the ability to sync data across platforms. Available for Mac, iPhone and iPad; it gives you the ability to write your story anywhere and never lose it.
Other software worth mentioning include: PageFour, StoryBlue, NewNovelist.
Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to writing, which tools do you find the most useful and which writing program do you recommend?