Writing is a blast! I have so much fun when I write and I find it so relaxing. Writing, however, needs to be organized. It needs to have a flow and there is software out there which can help you do this. In this blog we will explore some of the software which will assist you in everything from chapter descriptions to organizing your chapters and scenes! Don’t forget to also check out Five Great Tools to Help Your Writing for some other apps which are a big help.
One of the things I assumed right off the bat with writing was that Microsoft Word was the way to go (yup, I’m a PC guy). I started Book One and wrote nearly half of it with Word. I would write each chapter in a separate docx file in order to keep it organized. This wasn’t a bad way to go, but I think there are better ways. Let me explore three options below (and mention a few others) as well as share my recommendations:
MS Word is a great word processor. That’s what it’s been designed to be and what it does well. The spelling and grammar checkers are great. The problem is that Word just organizes your story one line after another. If you need to swing back and forth throughout your story, take a look at research you’ve been collecting or work with a story board it’s, well… perhaps not the best. If this is all you’ve got and all you’re comfortable with, go for it!
I would suggest that for writing a book there are two much better options. MS Word can also be expensive (approx. $70/year for the 365 option or over $100 for the outright purchase). Check out the link above and take a look in the Products section to see a little bit about Word (it’s part of their “Office” line).
If you like a simple word processor, but want a simple and free one, I would check out Google Docs, Office Online, ThinkFree or one of the many other options. Be careful, however, that you do not end up downloading and installing bloated software (stuff with spam).
Let me say two things about yWriter right off the bat. First, yWriter is designed and written by a writer. That’s pretty great. It means it’s fairly easy to use and offers the features that writers want (see below).
Second, yWriter is free. There are options to register your copy for about $12 or $25, but this is optional. I have registered my copy (and I have purchased the Android App). The more I use yWriter, the more I like it and the cost was minimal. There are no extra features if you register. The purpose of the registration is to support the writer of the software, Simon Haynes. The difference between the two amounts ($12 or $25) to register is simply a different amount of financial support. Think of the author of this software as you would an author of a book… he has put the effort in so if you like and continue to use the software… support him!
yWriter is available on the PC (not the Mac) and also has Android and iOS Apps. The Android and iOS Apps are, at the time of this writing, still in beta, but available to purchase. I have started to use the Android version and really like it a lot. They sync up with your yWriter software (on Google Drive or Dropbox) and you can edit on the fly. I find there are times when I am lying in bed and I get some inspiration. I grab my phone and write! I like this a lot!
Since yWriter and Scrivener (mentioned below), function a lot alike, I will explain their features together (look below the Scrivener section).
I would strongly recommend you use either yWriter or Scrivener. Since yWriter is free to use, it’s worth checking it out and even writing your book in it. I’m actually writing this blog on yWriter right now. It’s pretty great!
I have found a couple downsides to yWriter.
First, I find that sometimes yWriter has trouble saving. That sounds like a bigger problem than it actually is. It just suddenly says that it can’t save and asks you if you want to retry. I find when this happens, I hit ‘retry’ once or twice and it saves just fine. This is more annoying than anything.
Second, I find yWriter does not have great options for exporting your document. If you want to export to an ebook, you really have to use a piece of software called Calibre. I don’t like Calibre. I find it unnecessarily complicated and difficult to use.
However, the positives of this software far outweigh the negatives (see “The Perks of yWriter and Scrivener”)! It’s pretty great!
I like Scrivener. It flows well, it runs smooth and it looks good. It helps you to organize your thoughts and writing in a way similar to yWriter. Scrivener is the bigger gun among the two. Scrivener has been around since about 2006 and it’s chock-full of features.
It has a place to collect your research (information and pictures) and some really cool word counts. It also has a really great name generator which is pretty snazzy.
Scrivener is, however, designed for the Mac, so if you’re a PC user (like me) you deal with a few less features. To be honest, since I don’t have a Mac, I don’t know what these features are so I don’t miss them as much as you might think. 🙂 I recommend the software either way.
Scrivener also has an iOS version (around $20) which you can use to edit on the fly. I have not used it. At the risk of offending all the iPhone users out there… I like Android. There, I said it.
Scrivener costs $40 USD. For me, I’m really trying to do all this on a budget. There are coupons all over the net for Scrivener and you can easily get $8 off at just about any time (google, “Scrivener coupon codes”). Occasionally, the software will go on for half price through places like StackSocial or with a really great coupon code. If you’re looking at buying the software, I would check this out. This appears to happen about 2-3 times a year. I’m in the process of waiting for one of these.
In the meantime, Scrivener has a 30 day trial period. This trial period is not 30 days from the time you download it, but 30 actual days of use. So if you use it every other day, the trial period will last for two months! So use it and keep an eye out for a big discount.
The biggest downside to Scrivener is how complicated it is to use. The basic stuff (see below) is fairly simple to figure out and use. For the other stuff, they have a little tutorial that comes with it. It’s worth working through this tutorial. For stuff beyond that, you’ll be surprised at how many courses there are out there which are simply designed to help you make use of all the cool features. These courses can cost a LOT, so be careful. It’s well known and a well-accepted fact that Scrivener has a huge learning curve.
The upside is Scrivener has a lot of features! The downside… that means it’s VERY complicated.
The Perks of yWriter and Scrivener
yWriter and Scrivener have different features and the feel and flow of them are somewhat different as well. I like the feel of Scrivener and the name generator (pretty cool), but the more I use yWriter, the more I like it and the way it feels. yWriter even tells you your typing speed and how many words you’ve typed today.
What these softwares both do, however, is they allow you to set up chapters, put them in order and change them around. They also let you set up scenes within the chapters. This means you can set up Chapter One called, “Running for your life”. Within that you could create two scenes. You could call them say… “The thing that scared me” and “I’m a runnin’ now!” You can see coming up with creative scene titles isn’t my strong point, but this way of organizing my writing makes a lot of sense to me.
Now that you have your chapters and scenes set up, you just start typing. Maybe later on you’ll find that you want to do one of those flashback scenes where you start out with how you’re running now and then you flashback to share what it was that scared you. All you have to do is grab the second scene with your mouse and drag it up to where you want it. It’s just a matter of drag and drop to order your scenes and chapters! You can grab whole chapters and move them around or move a scene from one to the next… it’s surprisingly helpful and you will find it much easier to do this when it is organized in one of these two programs, rather than in Word.
You can also set up characters in both programs. You call your character “Shawn” (there’s a strong name… feel free to name all your children “Shawn”) and you define him (age, height, physical characteristics, family, etc.). This is extremely helpful. When you introduce Shawn in chapter one, you’ll tell a little bit about him. Then in chapter fifteen you’ll find you can’t remember if Shawn has dark brown hair or light brown hair or is slightly balding on top (I assure you, he is not). You also can’t remember if he has two sisters or three. Since you don’t want to mess that up, you simply look in the character description and you’ll find all the information you have written in there about that character. What I’ve done sometimes is I have copied the paragraph from the book where the character is described into the character description so when I look back I can see exactly what I wrote.
To add to this, you can tag scenes as being from different viewpoints (Shawn’s perspective this time and then Marie’s perspective next time). You simply assign that character as having the viewpoint and away you go. When you step back from your book and look at an overview, you see who the story is really about and if you need to give someone else more screentime… pagetime.
I will mention one more feature that you can make use of in both yWriter and Scrivener. Each one has their own version of setting writing goals. You can set a plan for yourself for how much you would like to write each day and go at it. This is perfect to help you stay on track with regular writing!
There is so much these two programs do and I encourage you to try out both and check out a tutorial or two. Try them out and see what you think.
A couple more things…
First, you should be writing an outline for your story before you begin. It might change significantly as you move along, but you should start with it and have a lot of things worked out (characters, purpose, who survives, etc.). Again, you can change it, but it helps to know where you’re going as you start out. yWriter and Scrivener allow you to see your story in the form of a storyboard (little boxes with a short description or a title of each scene). Scrivener’s look and feel is far nicer, but both work.
Second, I’m using yWriter right now to write this blog. I’ve outlined my plan for the blog over the coming months and I’m writing away. This is actually one of the first blogs I’ve written, but it’s likely going to be about the sixth one I post. I’m going to sit on it for a bit and touch it up over the next while. In other words, I’m writing these things out of order and it’s not a problem. I just jump ahead to this topic and away I go! The blog is organized and laid out and I can just add to it and change things as needed. When I get an idea for a blog that I want to write a month down the road, I insert it into the right Category (calling it a chapter in yWriter) and then add in a few thoughts and ideas. Later on I might actually sit and write it out, but for now I know where I’m going and what I want to blog about in a month!
I was also working on a blog today that’ll likely be around my 45th blog. It’s just all organized in yWriter and it’s simple to jump around, find the one I want to work on and get cracking on it! Scrivener is the same way.
In the end, Scrivener and yWriter help you to organize your thoughts and the book flow better. They help you keep an eye on the length of the book and help you move through your story. They allow you to collect information and put it where you want it. Word is fine if you have it already, but if you’re a writer, it’s worth the learning curve to learn yWriter or Scrivener.
Here are a few other options. I have not researched any of these to any great length, but thought I would mention them for those who like lots of options before them. 🙂 Here they are:
This is a game-based site to help you write. You write and the number of words you write helps you to win the game. It’s a great way to go if you are motivated by this kind of thing. For me, this would distract me. 🙂 If this works for you, check it out!
This one is only available for Mac.
Again with the “only Mac” option!
Yep, you guessed it… only available for the Mac.
Often times with software, it’s not a matter of finding the “best” software out there, it’s a matter of finding the one which works best for you. Experiment with these programs a bit and find the one you like!