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Monday, January 31, 2011

Do We Need a Little Assistance?

I have not used a Novel Writing Software before but have often wondered at the pros and cons of such programs. Right now, I use MS Word and OneNote. Word is where I write the story, OneNote, is where I, well, make notes. I have different notebooks for each series. Within the series notebooks I will sections for each individual novel such as one for research, ideas, edits to be made, settings, and anything else I can think of that I need to remember. With this system, I am not sure how a writing software could help me more.

Besides my trusty laptop, I also have my bulletin boards with notecards, maps and floor plans. An example, behind me on the wall is the floor plan, all three floors, of an Elizabethan Manor house. This is where my current hero is residing. Or, he is living in a similar type of manor because I did flip a few rooms around and gave the gallery an ocean view instead of the front drive, as intended.

But to come back to the question, can writing software be helpful? As I have no experience with these types of programs, I went on a hunt to see what I could find out. All the information used in this blog was taken from the product description at Amazon.com.

NowNovelist 2.0 [Novel Writing Software], can be used with Windows 98, XP, Vista, 2000 and NT. According to the online store, this program breaks the story down into “manageable chunks”. Basically, you can work on any part of your story at any time. You don’t have to start with the very first paragraph, but begin with chapter 5. By the way, I’ve done that. At the time I thought it was the beginning only to learn as I got into the story, more needed to come before. Thus, it became chapter 5. I've also written scenes that I know will come later in the book because it comes to me and I want to get it down. I then just save it in Word until I come to the point where it will be inserted. With NewNovelist, if you don’t feel like writing the story, you can work on characters or plots instead. If you are one who likes organization but wants to be free in your creativity and have everything in one program, this sounds like a good program for you.

Writer’s Dream Kit 4.0 works with Windows 98, 2000, Me, XP, Mac OS X. According to the information on the online store, this is the beginners’ version of Dramatica Pro, which I will describe later. This software claims to help you solve plot and character problems. Apparently it predicts where your story is going based on plot decisions you’ve made. It helps you build your characters, plot your story and develop and outline, leaving no holes in the story or underdeveloped characters. This one does sound interesting, and it makes me wonder how it can predict where you are going. I am a panster and I rarely know what my characters are going to do or experience beyond the two chapters ahead of where I am. I wonder if there is a way that it can predict, without me knowing the prediction, while I continue writing and then compare when I am done if the program was correct. Hmmmm.

Write Brothers Dramatica Pro Win/Mac, available for Windows XP, Mac OS X. This program also helps with character development and helps solve plot problems so you can build a stronger story that can sell, by supporting you from beginning to end. As with all of the programs, I really wish I could spend a little time with each one of these so I can get a better feel for the program, but time is short and all I have to rely on is web information. Still, I am having a hard time at grasping how a program can help you solve a plot problem. If anyone has used any of these programs I would dearly love to hear (read) your thoughts.

Storybase Software for Writers can be used with Windows Vista, 98, XP, 2000, NT, and 95. Besides novel writing, the program can also assist with screenwriters, playwrights and game developers. This program seems to help you develop stronger and more developed characters by putting them into scenarios to see the outcome – “2363 essential Conflict Situations covering virtually every dimension of the human condition”. It also claims to have the only “dictionary of narrative situations.” This program could be very interesting to play around with. At least it piqued my interest. I am very curious what the 2363 essential Conflict Situations are.

Storyist 2 is a Mac OS X product and is used for story development for novelists and screenwriters. It assists in tracking and organizing characters, settings and plot so the writer can concentrate on the story.

Outline 4D, is for Windows Vista, 7 and XP. This one does appear different from the others reviewed in that you use charts and timelines. I can see where it would be beneficial in tracking a story as it develops in the same manner in which many of us use index cards but on the computer screen and in a much more organized and detailed manner. It claims to enhance research, track the story, show connections between events and characters, and reveals the rhythm and pattern of your story. Of all the software programs I took a look ated, this is the one I found to be most interesting.

Power Writer (Novel and Fiction Writing Software) for Windows. It is a story processor for creative writers and allows you to have “every plot point, note, research, story idea, character info, AND your main text right there at your fingertips”. It can manage the diverse elements of a story with ease. Nothing against this program, but I wouldl like to see how this would improve the system I already work with.

Storymill for Mac OS X. This is part word processor and part database and claims to be the “blueprint for bestselling authors”. It will help you tract characters, scenes and settings and has an interactive timeline that allows you to display the story and arrange scenes.

Well, there you have it. I am pretty sure there were some missed, but these are the ones I found. It boggles the mind. I wonder, do I need a writing software program to be more efficient with my writing, research, character development, plots and such. I’ve always thought that programs would be too structured for me, but perhaps not. What happened to the creativity of being creative and just letting the story go where it will. I wonder if a program that solves problem plots, or predicts the story is helpful. How can a computer program predict the creative mind?

Do you use a story writing software program? If so, which one and tell me what you like about it? Or , is there one you want to try and why. Or, do you prefer to write with a simple computer, word process program, notecards and bulletin boards? I would love to hear your thoughts on using software in your creative process. While I am not totally sold on the idea of using a program, I am still very interested in learning more. It may be what I actually need.


  1. excellent review, since I don't write novels-haven't tried any of them but will pass this material along to other writers. thanks...

  2. I don't use any story writing software but all of these sound really interesting. I love to plot so something like this might be fun to try some day. Thanks for the info!

  3. Wow. I imagine it would take me a week to dig through all of these. Can't wait to hear what others have to say about them. I must admit, a paper-free way to organize my thoughts would help my desk. :)

  4. So many interesting programs availible. I may check out the Outline program, it really looks to be helpful since I plot that way. Thanks Amy, excellent source of information.

  5. I had no idea there were so many programs! Thanks for doing all the research. :)

    I use Word and tons of spiral-bound notebooks and Excel. I chart things in Excel when I'm revising so I can see the progression of the story, which scenes I need to add, etc. I've been tempted by OneNote but I'm afraid I'll get too caught up in organizing, rather than writing.

  6. I use YWriter5. It is free at www.spacejock.com and easy to use. By the way, it is funny when a software claims it can help solve character and plot problems. Kinda makes novel writing seem like a joke.

  7. When I'm writing, I use Word and OneNote, like you. But I've found it really helpful in the revision stage to use YWriter5 for making sure the organization is how I want it. I'm not sure I need anything else, though. I've thought about writing in another program, but it just seems like it would be one more thing to learn. LOL. I would rather spend my energy on creating.

  8. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for doing all the research for us. I don't use any writer's softwaare. I've thought about it, but decided I would probably waste a lot of time filling in boxes instead of writing.

  9. I've read a few craft books from best-selling authors, and none of them mention using software. I love keeping track with my One Note program! I even blogged about how fantastic that one is. I may be ignorant, but it seems I have all the tools I need already. I'd be interested to read some articles from real writers that have used those programs successfully.