After my first experience of NaNo back in 2012, I realised that my writing required a little more planning if I hoped to produce a coherent and interesting story. Of course, the limitations of writing 50,000 words in one month was always going to leave me with a jumble of disjointed paragraphs, disconnected sub-plots and – if I’m honest – a pile of garbage masquerading as some kind of story. I knew that, I expected nothing more. But the problem came when I attempted to organise the end result, in the hope of piecing it together to create a meaningful novel. I’d written the ‘story’ in Word and it took a lot of cutting and pasting to get back on track. In fact, it probably took longer to do this than it had to write the whole thing. I needed a better way of working if I was serious about completing the book.
There are lots of free writing software packages to be found – and I particularly liked one called yWriter. It has been created by a best-selling author who also is a software developer, hence the two skill sets combine to create this very versatile package. It allows you to
- break your novel down into chapters and scenes, (which you can move about easily, without needing to rename)
- produce auto synopsis and summaries,(even display your work as a storyboard to enable you to check the flow of the plot visually)
- upload images to a character, scene or location,
- include notes for your scenes, locations and characters
- automatically backup your work
- easily imports from / exports to Word (with few formatting prerequisites)
In the end, I decided to import my NaNo effort into this software and was able to make significant changes – at speed! So much better than working in Word. I used it again and again, both for the next Camp NaNo challenges and for other work-related projects.
However, as with all technology, there is always an improved version in the offing, and whilst yWriter had proven to be a blessing in disguise in re-organising my first draft into a working manuscript (almost), I was easily distracted by another package, which seemed to have more ‘bells and whistles’.
Did I really need to change? No!
Do I need to upgrade my phone every couple of years? No! But, I do, nonetheless.
It was inevitable that something would come along and tempt me to change, because there is always the chance that the next piece of kit will be even better for my needs, even easier to use and offer even more shiny add-ons! (OK, I am a bit of a geek and do like to keep up-to-date with the latest techie gadgets and trends).
After NaNo 2013 (written in yWriter), I noticed that they were offering a 50% discount on Scrivener software. Yes, this meant paying for software to replace a perfectly good and reliable product, so it had to be impressive if I was to spend money on it. I decided to take the 30 days trial, just to see what it was like. No pressure – the offer was valid for 4 months, so there was no immediate rush. I watched the tutorial and quietly nodded to myself, appreciating the new functions and recognising that they might make my life easier and save me a few nanoseconds during each writing session. As I tried it out for myself, it became apparent that many of the ‘cannot-live-without’ functions were not available to me, only to MAC users. Even I was not so gullible to think that buying a MAC would be the answer! So, I persevered and checked out the tools in the Windows version.
I loved the ‘corkboard’ view, which is great for outlining a story and which can be re-arranged simply by dragging and dropping. Also, the split-screen option, allowing me to have two different scenes open – this helps me particularly when dealing with flashbacks or continuity issues. There is a selection of templates for different writing styles, you can change the font type as you would in Word, there is even a name-generator which keeps me entertained constantly. (Yeah, I did keep running it until it returned my own name – I somehow felt validated by it! 😀 ) It offered all the standard tools as are present in yWriter, but the extras are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, I loved using it then and still do now. The more I use it, the better and more familiar I become with it. Again, I ask myself, did I need it? The answer will always be ‘No’, but then again, when has that ever stopped any of us?
So, what do you use to write?
I am very happy with Scrivener and can’t see me changing for a while, I need to concentrate on finishing my books rather than learning new software.
Unless, you know of something better 😀