7.14.2006

Software for novelists

I occasionally get questions in my in-box from folks who've visited my collection of links.

I try to help where I can, but sometimes I'm clueless ... Maybe your readers can give me an answer for this question that arrived in today's e-mailbag:

"Good afternoon,

"Do you have any idea where I might find out what type of software is most widely used today for novelists? Examples of authors in mind would be, Steven King, Anne Rice.

"Please and thank you for your time. "



Stephen King "sits before a dark green typewriter" Anne Rice uses a computer but no software program to help her write.

So what is the most widely used novel-writing software? ... and does it help the writing process? Can't find the answer in the Snarkives.



Well novelistas, have at it.

160 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ever since the early 90s I have been dictating my novels to my assistant.

Simon Haynes said...

I used my own yWriter software to write and edit all three of my books. Two are in print, and I just got the MS for the third back from my editor yesterday.

By an amazing coincidence I just posted this on the Absolute Write forums about 15 minutes ago to explain why some writing software is useful. Someone was dissing it and I thought it only right to stand up for myself.

(It's Windows-only, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to hazard a guess at Microsoft Word.

Anonymous said...

I had a copy of a piece of s'ware for a while I affectionately called 'youwritemscreenplay' - it wrote the screenplay for you. I never wrote one. I threw it away because it doesn't work on this computer, after lending it to my italian film-maker friend. (It didn't work on her computer either.)

I assume there is a similar thing for novels - youwritemnovel - but if no one has invented it yet, I think this might be a marvelous entrepreneurial opportunity (I mean, just *think* of all those world-weary recent graduates of writing programs - a vast, untapped market, no?)

Laura(southernxyl) said...

She's got to be using some kind of software. Computers are hunks of metal without it. Microsoft Word?

Anonymous said...

The software most used by authors? Without a doubt those are MS Word and Internet Explorer or some non-Windows varieties thereof. All novelists use those and they are still writer software last time I checked (at least MS Word is).

Some fantasy authors may use character creation software to keep track of powers and magic levels and the sort, but those are not as widely used because not everyone writes in that genre.

BuffySquirrel said...

On the writing boards I frequent, howls of horror at writing software losing, mangling, refusing to recognise or inadvertently rewriting precious novels are frequent. In this respect, at least, MS Word outnumbers WordPerfect about 8:1, with other software usually getting only smug references to its "never having done that". Your guess if that reflects the quality of the software, the quality of the users, or the relative popularity of Word v. WP.

Me, I'm stil using WordPerfect 8, although it wasn't written for Windows XP and tends to crash occasionally. I also have Word.

Cheryl Mills said...

MS Word.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know what novel writing software is. Glad I could be of service. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Well, I use MSWord and my BRAIN, but I don't think that's what your reader is looking for.

Bill said...

I've two recommendations:

PageFour and RoughDraft

PageFour has a friendlier interface and some interesting features, and RoughDraft is free.

Neither make any attempt to guide the writer, and I have little time for software that does.

Malia said...

My brain.

Anonymous said...

Novel writing software??! There is such a thing; I've seen it advertised in the back of Poets and Writers, but can't imagine who would actually use it.

Jim Winter said...

I'd say Word, but I stopped pirating Word when I learned I could have Star Office for less then 1/3 the price of MS Office. (Spreadsheet program sucks, though.)

I'm not into anything big and fancy. There's too much of a learning curve involved. If I had a Smith-Corona and a scanner with OCR capability, I'd be happy just to type.

Stephen said...

Novel-writing software?

I use Microsoft Word, as does virtually every other novelist that I know.

I'm not sure that I know any successful novelists who use anything other than standard word-processing software (and through the Romantic Novelists Association I know a large number of successful novelists). Maybe some use Excel spreadsheets for keeping track of progress, but not for helping with the creative process.

What else is there that software could do for a writer of fiction?

meika said...

no idea about the most used, but I know what should be
http://www.jerssoftwarehut.com/

Jers Novel Writer

Its Apple Mac OS X only, and in beta, but the best for my style of writing.

December Quinn said...

Yep, my little old brain and MS Word. I've seen a lot of programs that will generate plots and create character spreadsheets, but on the rare occasion that I need to have a hard copy of such things I write them longhand.

Not to mention how distasteful the idea of a computer generated plot is.

Jellybean said...

MS Word to write, good ol' paper notebooks for my notes.

Quasipsyco said...

I know Neil Gaiman has a Mac, so he probably uses a Mac based word processor program. For first draft he uses Very Nice Pens.

On my computer I have Dramataca Pro, but it's a trial version and can be quite complicated so I've not gotten far with it.

I have yWriter and have tried to use it. It is very good and simple but I just can't get the character-to-chapter time line bit to work and have ended up shelving it.

My primary tool is Abiword which is free and runs on both my Linux laptop and my Windows desktop, thus making file moving easy.

At work I use notepad.

Oh, I also use whatever spreadsheet program is available at any given computer for detailed, chapter by chapter, outlines. Spreadsheet programs have been very good for helping track characters, important items and for making sure I use more than visual descriptions.

The End.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a computer program that will come up with ideas for you, maybe you ought not to be a novelist....

As for word processing programs, well, I'm with Buffy. Corel Word Perfect far outperforms MS Word, and it has one feature of particular value if you're working on long, complex documents: it's called "Reveal Codes," and it allows you to see your formatting codes. I can't tell you how much time that's saved me, and there's nothing comparable in MS Word.

zornhau said...

I swear by MS Word in Outline view.

Bethany said...

I use KeyNote (freeware) for the rough draft, and then clean it up for submission in WordPerfect or OpenOffice (depending on whether I'm printing it out at home or taking over my workplace's laser printer).

donroc said...

Ms word but I like Star Office 8 better. On P&E I saw ClichéCleaner. Anyone try it yet?

Georgiana said...

I use Movie Magic software for my scripts; it formats and when I enter the first letter of a character name it enters the rest of the character name for me. That's a timesaver when you're trying to zoom through some dialogue you're hearing in your head and want to get it down before it evaporates. (I have a central nervous system disease and tend to have weird things going on with my memory that are quite annoying.)

The program also has a novel writing option but I haven't figured out why it's especially useful.

Formatting for novels strikes me as fairly simple when compared to screenwriting or playwriting so I use MS Word and recycle the same template when I start something new.

I also save in plain text and rtf and back those up so they can be opened from any computer and I save my day's work under a different title every day, ie, carnalfear07142006. That's because sometimes when I look at what I wrote last time I have no earthly idea what I was thinking and can't remember why I oh I don't know, killed off Mr. Ian Woon in a bizarre circus accident. If I want to revert to an earlier iteration it's pretty simple.

Ric said...

http://www.absolutesoftwarestore.com/stylewriter/

Can't say I've used this stuff, but there are lots out there.

There's a British company selling Novel Software too - I looked in my archieves but couldn't find it.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

I use OpenOffice. Too cheap to buy a copy of Word, and I haven't found anything so far that Word does that I miss with OpenOffice.

Catja (green_knight) said...

I'm writing in Word Perfect or Word, depending on the machine, using Apple Works of Excel to track wordcount, use filemaker to track worldcount and submissions, as well as the global dictionary of names.

Every now and again I drag out Claris Works for its outline function, which not only collapses whole sections at will (Word's outline function will do it, too); but allows the full range of stylistic tools.

I've had a brief look at novel writing tools in the past, but they *so* do not work with my writing process that they're completely useless for me. They seem to encourage formulaic approaches, but I'm certain there are writers out there who will love them because they're fitting in with *their* individual process.

The Other Anonymous said...

I, like neil Gaiman, am a Mac person, and I use MS Word. Having finally mastered the formatting: header/footer/margins/etc, there is no way I'm ever changing programs!

Oh, and I didn't get the sense the original poster wanted the software to "write" the novel.

Kate Thornton said...

I have used Rough Draft for outlining and formatting. But my choice these days is MS Word or Mac Write and a blank screen of death.

I used to use Word Perfect - for most of the 'nineties, in fact - but then it became sorta non-standard and it's easier to convert MS Word into rtf attachments when necessary.

Karen Duvall said...

I use a cool software tool for my writing called Avenir. It helps organize things, but doesn't help you write. It's great for attaching notes to chapters and for keeping character and task/scene lists. It's simple, user friendly, and inexpensive at only $19.99. It's only for Mac users though.

Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

If you visit sites like writersweekly.com you may find ads for novel writing software.

I recall two I've seen on such sites, but their names escape me. Both touted the ability to keep up with characters and plot lines. It didn't write your novel so much as organize the components.

However, such software usually takes more time to learn than it's worth. By the time you figure it out, you could have written a chart in Excel and served the same purpose. Or hand wrote something in a notebook.

I stick to processing software like Word. I won't say the novel software is a scam...but, serious writers tend to explode over the page and organize later. What software can really make that process easier?

nir said...

I love MS Word. I tried Word Perfect but didn't like it.

If they need help with figuring out plot, theme, characters, etc. StoryRight (http://www.storyright.com ) helped me. It's a beta but works pretty well. The characterization pages and the theme pages helped me the most.

AidanM said...

I use AbiWord, which is a MS Word knock off that I like better because it just seems to function the way that I think that MS Word is supposed to.

shauna said...

I find Ulysses great for organising great random wads of text and the full-screen mode is brilliant if you're trying not to get distracted by the internet :)

Ray Goldensundrop said...

Computers can do AI (artificial intelligence) based on chained if-then logic, but they can't do artificial imagination. With that in mind, I'd look for certain features to be in software for writing novels:

Character creation engine that suggests names, asks questions about the character's life, and links characters together as friends and foes. It would be nice to have an orgchart-like graphic.

Plotting engine that links scenes together (this scene leads to this one, next scene follows) and can include plot layers and subplots. Each scene would be numbered in a meaningful way, such as 1-1 for an opening scene, 2-1 for an opening subplot scene, and 1-4.2 for layered scene #2 off of the main plot scene #4.

Outline engine? Maybe. An outline graphic might work better. Somehow give the forest view of the trees.

I'd want an automatic save feature every so many minutes or upon hitting ENTER.

Make it pretty and easy to use.

Don't charge too much.

Don't pad it with references that are more useful in paper form, such as the original version of Roget's Thesaurus or books on writing, the choices of which are personal.

So KISS (Keep It Simple, Seymour) and make it truly a labor-saving application.

MTV said...

I use MS word and was sucked over from WP by it's overwhelming "popularity" and agree that "reveal codes" in WP can save many headaches in formatting. However, MS does have something very vaguely comparable to reveal codes in Tools, options, view - go to nonprinting charachers and check all. This is not as useful as reveal codes, but does give a better indication of what is going on behind the scenes in Word in terms of paragraphing etc. I have been able to resolve a problem or two with it.

Chris said...

I use StoryView, by the same people who produce Dramatica. StoryView doesn't provide ideas or anything like that. What is does is help arrange scenes, chapters, etc. and it would not be useful to a writer who does not outline at all.

Cayendi said...

I used to solely use WordPerfect (I don't like Word, though I am forced to use it for school purposes), now I use yWriter to write and WordPerfect for the layout and printing.

River Falls said...

If you need any "Novel writing software" other than a word processing program to write a novel, than you need to find another line of work.

nice anonymous said...

Well, I am inclined to be a blocked perfectionist, so I have to coddle & trick myself, or I won't write even a single word. Text on a computer screen looks already published, which isn't a good thing for me, when I am just beginning something. So, first it's legal pads and pens that write with strong black ink, and sometimes the composition notebooks with the black & white "snowflake" covers. (Particularly if it's poetry that I'm writing.) Only later does it get transferred onto the computer. And then about 42 rewrites or more on Microsoft Word.

Eliza said...

I have a Mac. I use the following:

1. Microsoft Word for Mac.
2. Firefox
3. Storylines, from Writer's Cafe
4. Journler

The first two should be self-explanatory. Storylines is the only part of the WC package I use, and I use it for the scene-by-scene outline. You can have different storylines plotted out for each character if you want it that way, and a virtual index card for each scene. You can move stuff around easily, and as you're doing your rewrite you can add or delete columns and cards. It's helpful, especially since I write in a lot of different places and don't want to lug outlines around.

Journler is awesome for me because I write historcial fiction, and you can "journal" things at least as far back as 1886 (that's as far back as I've gone, but I imagine you can go further). You can color code your entries, select entries for different files, flag entries...it's great. I have a certain color for the factual events in my WIP and other colors for events pertaining to the protagonist, contagonist...you get the point.

That's it for me.

Anonymous said...

WP-8 for me. There are some aspects of Word which make me want to kill someone - preferably they people who developed the latest versions of it.

And I like the "reveal codes" option, too!

pjd said...

The classics are the best.

I swear by vi with nroff and troff for formatting. Though using Notepad to compose SGML can be just as good.

I wonder if the original questioner is a writer or a software entrepreneur.

CLH said...

I use Microsoft Word. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but somehow I don't think you need oodles of software, just oodles of plot.

The Rejected Writer said...

First drafts: Fountain pen and college ruled paper

Subsequent drafts: MS Word on my Mac

Software is unimportant. It's what you enter into the open field that matters.

pjd said...

I know that this has been brought up before, but it bears repeating. MS Word has this VERY useful autosummarize feature that is great for helping you create a synopsis from your full text.

I ran it on the text of Huckleberry Finn just now, and here's what it came up with:

Pretty soon Jim says:
Tom says:
"All right. "All right. "Why, Jim?"
"Blamed if I would, Jim."
"Jim!"
Dey wuz somebody roun' all de time. So Jim says:
"De man ain't asleep -- he's dead. So'll my old man if you want him to. Jim sings out:
"Jim!"
So did Jim. All right. "What raft, Jim?"
"All right.
Jim was satisfied.
Jim was gone!
-- and Jim -- poor Jim!"
man.
Why, Jim is -- "
Jim's the prisoner.
It warn't
Tom says:
Tom says:
never
Jim says:
Who's Jim's mother?"
"Where's Jim?"
"Say it, Jim."
"Why, Tom! "You, Tom!"
"Why, Jim?"


What would we do without tools like these?

Umbrella Girl said...

I use Word, but I prefer WordPerfect, which is superior, hands down. Unfortunately, not many people have WordPerfect, which makes it difficult to share files with critique partners.

I also have (somewhere, if I could find it) a program called Collaborator, which might be an early forerunner of whatever writer's software is out there now because it's written in DOS. I couldn't get it to work, but didn't know if it was the program, or the dinosaur computer I was stuck with. I kept it the way other people hang onto their old Smith-Coronas.

Miss Snark said...

oh dear dog. I wondered where some of those synopses came from. NOW I see.

Anonymous said...

I've run chapters through a number of programs. Only Stylewriter has my respect.

Anonymous said...

If anyone comes out with software that will write the bleeping book FOR me I'll be the first one in line.

Until then I'll be using the software between my ears.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Umbrella,

I write with Word Perfect. It is superior. If I'm sharing the file with one of my readers, I cut and paste to Word.

Word's one superiority is the edit/comment feature. Formating, editing, and ease of use factors all make Word Perfect better for actual writing.

Feisty said...

A dark green typewriter, eh?

Well, makes sense. A typewriter requires a lot more out of a writer because going back and changing anything is a real drag. When I switched from typewriter to computer (MSWord), I felt like my thinking became "loose", in that I didn't have to write so tight and precise, and I didn't like it.

I revised my first book by typewriter for my publisher and it was genuinely a work of great stress, typing a page over and over, fitting corrections on the page without having to retype another five that followed. It was hell, really, now that I think about it. But there was something about a typewriter that helped me hold my thoughts in a more cohesive manner, if that makes sense.

I can see why King would use one. You have to think a lot harder before you put something to page because retyping and repaginating is a real drag.

Jules Jones said...

Word processer and a browser with the home page set to google.com...

Lotus Word Pro for me (also used by Patricia Wrede, as I discovered after ranting about no, I'm not changing to anything else, because it suits the way I think).

MS Word drives me to incoherent screaming fury within ten minutes every time I try to use it. The people who designed it simply do not think the same way I do. But it does appear to be the most popular out there.

wonderer said...

umbrella girl,

Word can read .wpd files. (I've even opened old, old, old WP files in a newish version of Word.) Also, you can save WP files in .doc (Word) format or in rtf - Rich Text Format (readable by Word or on Mac). Just make sure you're saving it as a separate file, not converting the original.

In either case, some of the formatting *may* be lost, but it shouldn't be too bad since novels don't have a lot of complex formatting.

Jessica said...

I've been using MS Word. I never really thought about what else other people used.

Scott Marlowe said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say... Microsoft Word. Maybe WordPerfect? (Does anyone still use WordPerfect?)

I suppose in a generic sense, word processing software.

slobbit said...

I'm a true geek, so I use the LaTeX frontend, LyX. I don't have to worry about formatting at all, I just type up my chapters (I save the docs by chapter rather than having one huge doc, though I make a master doc with all chapter files included). It has a change tracking function where everything new I add is in blue, and everything I delete is red, until I accept the changes. I can output as a publisher-ready LaTeX file, or export to HTML, PDF, RTF, etc.

For assistive software, I use iCal to calendar events, the US Naval observatory & StarDate to pin down moon phases, GRAMPS and omnigene to track genealogies, and Story Lines to help with keeping track of plot. I'm currently investigating Tinderbox for the worldbuilding management.

Nick said...

WordPad. Plain and simple. Comes free with any version of Windows. It doesn't have all that unnecessary crap MSWord comes with. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Start->Programs->Accesories->WordPad.

All you need to know.

-Nick

Dave Kuzminski said...

Be thankful. Having used over 20 wordprocessor programs in the past 25 years, I can attest there are much worse out there.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

I use MS Word. If I'm about to do a batch of writing I switch off the phones, disconnect from the net, and put a note on the front door telling any visitors to fuck off.

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

I have some suggestions for both sides of the Mac/PC aisle.

MS Word for the Mac is my gold standard, but there's also a good (and FREE) program for Mac OS 10.4 called Scrivener with a lot of great features for writers. Scrivener is still technically in beta, though I've found it to be very stable.

My coaching clients and I have also used WriteWay Pro to help with organizing and writing first drafts. WWP--which is PC-ONLY--was written by the husband of a novelist, so it has a lot of smart features (character profiles, goals & productivity tracking, etc.) that novelists will like. Alas, the interface is pretty ugly (circa Win98), and there's no autosave, so you'd better save at regular intervals. (Which is always a good move, anyway.) If this were ever ported to the Mac, it might become my top choice, but until then, MS Word is my old friend.

I'm not affiliated with Scrivener or WWP, just a happy user who'd like them to have more customers and keep evolving. (I'm pretty sure MS Word will live on without my help, LOL.)

domynoe said...

Rough Draft.

I actually use it primarily for, well, the rough draft. It uses less resources than MS Word and doesn't underline everything wrong (and allows me to keep my spell check on for Word) which make sit easier for me to ignore mistakes and just get the story down. I also like the attached notepad that let's me keep track of things, which, with my sucky ADHD/anemic memory, I really need.

I've looked at some of the software created "for" writers, and find most of their options useless to me. I use my own novel writing process and created the forms I need in MS Word, and am now databasing a lot to make it easier to backtrack and find info I need.

Simon Haynes said...

I prefer the Book-a-minute summary of Huck Finn myself.

(Plenty of others there. Poke around and have a laugh.)

James Goodman said...

Ms Word is all I use.

Poohba said...

The leader of my writer's group got a trial version of one of the fancy writer's programs last winter and kept telling us she was going to try it out and give us a report. At this month's meeting, she showed up with a colorful computer flowchart showing how her characters are related to one another.

"Wow!" I said, impressed, "Did that program do all that?"

She looked confused. "No, I just did this myself on Word."

That says a lot. I did the same thing, by the way. All my characters' family trees and the novel's official "timeline" were all done (with blood and tears) on Microsoft Word.

Since I am a Mac person, I switched over to the new Mac Pages program last summer and really like it. It's fully compatible with Word; I haven't even had the formatting problems with it that I did when transferring files between PCs and my Mac version of Word. And, it doesn't annoy me as much as Microsoft programs tend to do. (You don't know how many times I have wanted to shoot that smug little dancing paperclip!)

M. G. Tarquini said...

Novel writing software?

You mean somebody's invented software to do all the novel writing for me?

I gotta get out more.

Anonymous said...

Snark, darling, this comment trail leaves me speechless.

TC

Sarah said...

I use yWriter. I like it for separating chapters into scenes, easily clickable back and forth. I was using MS Word with a master document and subchapters, but I find the load time annoying on large documents. yWriter uses txt files which are a lot smaller and you can more easily just open something up.

I use MS Word for editing, printing, formatting, etc.

Saundra Mitchell said...

MS Word for novels, and Scriptware for screenplays. In theory, my brain provides the rest.

otis said...

MS Word, Bic, or #2 with legal pad.

mags said...

OpenOffice.org. Free, compatible with Word and WordPerfect, also saves docs in a variety of text/rich text formats. I think it's important that an electronic file be compatible with what the agent/editor uses to read it.

Of course, if you're working with a hard copy ms., use whatever works for you. I like free. :-)

Lauri said...

I love Writer's Blocks www.writersblocks.com, it's an computer version of the notecard method. The coolest thing for me is the ability to see the blocks laid out on screen and shift my scenes around. It beats notecards in so many ways, less space, more flexibility. You can change the color of your blocks for characters, search for phrases/word, change fonts, cut and paste and most all the other things word processors do too.

R.A. said...

I use a sharp pencil and archival paper since I read "Journey of a Novel" by John Steinbeck. I also employ a typist who uses a real typewriter. (She's elderly).

Nut said...

Ms Snark, thank you so much for that Steven King link, it is priceless! My heart refused to beat, for several seconds.

I got 'Atlantis' for 30 bucks, from download.com. It spell checks, does word count, and it's cheap.

I greatly respect the writers, that do not need a spell checking tools. They must be, like, superwriters!

Chiron O'Keefe said...

"WriteWay" professional edition is quite useful for formatting and organizing your writing.

It allows the writer to create separate files for each Work in Progress. You can delineate specific options for separate manuscripts and there are handy-dandy outlining tools for character, plot points you hope to cover, etc.

I find it especially useful during rewrite. I can import my draft and it will speedily file each chapter in its own space (from there you can separate into scenes, adding "titles" for each chapter & each scene--very handy for organization). When I'm seeking out a specific scene, I can zip through much quicker and find it much easier than fanning through my whole draft.

There are handy options for printing too, which I found very convenient. Overall, the software is very useful and amazingly reasonable. They even offer a free trial period so you can take it for a test-type.

IF the "aspiring writer" is asking about organizational writing software, this may be useful.

From time to time, magazines such as Writer's Digest will feature articles that outline the advantages and disadvantages of popular "writing software" programs. Wouldn't hurt to get a subscription or pop over to the local library for back issues.

Brooke said...

Lord. Word?

litagent said...

Surely there's no such thing, apart from a basic word processing program, is there??? Please say no.

Jimmy said...

I use a patented combination of internet donkey porn and a Montblanc pen. Honestly, there's no way I'd have made it to page 7 otherwise...

jaywalke said...

I compose in MS Word. I'm unfortunately an expert user due to years trapped in various cubicles, so it can't throw any errors at me that I cannot handle.

I use spiral notebooks for (duh) notes and research, and frou-frou 3x5 cards from Levenger for story-boarding, characters, outlines, etc. [Editors note: Don't go to www.levenger.com if you are a stationery/fine pen & desk accessory junky. Don't do it. Save your money. Save yourself.]

For playwriting I use Final Draft to handle the trickier formatting, and I am both pleased and wildly surprised that it performs as advertised.

Yahzi said...

MS Word (any word processor would do), Excel (very handy for timelines and figuring out how much a dragon eats), and Internet Explorer (Dictionary.com has a great thesarus).

I did use FirstDraft to write a script once. Scripts are such funky formats that I found it helpful.

I find it hard to imagine that any other piece of software would be helpful enough to justify learning to use it.

Sonarbabe said...

MS Word and a very fickle muse is my weapons, er, programs of choice. I've used WordPerfect and MS Works, but Word has worked the best for me. (minus that annoying paperclip dude.)

Chris said...

Walking by his office one day, I'm pretty sure I discovered that D@n Br0wn uses a stack of index cards with character traits, plot devices, quasi-factual details, quirky bits of humor, and unlikely scenarios.

Whenever the time comes for a new novel, he grabs the stack, shuffles three times, cuts the deck with his left hand, tosses them into the air and writes the book based on the order the cards fall.

(Ahem.)

GVDub said...

There have been different variations of the "writer's helper" for a long time. Wasn't the original "plot wheel" first showing up back in the late 19th century?

As for me, I use Bartas Technology's "CopyWrite" which is a basic text editor with some extra features tailored to writers. What features, you ask? Just of few of the ones I find useful are separate notes for each section, a place to store any pertinent links for research, version control (I can freeze a document and work on revisions in a separate doc so if I go horribly wrong, I haven't screwed myself), internal hypertext linkage, full screen editing for those who don't like any distractions on the screen, and a number of other things. It's inexpensive shareware, and I've found it quite useful. It's Mac only, and you can check it out at http://bartastechnologies.com/. I'm also looking at the beta of Jer's Novel Writer, which seems to have a similar feature set.

I did purchase a copy of Writer's Dreamkit (from the people who do Dramatica Pro), as it's supposed to help you think through your character development. I haven't found it a whole lot of help to date, but whether that's just my process or shortcomings of the software, I couldn't tell you.

Jerry said...

river falls, I have to disagree with your comment that if you need special software you need to find another line of work.

Well, OK, I suppose if you need special software maybe you're right, but many of the programs listed above really are crafted to fit with a particular sort of creative flow. If you need a better racket, possibly tennis is not for you, but if you already are a decent player, then a racket that better fits your play will be beneficial.

I am the developer of one of the programs mentioned above, and it all happened because as I wrote I realized that things could be easier. My word processor had all kinds of useless crap but nothing to help me manage a very large project like a novel.

"Manage" in my case is a pretty grand term, but using a conventional word processor I found myself all too often losing momentum because the process of annotating text, looking up what I'd written previously (and then getting back to where I was), and a bunch of other minor tasks that should be thoughtlessly simple weren't.

So I wrote my own. I can even set up print presets to match the guidelines for different markets and still be able to work onscreen in the way most comfortable to me. I was skeptical about other features that users requested, but some of them were surprisingly beneficial as well (e.g., full-screen mode).

Software like this certainly isn't for everyone, and my software is especially not for everyone, but it fits the way I work (funny, that). I can't even use traditional word processors for business communication anymore.

Peter L. Winkler said...

ClarisWorks 4.0 for Windows.

Sometimes I import the final draft into MS Word for spell checking, because Word has a more robust checker.

kaolin fire said...

A friend noted that if you use proper heading structure and whatnot in word, its outline view becomes invaluable, and you can then move scenes around very easily.

And then for tracking/planning where you've submitted/queried, I'd like to say http://writersplanner.com/ does a decent job of helping

I tend to use vim (think notepad, for geeks, with syntax highlighting) for writing.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

I use DarkNStormy Ver. 6.1 by
Gray Matter Software.

It can be dodgy tho, sometime succumbing to the 'Block' Virus, or any number of 'Distraction' type and 'Plot Loophole' trojan horses.

Inspirational plug-ins are hard to find and usually have to be found by the user.

Used in conjunction with Microsoft's Word or Corel's Word Perfect, you can write a novel in as long as it takes you to do it.

Sequal upgrades can be pricey, and can the ink refills.

Still, the tones are lovely. Just chosse a style mode and simulate your syntax to such flavors as King Krunch, Retro-Rice or even Atwood ALLCAPS, and you can emulate your preferred author without have to resort to aany personal creativity.

Buy one before midnight and get a free AB-Masher with matching spandex thong.

ruby55 said...

I've been thinking a few minutes about this and seem to remember being at an author's site. She was writing about the marvelous program her husband had written to help her with her novel-writing. For one thing, she could keep all her reasearch for that book in one place, have notes on her characters at her fingertips as well as descriptions of various
places for her novel.

I thought it sounded like a great program but I'm not a novelist, though I felt it could be adapted to other types of writing as well. I read about this last summer, I believe and thought I had bookmarked it somehow. I've looked among the areas where it might be but haven't yet found it.

I don't know if this might ring a bell for someone else or if one of the programs already mentioned is the one I'm thinking of. I'm pretty sure that it's an author I've not yet read anything by. But again, I could be wrong. I've had a lot to deal with since then.

If I remember anything else, I'll post it here.

Aarin said...

Word and 14,000 notebooks. I also use Excel to keep track of all the convoluted BS I come up with.

Another Dejected Writer said...

I use whatever the best word processor I've got availible at the time happens to be. In the past, I've used Star Office, OpenOffice.org, MS Works (years ago), and lately Word XP.

I'm interested in giving WordPerfect a try.

One piece of software I'd recommend to any writer is Sonar, by Mr. Haynes (the second guy to comment). It's the best tracking tool I've ever used, and nothing leaves my desk without first being logged into Sonar.

Thanks for the software Simon. It's excellent.

Anonymous said...

buffysquirrel: I use WordPerfect11 with XP and have never had any problems. WP in general is far easier in formatting and editing than Word, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Mine has popups.

What does this have to do with anything?

Your heroine is a stupid bimbo.

Cheryl Mills said...

haha! I auto-summarized one of my own novels, and it threw back a scene that appeared to be threesome between the MC, her husband and her mother! hahahaha!

Abby said...

pjd-

I never noticed that. I just tried it on my WIP and got a big jumble of meaningless sentence fragments. What a piece of junk!

I use Word, mostly because it's so universal. Works fine for me except for the stupid red and green squiggles (turned them off) and that (&^*(&^$ paper clip.

www.writersstore.com is a trove of bizarre software. Like:

"Character Pro takes you through the creative process. You can let the program generate a character profile for you based on the Enneagram personality system... Character Pro makes it simple to build complex characters. There are no complicated systems to learn or puzzling terms to remember. "

I can't imagine using anything like this. Boring!

Tommy said...

Use MS Word, with the addition of the ScriptSmart template available from the bbc.co.uk/writersroom site. There are several different flavours available - and I use them for all my writing now - novels, stage plays and screenplays.

Arisa said...

I alternate between using MS Word, Notepad, and the Semagic LiveJournal client. Recently I've been experimenting with speech recognition software, but that's only when I want output that resembles the finest random hash sent by spammers.

Meg said...

You are worrying about the wrong thing. Just write in whatever form works for you. If you want to submit later, worry then about getting it in type.

I like MS Word.

E. Dashwood said...

I once belonged to the cult of xywrite, which was great, but now pretty much defunct. Then I joined the cult of wordperfect until ms word blew that away. Some like open office, which is free, and word-like.

It's easy to laugh at software assists but just wait. IBM's deep blue has been world chess champion for several years now. There is a software program that successfully writes new versions of music in the style of Mozart, Chopin, Bartok, and Bob Marley. It pisses off human composers.

But then there's Daniel Hall, our poet laureate. He not only doesn't have a computer, he doesn't even have a typewriter. He does have a fax machine. Writes out his poem and off it goes.

Lynne said...

donroc, I've been using the shareware version of ClichéCleaner, and I love it. I think it does a great job of helping you zero in on your pet phrases.

For fantasy writers, I highly recommend Sami Pyörre's Everchanging Book of Names.

Carmen said...

I'm with Neil Gaiman on the "Very Nice Pens" for rought/first drafts or any notes prior to the art of revision.

Paper doesn't crash.

Anonymous said...

There's a nifty conversion program one can get for people who prefer something other than MS Word but want to share with critique partners who only have MS Word--Conversion Plus (http://www.dataviz.com). I bought it because in a past life I was receiving text in from many different sources. However, before you spend a dime, check to see if your favorite word processor can convert the output to MS Word format. I know, for example, that MS Word can import WordPerfect documents, but you have to enable the feature.

Desperate Writer said...

I like Write Way Pro. :) There's a sample download at writewaypro.com

Anonymous said...

Stephen King has a Mac and uses WORD for novels and FINAL DRAFT for Screenplays. I've always used those two softwares for writing as well. They work very well.

Anonymous said...

First 2 manuscripts I wrote by hand. I used tons of legal pads. I kept one of the original copies of the first draft. Then, one day I got a lap top and was very doubtful that I could write using that thing. To my surprise I did. Then, I discovered MS Word and wondered how in the hell I had gotten by all those years without it. So--MS WORD. Anything else would most probably be too complicated for me. I don't even outline. My first draft is my outline. (-:

Georgia Girl

Sal said...

I've sent my questioner a link to this post and its comments tail. Thanks, Miss Snark!

lizzie26 said...

Yup, Miss Snark--you guessed it. They're probably talking about that GREAT SOFTWARE THAT PRACTICALLY WRITES THE QUERY/SYNOPSIS/NOVEL FOR YOU!!!! Seriously, there are such things that can be had for a mere $19.95 +tax+shipping+handling+your first born on the Internet.

Other than that: My brain, my pen, and Microsoft Word.

Ken Boy said...

About four or five years ago I first considered writing a novel and, being a financial professional, I thought software might help. So I bought a program off the internet.

I now know that, for someone who knows what they are doing, novel-writing software is probably less useful than a three-ring notebook. For someone who doesn't know what they are doing, nothing will help.

Anonymous said...

A nine year old computer and MSWorks. The good news is, my version of Windows is so old I never get viruses, no matter what I research.

Just Me said...

A bunch of notebooks, the kind kids use in school, and a blue pen. The Word. And my IMAGINATION.

I think there are two different things here. If you need software to write your novel for you, get a different job. But if you've found software that works with your own writing process to make that process easier - more power to you.

I can't imagine needing software to know how my characters are interlinked. I know that the same way I know which of my friends are going out with each other, which ones like each other and which don't.

The only programme mentioned here that sounds useful for my style is the writersblock one, the one where you turn scenes into little blocks and move them around so you can physically see the pattern they make. I write thrillers, so the plotting tends to get complicated, and sometimes it would be really useful to see the whole shape of a plotline at one glance.

Richard Lewis said...

A hundred monkeys, each at an Underwood typewriter, those really old ones that look like tombstones. Once in a while they type something meaningful. Collate those, and voila, in time, a novel.

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

I write in longhand, then transcribe it onto MS Word for a mac. I think better when I use a good ol composition notebook and a nice ink pen with a good nib...I guess I'm a dinosaur

Cara said...

Paper, pen, then into Word.

The Stephen King article is probably the best help out there for separating yourself from your work in order to see your errors.

Thanks Miss Snark!

Jean said...

I've played with a few pieces of software (yWriter is one) in an attempt to nail down the outlining process, but for serious writing, I use MS Word.

Just Me said...

Dangit. 'The Word' should've been 'Then Word.' As in MS Word.

'The Word' makes me sound like a pretentious git.

s.m.o'shea said...

I downloaded YWriter one year for NaNoWriMo, but I could never bring myself to use it. I take my notes by hand, on looseleaf, in notebooks and on index cards, and I (usually) type the story in MS Word.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Someone upthread remarked that MSWord, with its native conversion feature installed, can import rather old versions of WP.

This is true. I use WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS and have never had any trouble importing its output into MSWord--which I do in order to print from modern printers or to email the doc to friends/critters/markets.

When emailing, I save as "Word 97-2002 & 6.0/95 - RTF", which, being an RTF, can be opened in practically any word processor at all, but, being an MSWord format, retains its formatting in just about any version of Word, Mac or PC.

WP51 would drive anyone nuts who A) couldn't stand working in monospace fonts, or B) wasn't determined to memorize all those "wildly intuitive" Fn-key commands. But I learned to use it back in 1992 when all I had was MS Works for Windows 3.1, which wasn't portable at all, especially considering the school computers were all Macs. WP51 imported just about anywhere, and still does even though today you have to explicitly enable the importer on Word.

As for novel-writing software, I've played around with RoughDraft, and its note-bar feature is really cool for jotting down random thoughts, but I hate the thought of having to take the resulting RTF and reformat it for my word processor of choice. Maybe I just didn't learn to use it right. I keep meaning to go back and try it out again.

As for character generation prompts, my brain just doesn't work that way. More power to you if yours does, but mine sort of grows/meets/unearths characters sort of by reverse osmosis, and that doesn't work well with character-gen software.

I appreciate Simon's defense/explanation of yWriter, though. That's another one I keep meaning to try out, just to see, but I never get around to it.

Elayna said...

I tried a few different things. yWriter I liked but switched to just typing into an OpenOffice document. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of other things.

I'm only on my first novel so I'm probably not the person you want advice from.

Cherry Beach said...

MS Word, with all my own macros (e.g. search and replace Two Spaces with One Space) with Outline View turned on when I'm looking for a specific section.

And of course the Master Document feature, which lets you group scenes into chapters and chapters into the whole book. (Yes, you can nest documents.) It makes rearranging scenes relatively easy, and when you're doing a search to change the Heroine's name from Charity to Hope, you can zap the entire document at once.

Along with Excel with an Age/Year formula for each character, so I know how old everyone was at different times in the backstory.

The best advantage of all this is when I'm stuck, I can fiddle around with all these toys and pretend I'm working.

Nicolette said...

I like trying new things, even changing the look of my toolbar in an attempt to keep things fresh. I've tried AbiWord, and Open Office, but keep going back to Word. Why pursue a writing career, but making it even more difficult by not using the most popular software?

Sure it glitches up, disobeys, and occasionally makes my tasks Herculean, but at least a lot of other people can relate. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh, WP 8 crashing in XP is entirely my own fault for being too cheap to buy a newer version of the software--I don't blame WP. It only freezes occasionally on opening, so it's no big deal.

I tried using Word for a year, after which time it was IT or ME. WP and I get along. After all, novels are straightforward. Just words, words, and more words, and then some more words, and then more words, and then...

Douglas Cootey said...

I second jerry's comments. Some of you people need to put down the stones. The submitter only wanted to know "what type of software is most widely used today for novelists". It's a fair question to ask and doesn't mean the submitter is looking for automagical software to write a novel without effort.

I, like gvdub, use "Copywrite" which allows me to organize all my notes in one place while working on rough drafts to final drafts. It's fairly bare bones and just lets me get busy writing.

Here's the URL: http://www.bartastechnologies.com/products/copywrite/

From their website: "CopyWrite is a project manager for writers of all kinds. Rather than focus on formatting and layout, CopyWrite stands apart in its project-oriented approach. Word processors and page layout tools are good at what they do - formatting and layout - but they offer no help at all to a writer during the creative process. In fact, the 'gee-whiz' features crammed into these tools do more to hinder writers, getting in the way of their work flow. Put simply, these tools constipate writers; CopyWrite is like a tasty bran muffin ... with extra bran."

Douglas Cootey said...

kaolin fire,
You use VIM!?! I do quick edits of web pages and quickie shell scripts with VIM all the time but I'd never consider writing a novel in it. You must be a *nix god! I can't even begin to imagine all the keyboard shortcuts you'd have to memorize just to maneuver around your novel.

Anonymous said...

One of the Critique Circle members came up with an automated critiquing program called (not surprisingly) AutoCrit at http://www.autocrit.com/index.cfm

I did try it, and found it really useful in terms of helping me to see things such as repetitive use of phrases, words, etc. But it doesn't write the story, which I think is right.

Once I played around with it, and found the dumb things I was doing writing wise, I was able to clean up that part of my act. I also tried it several months ago, and it appears to have become much more robust since then. When I tried it, it was free, and the basic package still is, but there's a modest upgrade yearly cost. It does seem one can still try it without cost.

What I think is good about it, is it gives you an impersonal critique before other people see your more embarrassing writing mistakes.

Don't know if this is the sort of thing the original writer is seeking, but if so, it might be something to consider.

Caitlyn Nicholas said...

I use Microsoft Word for writing, Excel for plotting. But for blog entries and non-WIP rantings I use Life Journal. I find its great for keeping track of scenes and suchlink before they become part of chapters.

Inkwolf said...

Gah. this remonds me of some of the questions I've gotten in the cartooning section over at AllExperts.com.

Several people have askd for software that can turn a photograph into a cartoon. But what you need to do that is a cartoonist.

Though I have been tempted by screenwriting software...with the idea that the software knows better than I do what format and conventions to use.

Mama Rose said...

I'm another one who uses pen and paper for first drafts. I get those nice, fat 8-1/2 by 11 inch journals that Borders sells cheap. Last batch I got three for $7.99 and they have about 150 pages in them. They're hardbound, so I don't have pages falling out and getting lost. And the paper quality is good enough that you can write on both sides without the ink showing through.

Then I transfer to MS Word. I'd prefer to use whatever Lotus's current WP software is, but it's not always compatible with Word. Too bad, because it's easier to use and, IMO, more versatile.

I use Inspiration (www.inspiration.com for info on the software & a free trial), for brainstorming and playing with ideas. The site is the official site, but other sites sell it cheaper. :)

Linda

Anonymous said...

I think Steve Brust mentioned on his blog that he uses vi. (Unless it was emacs.)

diane s said...

Lot of sarcasm here! It depends what the questioner is really wanting to know- I've heard of great software that organises books into chapters, which sounds great for novelists and is nothing to sneer at.
(If they want software that comes up with plot ideas etc for them, then all sarcasm is deserved). xx

Anonymous said...

Novel writing software? bwahahahahahahahaha

Sounds like a freaking newbie looking for an easy way to write a book to this novelist.

Novel writing software? It's called A BRAIN!

Diana Peterfreund said...

Just Me, instead of the program writersblock, I use a big plot board and a package of colored post it notes. Just grab a big poster board and you're golden.

Anonymous said...

I have a notebook to jot down ideas as they come to me and I have started using Ms Word. I love Wordperfect but I found I needed more help with my, ahem ... spelling...so I went with Word. I'm ok with it. I do miss reveal codes, though that was handy.
I think its just a matter of sitting your butt down and typing. Look as long as it's down on paper, you can cut and paste it until your eyeballs fall out of your head or you can print it out, red line until your nose falls off and then go back and work on it. Or you can print it out, cut it up, paste scenes together and then retype it until your lips fall off.
Of course by this time, your just another faceless minion of the computer age. LOL
Bad puns at 9 a.m. on Sat. are free...

Anonymous said...

Hey, may I sneak in a question of my own?

I lost my older version of Word and found to my dismay that the newer version has shrunken the thesaurus from barely-worth-checking to don't-even-bother. Does anyone know of a word processing program that is compatible with Windows, acts more like Word than Wordperfect, and has a burrito-kicking thesaurus? I need one on the computer because if I go online, or to the library shelf, I tend to get lost in other people's writing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

As for word processing programs, well, I'm with Buffy. Corel Word Perfect far outperforms MS Word, and it has one feature of particular value if you're working on long, complex documents: it's called "Reveal Codes," and it allows you to see your formatting codes. I can't tell you how much time that's saved me, and there's nothing comparable in MS Word.

7/14/2006


Um...hit "view" and then "show all" to get MS Word to reveal all the formatting marks, down to the spaces between words. I put it on my toolbar--the symbol is a paragraph sign.

Anonymous said...

I personally am more productive typing than writing long hand. I used various versions of WP for about 15 years, but switched to word when my work switched. I often find it irritating...esp. when it tries to "help".

When I got my new laptop, it came with the Microsoft Works Word Processor and I used that for a few months before biting the bullet and shelling out the bucks for Word...

In the meantime, though, I'd become addicted to the very functional dictionary function that Works has...My version of Word has a dictionary, but you have to be on-line to use it. Pain in the ***. Now, I type in Works and convert to Word when necessary.

I've also played with WriteWay, but haven't really taken the time to get past the learning curve.

PS: Some folks could write the GAN (Great American Novel) with a stick and big enough beach, but I personally do better with something that I can plug in. ;0)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

"Anne Rice uses a computer but no software program to help her write."

I find this implausible, unless she's inscribing machine language directly onto her computer's storage media with her tongue.

Just Me said...

Diana, I really like the plotboard! I'm gonna have to get me one of those... I love the idea of being able to see, in black and white (or pink and yellow), when I've over-weighted one plotline in one section, or something like that. I think you've just made structuring Book 2 a whole lot easier. Thank you!

donroc said...

Lynne, thank you for the info.

diane s said...

...and what's with this whole 'I write with a pen so I'm better than you computer-using slobs' schtick? If that's what you think makes your writing good, you've got bigger problems than your rampant technophobia... (those of you who were just stating a preference, I didn't mean you). It's the working vs stay at home mom debate of writing- ie. stoopid.

Anonymous said...

Hello, AutoCrit person? How precisely does this work? Do you use it?

Does anyone else have anything, good or bad, to say about AutoCrit?

Nessie said...

microsoft word has the option of master document that allows you to format the text.

BuffySquirrel said...

Um...hit "view" and then "show all" to get MS Word to reveal all the formatting marks, down to the spaces between words.

Ummm...ALT F3 gives you far more than just spaces, tabs and hard returns. You can see, and usually delete or edit every single code that has ever been inserted into the document.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Hey, just me, I hope it helps. (It's cheaper than writer's blocks, that's for sure!) I tend to use it after I've written, and then I stand across the room and look at it from a distance -- makes it really easy to see if I've dropped a thread somewhere.

Plus it's kind of fun to get out of your head and the physical act of doing it also helps me organize my thoughts. Other people collage, but I'm artistically challenged. ;-)

Anonymous said...

re: AutoCrit question--

It's an online tool that picks up on weak words, repetitive words and phrases, etc. I think it's a decent first pass before you let humans critique it. I haven't used it in a while, but checked out the free version before I posted and it found some cringe worthy things on a chapter that hasn't gone through my own preliminary filters. Also, I find that no matter how carefully I comb through my stuff, there are things I'm blind to. It helps with that kind of thing too.

It isn't in lieu of the writer or the human critic, but it does help eliminate what I call boner type mistakes early on, and that's useful.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

My favorite novel writing software is my Underwood No. 3 manual typewriter. I don't have to wait for the computer to boot up, and I don't have the nice little distractions that come with computers (i.e. Solitaire, Internet, VirusScan, etc.).

If I have to use the computer, for my blog or other online need, I just use the word processing program that came preinstalled on my machine: Microsoft Works 5.0.

I don't think a writer needs a fancy piece of software to write a good book; what a writer needs is a good tool with which to write, and a good mind with which to tell his or her story.

Anonymous said...

For me, the computer and word processing has been an enabler. Because of my limitations, I would not have been able to write the books I've written without having spell check and the online critique group (Critique Circle is the one of choice for me).

Thankfully, I do learn and now I have the confidence to be able to write long hand, if there's no computer available and it's much improved over what my first products were on the computer--even my spelling at which I sucketh.

As a result, I view the computer as I do any other tool of the trade.

Anonymous said...

It was in federal prison where I learned WP reveal codes. That was my only contact with 'programming'. Since personal expression was forbidden on computers, my technique consisted of one quiet place with a pen; then progressing to the break neck speed driven typewriter. If one mistake was had the whole page was rewritten right fast, or continued to the next day. Word does have its disadvantages when salvaging strange formatting. One could argue writers should learn HTML. The concept of automation is illusionary. Getting used to a technique and transcending its limits define art. Imagine cave drawing and pure tersely applied math.

Anonymous said...

Alt+F3 to show the inadvertent sections! Wow!

Thanks, BuffySquirrel!

Ellen said...

I'm using Simon Haynes' YWriter software. I'm editing my first novel, and this little tool is helping me immensely. Well, it's a darn sight better than Word, which is what I use in my professional life as a technical writer. It's no better for manuals than it is for novels, alas. So yes, yWriter is brilliant, and as soon as I've finished my edit (another couple of weeks at this rate), I'll be starting work on my second novel. In yWriter.

Anonymous said...

My brain, Microsoft word, and a good Web browser.

Michelle said...

I use Ywriter as well. Having my outline right there has been a life saver for all my projects. I keep my world notes in a Keynote file but plan to move that to a Ywriter file set eventually. Most of all I love the scene card feature which is like the plot board/index card thing that other have mentioned. The fact that I can see my entire novel ploted out then move it around is great. It will also print those scene notes in outline or synopsis form. I use the synopsis form to pack with my Dana (http://alphasmart.com) a palm with a keyboard attached which I use to write scenes on my lunch break at work then import those scenes into the space I have for it in ywriter.

It does not write the novel for you but it lets you keep your notes right there. I have a lot of physical baggage, my arm hurts me using the Very Nice Pen method, crashing issues can be solved by A)being careful with computer, and backing up your data all the time to three to four different places.

Another joy that ywriter brings: it runs from my pen drive. So I wander from work to friends to lap top to desktop and can always open my novel. Sonar (great submission tracking) will work from a pen drive too. You don't always have access to spread shett even with Google out there.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be fighting the Word-Word Perfect wars : clearly, a person uses the thing that works for them. I use Word twice a week when I'm at a place where that's available, but I prefer my own Word Perfect for three reasons: (1) Reveal Codes and (2) the toolbars feel better to me and (3) I am more comfortable with the way Word Perfect applies formatting and the way it handles blocks of text. These things matter to me even though there's not much formatting in fiction: it's all about simplicity and cleanliness.

For notes, I either use Japanese school notebooks or I make simple tables in Word Perfect. The latter is especially useful for timelines and for relating groups and individuals.

I used vi years ago, and that was okay.

Anonymous said...

When the revolution comes, and it will, the designers of MSWord will be taken out and shot on worldwide tv.

But until then, I'm sticking with it.

Tess said...

For Ruby55 - you're talking about WriteWayPro, which someone else already mentioned. And yes, it's a great programme, though it doesn't actually write the novel. Just helps keep things organized and doesn't crash in XP like WordPerfect. I HATE Word, so use WWP - easy to jump between chapters/scenes - no scrolling involved.

Anonymous said...

BuffySquirrel, I'm trying the Alt+ F3 to reveal codes in MS Word and on my computer that is an autotext macro-maker. Additional instructions, please?

Anonymous said...

http://www.writersdigest.com
/articles/harrigan_software.asp

This WD article gives an overview of many of the software programs available (many of which we mentioned by other posters) and provides highlights of the features, pros, and cons. There's also other tools listed, like query trackers.

My preferred writing method is as others described: handwriting in a notebook and transferring the text into an electronic form (Word) for rewrites and edits. I do this transfer daily, though. It's not like I spend months in the notebook and transfer it all at the end. I like to edit as I go; plus, I like the idea of having a few hundred words ready to be spit out quickly, as this act of typing gets my fingers and mind in gear to keep up the pace, and I end up continuing on to the next scene and writing more.

A big thank you to all of the posters to this comments thread! You've provided such varying opinions and thought-provoking suggestions. Thanks.

The Management said...

Word 2002 because my computer sucks, set to autosave every minute - I've lost too much copy.

I've been known to compose in BlogThis popup windows, Notepad, the to-do list on my Google personalized homepage, Gmail messages, and NewsEditPro, too.

Emmery said...

I am a first time novelist.I use yWriter along with Tiny Spell and WordWeb. I do have to use Word for grammer checking (for what its worth) until I break down and buy White Smoke. --that is, if I buy it. It is so expensive, and the demo doesn't do what it says the real thing does. I'd hate to lose my money. Has anyone out there used White Smoke?

Jersey Devil said...

Some of the opinions of the "anti novel writing software" people are pompous and arrogant.

Come on, seriously. Nobody expects the software to write for them. They are merely tools that, for some people, make the process of writing easier.

I think that everyone works and thinks differently, and the only way to find a program that works for you is to look around and download demo's. Be it a plain text editor, or a complicated bit of work that helps you plan the novel completely, that final decision is up to the individual.

I have explored several pieces of software on the Mac, including;

Jer's Novel writer
Avenir
Copywrite
Hogbay Notebook (Now Mori)
Ulysses
MS Word
Voodoo Pad
Alepin
iNotepad
Circus Ponies Notebook
WriteinOne
Mariner Write
Mellel
OpenOffice
WriteRoom
AbiWord

In the end I found that none of the applications provided me with the ideal environment and tools to suit me.

I ended up writing a program myself using Applescript Studio and customised it to have all the tools that I wanted. Some of the features inspired by those items of software above, and some only derived from my individual requirements. My piece of software isn't available anywhere, and to be honest it is a rather amaturish attempt at programming. But it serves all of my purposes and it works.

This isn't the solution for everyone obviously, but is the ultimate answer.

Perhaps it comes down to only two choices.

1. Adapt to what resource is available.
2. Create a resource to suit you.

richard dooling said...

The ultimate text editor, gvim

http://www.vim.org

When it's time for submission, then import to Word, run macros to touch-up formatting, and send to editor.

Text editors are faster and easier for creating text. Why worry about formatting at the creation stage?

leatherdykeuk said...

I use software called "Write It Now" to keep track of the characters and plot points and Word to write it. Firefox to research and Excel to track submissions.

I tried Dramatica Pro and New Novelist too, but didn't get on with them.

As for the story, I think that bit up.