Review of yWriter: Novel Writing Software

I would like to say that I prepare all of my novel notes–character profiles, plot outline, setting details, etcetera–in one notebook and then write a draft from start to finish.

However, I’ve yet to reach that level of skill. Plotting is a weakness of mine, and until I can track all the important details in my head while developing a solid story, I’ll rely on tools like Simon Haynes’ yWriter software.

What is yWriter? It’s a free organizational tool for writing that assists with tracking characters (major and minor), locations, items, and even story time.

Some of its useful features:

  • Allows you to easily move scenes without having to rename them or deal with the more unpleasant quirks of Microsoft master files.
  • Reads your scene aloud! Set the speed, choose from one of three voices–Michael (my least favorite, because of the way he pronounces words), Michelle, or Microsoft Sam (with a classically authorial deep voice)–then sit back to listen for awkward passages.
  • Provides fields for notes and summary, beside the scene.
  • Uploads an image to a character, location, item, or scene. Handy for visual references.
  • Produces reports for your story time, scene ratings, writing schedule, word usage, and more. Synopsis reports (which display and thereby encourage the creation of your scene summaries) can come in handy with…you guessed it.
  • Automatically backs up your project (when this option is selected).
  • Imports,  exports, and prints your project, as needed.

Designed for novel writing, yWriter has nevertheless been known to help with short fiction and nonfiction. I’ve thought of using this software to study bestselling novels to better see their structures.

Of course, yWriter isn’t perfect. Formatting options are limited, so each story likely needs a clean up in another word processor before it goes to an audience. Mac users need  to take extra steps to install this software.

Fortunately, several export options are available, and someone has kindly written instructions for  Mac users who are willing to experiment–see the yWriter Wiki on “Installing on Mac OS X”.

Want to learn more? Additional information about the newest version, yWriter5, is available on the designer’s site,

Additional Reviews:

Ever used this software? What do you think?


9 thoughts on “Review of yWriter: Novel Writing Software”

  1. Thanks for this review. I started using yWriter, but then never finished that project. I didn’t really get far enough to test all the features.

    Recently I used the free trial of Scrivener for Windows. I found it a bit more intuitive for me, but the free trial has expired and I can’t afford to buy the full version yet.

    I do want to use some organizational software before I get too far into my next novel though. I have dozens of Word files for Brevity and often get confused on what’s what.

    1. Linda, how long ago did you use yWriter? I started with yWriter4 and for some reason or another, I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I do the current version.

        1. I’ve downloaded the free trial of Scrivener, but haven’t had the opportunity to give it a try yet. I saw this ywriter and thought it was only for windows…
          Is it time consuming to learn either of them?
          (time so precious right now!)

          1. Jennifer, to belatedly answer your question, most people seem to immediately understand the basics. I think yWriter is mostly intuitive, though it does require a bit of experimentation if you would like to use all of the features.

  2. Sounds like a decent app. I’ve used a couple of these writer apps before, but for me these was always just a little too much clutter in them.

    It’s not that I dislike clutter, it’s just that I’m very (VERY) easily distracted. As a result, my environment is OOo running in full-screen mode – all toolbars removed, no page margins or boundaries.

    One virtual desktop over I keep Tomboy notes open. It’s a very simplistic program, but I like the automatic linking to articles when you type something that matches the title of a previous note.

    It would be nice to have a clutter-free app that makes movement of any elements easier though. I might install mono and take ywriter for a test drive. Cheers for the review.

    1. Welcome and thank you, Shane!

      I’m not familiar with Tomboy, so that’s on my research list for this weekend. Good luck with yWriter.

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