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, spacejock.com.
- “Unsolicited feedback from yWriter users” on spacejock.com
- Reviews of yWriter 5 188.8.131.52 on cnet.com
- Suite 101 “YWriter Free Novel Software Review”
Ever used this software? What do you think?