I have struggled for years to find a good solution to writing a full-length novel on the computer. I tend to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words on the screen once a project hits 7k or so in a single word processing file. I also refer back to my work a lot when writing and even more so when editing, so having things in convenient, bite-sized chunks is very important to the way I work. Having those chunks be centrally accessible and organized into the proper story order is vital, too.
I’ve tried a number of products and solutions over the years, some with more success than others, and I wanted to share a few free or very-low-cost options with you guys that have worked pretty darn well for me in the past.
- yWriter by SpaceJock Software – this is a product made specifically for novel writing by a fellow from down under named Simon. He writes SF novels of his own and designed the software to meet his own needs. You can find a free copy of the software on his website. I can only recommend version 4, as I had several incidences of lost data (notes and labels, not prose) when I switched to 5 that the developer was unable to explain or fix. yWriter4, however, is rock stable, simple, versatile, and can be installed on a thumb drive for portability.
- TreeDBNotes – this is actually a personal data manager and isn’t strictly intended for writing, so it requires a bit more set-up than the other products listed here. That said, it does give you a lot more options than the other two programs, which are fairly simple by design. It is available in full for free or through the voluntary purchase of a license.
- PageFour by Bad Wolf Software is the single best writer’s utility I have found to date. It is simple and sleek, with a beautiful interface. Like yWriter, it stores your prose in RTF files, so they can be accessed from any word processor program if you don’t want to get into PageFour itself. It stores all your creative writing in one place, each in its own “notebook”, saves on the fly (so no lost words, even if your machine dies mid-type), and automatically creates versioned archives of your notebooks to ensure that your data is always there. It even allows you to password protect and encrypt your data. Download it for free with its generous demo terms, or buy the license (which allows installation on multiple computers) for only $35.
Check them out if you’re looking for a new way to organize your stuff and get more out of your writing time. Enjoy!