1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Best software for writing/organising novel?

    Discussion in 'Software' started by Magnatolia, Jan 27, 2015.

    Hi all,

    I attempted to write a novel about six months ago and ended up over my head. I got about 80,000 words done and then lost the plot, literally.

    So, I want to try again but this time I'm looking for a software program that will help me to plot better. I looked at Scrivener but I'm not sure it's what I'm after. From what I can gather, when you create a scene you can link places/characters etc within the text. I'm looking for something that is similar but you link the card for the place/characters to the scene rather than within the scene text if that make sense. That way you can see the links.

    If it had the ability to offer prompts such as questions for when you're completing a character card, etc that would be awesome.

    What do you guys recommend?

    Thanks heaps!
     
  2. PandaPrincess
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    PandaPrincess Member

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    I'd be interested to see what people recommend too, a software like this would be an amazing help :D
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have absolutely no idea what these sentences mean. Could you explain yourself more clearly?
     
  4. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    I use excel to break it all down. I use different sheets for plot lines, character descriptions/ development. I also use one for locations and for any terms or background history. It helps a lot especially in subplots, ie mapping a romance or the antagonist motivations. You can also color-code everything, and its like a rainbow of storytelling goodness.
     
  5. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    I can't really say it's 'the best' as I haven't the budget/time/energy to compare, and wanted to get on with writing instead of transferring stuff from one program to another. However, I came across something called 'Freewriter', which does seem to be similar to scrivener.
    It has a totally free option, but honestly the bits I wanted weren't included. However I tried the free trial upgrade, and was fortunate to be able to upgrade free of charge as a student. It's $19.99 if one has to pay - around £14 ish I think.
    I might reiterate I haven't used Scrivener. I assumed Scrivener was the same, but better/with more options.

    Freewriter gives you a new group of tabs for each chapter, which you can sub-section into scenes and swap around later if desired. The tabs include prose, thoughts (a virtual pin board with post it's and index cards - you can also drag characters/things/places to the pin board, which show up as index cards), web links, chapter links and so on.
    I haven't explored the full functionality yet, but found it useful, and can't complain for free.

    Anyway, if I'm understanding what you're saying correctly, the above could resolve your issue. In that you can connect the things to your scenes, separately from your text. As @minstrel mentioned, your explanation isn't entirely clear, but I think it's one of those convoluted situations that are wordy to explain, and easily misunderstood. Perhaps some clarification?

    I do have visions of copy-pasting hundreds of pages of text to word to submit in correct format. However I haven't reached that point yet, so could be wrong. I may just re-draft into word anyway. It's really only the first draft for which I require all the other bits.

    Hope the waffle helps. :)
     
  6. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honestly, I've written entire novels with nothing more than a list of character names done on notepad (equivalent).

    But it is easier to plot with help and I use Zim Desktop Wiki Creator. It allows me to create a set of pages with hyperlinks between them by page or by word. It can also link to URLs and files on your drive. That's about all I need.
     
  7. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Some software programs are more or less advanced word processors. They may allow you to link a location. Then there are software programs that each 'piece' is basically a card. They can then be linked together. The suggestion by Kitti is spot on. You can create elements - places, things, people, events and twists. Every single item - section of writing, characters, places, etc has a corkboard where you can add sticky notes, index cards, collections of index cards, files, etc. Characters have lots of questions plus you can add your own. Plus, when you drag an element such as a character to the corkboard of another section it comes over as an index card and you can add thoughts to the index card.

    @Kitti - Thanks heaps for that recommendation. I've decided it's closest to what I want.

    I've also decided to use Aeon Timeline. It can sync with Scrivener but I don't like that tool so I'll have to use FreeWriter as my ideas/words tool and translate things over to Aeon. Aeon allows me to select elements that are impacted by a scene. I can specify whether an element is a Participant or Observer and whether they are born or die. I can then filter to see just scenes where a certain element is present. I can zoom down to 2 hour periods and out to 20 year periods. Plus you can even create your own calendar. Scenes can be moved around. I can also set up arcs but I haven't delved into that yet.
     
  8. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    @Magnatolia - Glad I could help.

    I was trying the spreadsheet method originally, but between that, endless spreadsheets and words docs for my characters, a doc for each chapter (the only way I could separate them) it became something of a desktop nightmare for me, because of the way I work - I like to visualise every piece
    Honestly, if I'd had to pay, I might have hesitated because sometimes buying stuff is a way of procrastinating instead of doing stuff - like writing :D

    However I am finding it very useful.

    I've also spotted apostrophe crime in my former post which is bothering me far too much. :/
     
  9. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I've used several of these programs. I started with the now-defunct but very promising MyNovel. (It was very buggy, and the help was non-existent, but it had a timeline, stored links to the web, compiled in a several formats, and a nice character "generator".

    For me a character generator is a questionnaire that allows me to enter the required data to build a character, and is not just a name-generator. For novels, this could have been great.

    Then I moved to Liquid Stroy Binder which has much to recommend it. I left LSB because there were some features that just didn't work well at all, like the Mind Map. This was a result of the programming language it was written in. Character generator was the best I've found so far. It's often for sale on Bits du Jour for about half the price of Scrivener.

    I ported my novel to Scrivener so I could finish it and I have never been so glad to bid a piece of software goodbye! I just found its UI intractable, though it has some degree of power, and it can be customized via templates. (A big green dot on the toolbar with a plus sign in it - obviously Add, but add what?) The terminology seems a direct lift from Apple and the Windows version lacks some of the functionality of the Apple product. There's a large number of configurations of its appearance for those who'd rather fiddle with these than write. I know Scrivener has its followers, but I'm not one.

    Some people rave about corkboards (and a number of programs have these). To me, they're an unused extra that looks pretty but serves me not at all.

    I now use Write It Now, and this is excellent. WP tools are minimal, and the UI is not so pretty as others. It has what the maker calls "Prompts" or "Prompt Sets" that you can use to build detail into characters and so forth. It is expensive, at about double the cost of Scrivener, but it works, and everything is where it can be easily found. Like Scrivener, there is a tree on the LHS where you have the story pieces and other items - like locations, objects, characters, etc. It is very easy to use, has an excellent character generator, many export options, and other tools to help you build your novel.

    I tried WriteWayPro as well. This is similar to MyNovel, but it just left me unsatisfied, although there are quite a few on MobileRead who really like it. Unlike WIN and LSB, it allows you to "zoom" in on your text for those who have screens of different resolution and size. WIN and LSB require you to choose a text size that you can see, which is less than ideal. WIN also lacks drag and drop which is a pain.

    I found Novel Factory a while ago and for first-time writers, it has some nice features, and prompts writers for important parts. It only allows for 3-act structures, but they may increase this at some stage. (I wrote to them, asking about it.)

    Then there's yWriter which many like; Plume which is freeware but seems to have died-off. Plume had an interesting feature that none of the others seemed to: mise en scene, or a list of things important to the scene - and not just characters.

    There's bound to be others I haven't mentioned that some of you know of and like and/or use.

    I think of these programs as working environments, where I can be productive with relative ease. None is essential. I think the only essential pieces of apparatus are your mind and writing materials. For many LibreOffice or Word is sufficient. I like to keep everything all in one place, and not have to open file after file to access what I want.
     
  10. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    The best tool for this kind of thing is a writing journal where you can write down brief summaries of what's happened in your story so far. I personally keep a basic notebook that I'll write in using a pencil, but it also works well if you have Microsoft Word.
     
  11. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    As I write( on the computer) I make notes in read on stuff I want to add, or things I will change later. When I'm done with the story, I delete all my red notes.
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As long as I live, I'll never understand why people feel they need novel-writing software over something like the humble Microsoft Word and their own brain.

    Really, if you had no other option, what's wrong with a pen and paper, or typewriter and paper?
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've so far resisted the idea of getting a 'writer's' piece of software. I've looked into Scrivener, and it just seems incredibly complex. Kind of a million dollar bridge over a ten cent river, as far as I'm concerned. And apparently it's no more 'upgrade-proof' than any other system ...which WOULD be a deal-breaker for me. If what you wrote 15 years ago in Scrivener was still accessible today without upgrades, I'd buy it. But apparently it's not.

    I use Pages (my Apple wordprocessor.) I set up a few documents, named them what I needed them to be: Timeline, Character Sheets, Overall Notes for (Story), Research, etc. Then I created a separate folder for each chapter. I do most of my actual planning in paper notebooks, with pens, etc. When I have a note I want to add in to my story, I just plop it in at the start of each chapter that I'm working on. Then when I go to revise or finish the chapter, I've got the notes for it at the top of the 'page.'

    I always make a duplicate of any chapter I'm revising before I begin to make changes. I save one of the dated duplicates in a special folder. I then re-date the other duplicate and save it as the current version. That way I know exactly when the changes were made, and I can still refer back to older versions, if I want to. Oh, and I also make a printed copy of the revised chapter, so I always have a printed copy of my latest version.

    I create my own chapter templates, with all the required settings, in Pages. I save them as named templates and store them in my dock at the bottom of my screen, so they're handy whenever I need to start a new one.

    I'd say the three most important things are:

    Date all your changes
    Keep your old versions
    Back up your work. A lot. On many different pieces of media. And print out a paper copy as well.

    I know lots of people love Scrivener, and maybe I would have done as well, if it was the first wordprocessor I tried. But for me it's just too complicated. And it doesn't really do anything I can't do myself, with Pages. Plus ...and I'm open to correction here ...I believe Scrivener 'automatically' saves all the changes you make to a document. This would kill me. I often try out different ways of saying something before making up my mind, and only want to save when I'm ready to. Sometimes I just want to revert to the old version. I don't want to give up this kind of control.

    I do think organising a story can be done more simply than some of these programmes make the task. Just make sure you date your changes, name your files in a sensible manner and organise stuff into folders that make sense, and you're flying.
     
  14. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    DITTO...spot on.
     
  15. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    There's lots of things in this world that I don't understand, like how anyone can suggest their particular means of working is the best and anything else is in some way over-elaborate or deficient or inappropriate in some way.

    I used to write solely in a word processor but novels are complex things with many characters, locations, and events, and when starting out there are some who need more assistance than others. Contemptuous comments serve no one but the person who utters them. And when I studied writing, there were many who "just sat down and wrote", with little or no plan, characters introduced on a whim, and little editing. Their manuscripts were largely incoherent and the writers struggled to tell the class what the story entailed.

    It's my understanding that one of the most (respected and) successful science-fiction writers was contemptuous of anything but the (manual) typewriter; and a long time ago, writing with pen on paper was the only way to write. So I'm sure that when wordprocessors (and it staggers me that many still regard and use a wordprocessor as if it were a typewriter) came along, there were probably those who said, "I'll never understand why people feel the need..."; just as the pen-and-paper brigade likely showed contempt for the new-fangled contraption.

    It's worth noting that there are some excellent writers who use Scrivener and the other software. (The author of The Killing amongst them.) They do it because it benefits their work. They don't do it because it makes them a better writer. I use WIN right now. I may not always use WIN, and I do my final edit and checks in LibreOffice because that works for me. In days gone by, I used Word (until I found its long documents feature was broken), and prior to that AmiPro, and before that WordStar. Even then, I was creating many files that I had to keep track of, and back then, you could only open one file at a time.

    As I've written earlier, no piece of software will make anyone a better writer - just check out some of the "how to use..." examples on Youtube and look at the text that the writer has created - some of it is dreadful.

    The OP posed the question, and most others have tried to answer it in a helpful manner, to help that person. If the OPis still interested in these pieces of software, all I've mentioned are available as demos to download. If none feels beneficial, then the exercise has cost only a little time.
     
  16. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Thanks guys, some great feedback. Unfortunately some people seem to believe their way is the only way. Everyone has a particular style, for me I'm visual so corkboards are great. I can move and organize the details.
     
  17. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    Most literary agent’s today want, query, and samples via Email….written in Word. If your files are on other programs, you may find you work never being read by an agent. Rejection.
     
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  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No one cares what program the program was written in. They want a .doc or .docx. How you get them is immaterial.
     
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  19. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I don't have an agent and probably never will, but I expect that apart from the manuscript format, they'll expect the author to have correct word usage and punctuation.
     
  20. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    In answer to the OP, I have only tried Scrivener and it felt like a hammer to crack a nut. I now use word and a pen and pad.
     
  21. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Take it from me, when you want to crack 50 lbs of nuts, a hammer is the way to go.
     
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  22. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    What is the current exchange rate between nuts and novels? Is 50lb an entire library or a post-it note?
     
  23. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Good wordage!

    Well I just printed the entire manuscript out and did it in my head. I moved a bit about here and there. I got it all worked out in the end. Complete Editing, Proofing and Publishing took nearly a year and six months though.
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Publishers do not ask you to submit your MS Word license along with your manuscript. They only care that the file format be .doc or .docx. Scrivener creates .doc and .docx files. The recipient is given no cause to question what platform the file was made on. Sheesh.
     
  25. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I haven't used any special software for organizing my work. Perhaps it shows in my writing! I use a plain text editor to create the document and I use a tool called LaTeX to format it into PDF. If I feel the urge to create any complex notes I just put them into separate text files. I can embed comments in a LaTeX file that are not actually incorporated into the formatted output so I don't have to worry about accidentally leaving inline notes that are visible to readers.

    LaTeX is an industry standard in the academic publishing world so I'm used to it. I basically never use Word for anything aside from reading the occasional Word document that people send me (rarely).

    I'm disappointed that publishers insist on Word format for submissions. It's too bad PDF isn't enough. Ah well. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
     

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