Assessing Novel Writing Software

I’ve been playing around with the idea of using writing software.  I like the logical approach to drafting a novel, but the choices out there are a little overwhelming. 

For fun, I downloaded StorYBook, Write It Now, and yWriter 5.

Exploring them over the last couple of days, here’s my take…

The big plus for StorYBook is that it lets you see multiple plotlines in an easy and color coded way.  You can see all the scenes for each plotline and if you think one scene needs to be switched into a different plotline, you can drag and drop.

The minus is that it doesn’t appear to let you indicate tension levels in scenes… see my comments in yWriter.  I consider this a big deal because I need to know if I’m keeping my reader hooked with appropriate “gotchas” and varying levels of intensity.

The plus with Write It Now is that it is a friendly format (especially compared to yWriter).  It feels more “doable” from a newbie author standpoint.  Like StorYBook, it has nice charts and is easy to navigate.

However, it appears to be the most limited of the three… It definitely doesn’t let you rate scenes by tension level… and even the Event Timeline feature is by time, not by chapter… which just seems pointless.  I mean, on the one hand knowing what happens when to your characters is good, but from the perspective of writing a novel, I need to see where events fall in chapters in order to know if I’ve spaced things out well.

The yWriter is pretty much the best of the three.  The thing I love the most is the ability to rate scenes – and to see a chart showing how the scenes fall across the length of your novel.  At a glance I’ll be able to see if most of my scenes follow the “M” type pattern of rising and falling action or if they’re all fairly low key.  You can even indicate whether the scene is humorous or not… and then see if humor is maintained throughout.

The cons… there is a lot to learn!  Luckily there is now a tutorial, but still.  There’s a definite learning curve.  Plus… so far I haven’t been able to discern whether you can write scenes according multiple plotlines.  I never thought about how important that might be until seeing StorYBook.   I’ve left a post on the Google yWriter Group so hopefully I’ll get an answer there.  If not…

Then I plan to learn how to use yWriter, and if necessary to use StorYBook as well.  Until I can figure out an alternative …

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