Sunday, June 20, 2010

Writing Software

Generally, I like to do all my idea scratching and formulation in either easy-to-read blurbs or character sketches. These are usually done longhand or jotted down in spiral notebooks. It's just quicker and more portable that way. However, I've been doing so many series lately that have overall story arcs that I've found it's getting more difficult to find the information I'm looking for in the notebooks.

Now, over the years I've tried various software programs geared toward getting writers oganized. While the designers' hearts were in the right place, the navigation of the programs have been less than easy. Here are the ones I've trialed and things I've noticed with them.

Caution - this is not an indepth analysis of these programs since I generally got frustrated after a few sessions and quit using them.

WriteWay - Seemed like a good product when I used the free trial. There are some functions of this software that is not available in the free download, but I figured all right that makes sense as long as I know it's there when purchased. I enjoyed it enough in the idea stages of wriing to go ahead and buy the professional edition. This is where my infatuation faded to frustration.

After working on a story for a few hours. That's hours. I decided I wanted to save onto a zip disk. (remember those?) The program wouldn't let me. Say what? I could only save work to my hard drive. - That's enough to make this writer break out into a cold, cold sweat. Occasionally, I might save onto the hard drive, but I don't like it. I want to save to secondary systems and email things to myself for storage. That alone was enough to make me abandon that program and go back to my old method. Granted, this was an earlier version, maybe from '06 or '07. So, any versions since might have fixed this little foible. I don't know. I haven't tried it since.

I worked along happily with MS Word for a while (until they changed that. I hate Word '07 with a red hot passion. Why any designer would take a program that worked perfectly well and was easy to navigate and make it harder, I have no idea. Idiots!)
Anyhoo, in Romance Divas chat one night, someone mentioned working with Liquid Story Binder. I thought, whoohoo, another other with a free download I can try. Here's my experience with that tool.

Liquid Story Binder - Despite it being a beautiful program with an absolutely stunning website, the software itself is like trying to navigate the streets of New York in a blindfold. Almost impossible. Living with a graphic artist, I do know the joys of downloading free tutorials for new programs to understand how to use them to optimal effect. Well, that just wasn't happening here. Liquid is so dense with tabs and sections and sub-sections it makes it very difficult to get around in and the "how-to" is a tomb that would put War and Peace to shame. Really? How is learning this software going to save me time? It's not. I think for people who write graphic novels or screeplays, it might actually work miracles for realizing your complete story arc in both text and visuals, but for a novelist, not so much.

Again, I tried the free version of this software off their website a few years ago. Any upgrades or newer versions I'm not familiar with. All I know is that I opened the program, took a look around, and backed out slowly fearing to wake the beast.

Two years pass...

Again, sitting in Diva chat writing and a few of the divas mentioned they use yWriter for composing their ideas and writing their rough drafts. All right, I have to try this. I've come to the point in my writing career where I have sooo many series going, I really need to streamline and get a good handle on what I'm doing. I need to work more efficiently and be able to find information about characters quickly.

yWriter is a free download, but unlike the other programs mentioned, it is free to stay. There are no functions that are limited or absent until you purchase the software. What you get is a full working program that might not be as pretty as Liquid Story Binder, or as colorful as WriteWay, but it does have one major benefit that the others don't - It's easy to learn. I started my first project on it yesterday and so far it was not the hair-pulling experience I thought it would be. The tabs are all pretty self-explanatory, the information saves easily. The manual is short and to the point. (The Quickstart Guide comes bundled with the download as a PDF- I printed mine so I didn't have to switch back and forth between programs. But honestly, I read it a few days before and then just started in when I had the chance and didn't look at it at all yesterday.)

So far, so good.

My diva connections told me they save their files to thumb drives and even have versions on other computers so they can work on their projects on more than one if they need to. Bonus!

We'll see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, fee free to leave your comments about any writing software you've used. For novelists, that is. Screenwriting software is a different animal, and well, the only one I've ever used of that was Final Draft, which I completely love.

Until next week,



Amber said...

My problem is ywriter is trying to get a new story into it. I have given up in frustration. It might be fine if you start a story in it, but importing is a royal pain!

Wendy_Ely said...

Thanks for sharing your software frustrations with us, Kate! I am too scared to buy in program so I avoid temptation altogether and won't download free versions lol... until now. Maybe I'll try ywriter. Right now I use microsoft office 03 to keep my book information. I should start printing it off because I have so many files that it gets irritating looked for the file I need while writing.


Babette James said...

I'm one of the ones that loves yWriter. I've imported about 10 files and had no problems. A short bit of set up work to an RTF file and then let yWriter do its thing. For those worried about importing, cut and paste works fine, but takes longer.

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