I did quite a lot of reading / research before I set ot to write my first novel. I did not have a plot or story in mind at the time and I was looking at the tools that were advertised as helping writers design their novel. In fact, I started testing them with quite simplistic ideas and wanted to see if they would really offer any help.
I looked at simple mindmap software which was great as a brain-storming
tool but it seems that like all software, too many functions were simply
superfluous to my requirements. It was just as easy to use a pencil and
notebook. OK if I started to make a lot of edits, then my notebook
began to seem a little messy and I did need to redraw. A free mindmapping software is Freeplane. Lots of features but far too many for my simple needs. Could work for you however.
I looked at Trello,
which is a sort of on-line pinboard; lots of uses, in fact the link
contains lots of ideas and I found the site via an articlec on writing
an outline for a novel. However this was too simplistic. (does this
sound a little like Goldilocks and the three bears?)
After this, I considered a word -processor, very simple and
multi-layered; I could even start writing based on the outline which
was developed. But the aim of most tools in this genre was to keep track
of not only the chapters and scenes but also the characters, locations,
items (anything else pertinent to the plot) and 101 other things. Would
a simple WP package allow me to do this easily? I have MS Word and had
used it to write many articles; and I had always used an outline to
write technical reports and an MSc and PhD theses. I had always managed
before, but could I find an easier way.
My next trial was with Storybook.
Another pinboard type of program but developed specifically for writers
to aid in designing a novel. This keeps track of all those things
mentioned above but I found it a little stilted and I must admit to
having one or two issues. Firstly, there was no help available with he
free download. Under the Help Menu were the choices to donate or
contact, neither these nor the help file were accessible; simply giving a
404 not available error. The simplistic example file did not help a
great deal, so I did not get very far with this at all.
After all these failures I hoped that yWriter5, a word processor,
might be the one to ring the bell. It offers all that I could have
hoped for. The main screen offers an outline based on chapters and
scenes, and a datebase to cope with all the rest. Characters, locations,
items. It has various tools and offers reports which may prove useful
to monitor the efficiency of the writer. With the built in WP you can
even write the basic novel in the tool. However it does not offer
complete formatting so you will need to export the text ( several
options are available) and use a more powerful WP package for tidying up
before submitting to agent or publisher, depending upon your
Lastly, I had come across a method of designing the novel called The Snowflake Method,
which I mentioned in my last post. I had said that I was hoping to
follow this method to write my first novel, however after managing to
get through the first few stages, I wanted to hop ahead. For instance, I
could not list my characters without putting more detail into my
outline - which the method seemed to leave until quite late. So I am on
the cusp of modifying the method to my own requirements. Each to his own
as they say! I have been quite satisfied with progress so far and will
give more details about progress in my next post.
One last, one very last note. The Snowflake Method
suggests using a simple spreadsheet to define the descriptions of each
scene. This does seem to have much to say for it, and I would probably
have used MS Word and Excel together but I am slowly getting used to
yWriter5. I will persevere with this software for a while as it does
seem to have most of what I think I need without being too complex. It
does take a little getting used to as any software but would be easier
if it had an easier Help File. The help file has been written by a third
party and is quite simplistic, based on a set of FAQ's.
So it looks as if I have a way to proceed, using yWriter5.
I will push on with my novel, and provide a little more detail of the introduction and the main characters in my next posts.