13 September 2010

Novel Writing Software

I would definitely recommend this software package. There are a few things that are exceptional about the concept of this software that I can definitely share with you because of the fact that I've been writing for many years and have manually organized and categorized and made half ass attempts at integrating my work throughout the years. I can't tell you how pleased I was to fire up this software and find all the conveniences that just do not come with a PC running windows and an installed word processor.

You can download a demo here http://www.ravensheadservices.com/

What I like:

1. Built in character template to include a number of pre-defined personality traits, relationships, and free form character description to include character picture. Every character is easily accessible from a left navigation bar that loads in the main workspace via a click on the character.

While writing your story, chapter, scene or whatever, you are only a click away from reminding yourself of those character traits, personality nuances and relationships that you need to keep in mind for the sake of character integrity. So many times in the past I would start writing dialogue between two characters and I stop myself and want to go back and re-read every single scene to make sure I'm doing this correctly.

When I click on a character, I can quickly see that "Lenny" wouldn't answer that question in that manner and would be able to catch myself as I move along rather than continuing to go back through my character sheet that is saved under C:\My Documents\Novels\It Happened One Summer\Character Sheets\Lenny.txt. You would think that as you write you should know your characters, but in the beginning with your first three or four chapters it's really hard and discouraging.

2. The Events tab is particularly pleasant because you can make an event and put it on a timeline. You can organize your events in the left navigation by clicking and dragging the event of your choice either up or down depending on your story flow. I really like this because when I start writing I don't just jump in at the beginning. I start with an idea and I first write a "scene". If I like that scene, then I ask myself why that scene happened and thus come more scenes and thus is birthed a story ready to be written.

So, from my standpoint, the event "drag and drop" mobility is very satisfying because I don't have to worry about organizing or trying to figure out where something will fit. When I'm ready, I can look at my navigation of events and drag and drop where I want them to occur in my timeline. There's my flow. I love it. You can also select and store all characters associated with that event.

3. You don't need a separate word processor. This software has all the tools you need if you want to write a story for publishing. It incorporates all those tools in a single portal. Need a thesaurus, dictionary, spell checker? It's all there, plus when you're done you can "Export" your story as a manuscript for submission, an ebook for online publication or an html web page (I didn't like the html webpage; would rather do it myself with formatting).

4. Graphs! You can pick any character you want and display a graph of that character's relationships. It's an awesome way to organize how you want to progress in your story. If you see that one character only has a relationship with one other character, you might ask yourself - Why is that character in my story? It might be a great way to integrate another scene and add to the plot, or you might make a wiser decision to cut the character and scene altogether depending on how far along you are in your novel. Awesome feature!

5. Export setup for manuscript output. I like this because not all publishers accept manuscripts the same. Margins, fonts, cover page, word count, etc. can be different. If you find that a publisher's requirements are slightly different than the industry standard, you just tweak the export, create your manuscript and then reset the defaults. Easy!

What I don't like:

1. The import function doesn't seem to work. I could be doing something wrong, but I can't be sure. It's never a good thing to get java I/O errors and then immediately get a message box that asks you to save. I don't like that at all. I realize that I won't need to use this function anyways because it's just as easy to copy and paste text to and from the clipboard.

2. Large character portraits can slow performance of this software. Yikes! Okay, I didn't know this until I tried to use a picture for one of my characters. It will still let you use the picture, just gives a warning that you may hinder the performance. I think a much better approach would have been to establish a maximum size for this feature and disallow larger photos.

Anyway, that's been my experience so far and I've only really just begun.


  1. An even better solution would be to have the software auto resize to a customizable preset.

    As for writing software I really enjoy Scrivener's flexibility.

  2. Im talking about your point re: picture sizes.

  3. I've read a lot about Scrivener. I think I might try it as a comparison. Now that you mention it, I like that idea of auto re-sizing images.


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