Okay, in my last post I lamented Google Docs and Zoho as being unwieldy for lengthy fiction (novella or novel length). I offered up a few suggestions for different kinds of drafting tools. Because in my opinion, drafting is a very different thing from organizing, editing and formatting.
So today I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the organizing tools that are available out there. Frankly, most writers I know are not the most organized people on earth. Drafting requires focus and concentration, but keeping your characters, settings, and subplots straight requires something a little different.
I’m not going to talk about paper and analog tools, for the same reason I didn’t cover Word in the last post. What am I going to tell you about Post-It notes, index cards, or composition books and file folders that you don’t already know? Either analog organization works for you, or it doesn’t. Here are a few digital things to try if it doesn’t.
Scrivener – I know, I know. Some people draft in it. It has a full screen mode. I just could never get used to doing so. This is sort of the Cadillac of novel writing softwares–not in the price sense, because even at full price it’s only $40. Rather, it’s the top-quality in its class. It’s made specifically for writing novels, so it avoids some of the “trying to be all things” aimless feature bloat of Word. It may be overkill for you. And it’s going to involve a learning curve. You will have to go through the tutorials, or risk feeling hopelessly lost. And if you can use it for drafting, it will compile your finished and formatted novel into a number of eBook formats. For the longest time it was Mac only, but they’ve since released a Windows version. Sorry Linux users, you’re out of luck on this one.
yWriter – This is a freeware tool that I sort of compare to the “Open Office” of Scrivener. It was created by a programmer who was also a science fiction author to help keep himself organized. Unlike Scrivener, it is available for Linux, although it’s much more complicated affair on Linux or Mac than for Windows. But let’s face it, if you’re running Linux, you’re used to everything being a complicated affair, and if you’re on a Mac, you’re just going to buy Scrivener, anyway. But I digress.
LitLift – You may be like me, and work from multiple computers in the different snippets of time you have available. If that’s the case, it might be handy to have your novel organizing tool online, so you can jump in and reference it wherever you are. LitLift was created as a free tool to support NaNoWriMo. It’s super fast to start, and it offers some fairly basic novel organization tools: books, characters, settings, items, as well as chapters within books. It also has a basic name generator tool. You can create fairly complicated character bios, or keep them relatively simple. You can add characters and settings to multiple books. You can download “Book Info” as a text document, but it will only compile and download the book description and the chapters, not setting or character information. Still, it’s free and easy to use, when you just need to be able to look up or create characters, scene outlines, settings, and objects or items.
Hiveword – Hiveword is a more robust online novel organizing tool. In addition to the name generator tool in the Characters section, it will pull up a random list of places for Settings. It also allows you to assign multiple plots (or subplots) to your story, and then link scenes to these plots. So you can see a master grid that shows how often you’re touching on your various subplots by scene. You can also denote which characters or settings are in which scene. The download feature is a little more robust, as well, and includes character and setting information.
Of course, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about analog organization tools, but if you insist… I recommend DIYplanner.com’s Creativity Pack of templates. They include storyboarding templates, story notes, publication markets notes, and submission notes.
Handy things to have around. Hope you enjoy them.