Nearly every writer has considered writing something more substantial than personal material and short stories. But writing a novel or screenplay can also be an organizational nightmare. Keeping multiple plot lines and characters straight can make even the most ambitious budding writer feel bogged down. Fortunately, there is a variety of software available to help an aspiring writer, which won’t break your budget.
The following software is available free of charge.
yWriter-5 yWriter 5 was created by Simon Haynes, a best-selling novelist and programmer, who used a programmer’s approach to writing. It’s a well organized, fairly intuitive piece of software for automating most tasks associated with writing. It breaks down each part of a writing project into a separate task, allowing for easy re-integration into the narrative when needed. Every aspect of a novel; chapters, scenes, characters, locations, items, etc. can be easily organized and saved. While yWriter-5 has the appearance of a spreadsheet, a built-in word processor is also available. You can also import content from your favorite word processing software. While it doesn’t make suggestions on plot or creative content, it does keep all aspects of the novel organized, and easy to view, allowing the author to focus on creative tasks.
Storybook is an open source software project designed to help novel writers keep their information organized. Like yWriter, it breaks down each part of the writing process into separate parts. You can choose from three viewpoints: Chronological view, Manage chapters and Scenes, and Book View. Chronological view separates each character into a strand, with the narrative overview going into the main strand. Manage chapters and scenes gives you an overview of each chapter and scene. Book view lays out each scene in an area resembling a 3 x 5 card. Each view has a separate tab for characters and locations, and general notes for each. While Storybook does provide a good organizational framework for aspiring writers, the layout is not as intuitive as yWriter. Additionally, the free version has ads built in requesting users to purchase the donor’s version of the software. Some users have also complained about losing saved work after upgrading to the donor’s version.
For the more ambitious writer, Celtx may be a better fit. Celtx is a free writing software application that provides templates for screenplays, audio plays and podcasts, live theater, comic books, and novels, all in one package. Upon downloading and opening Celtx, you are offered a template for each type of project (film, theater, novel, etc.). Each template then offers offers a variety of forms to help keep track and organize the fine details of characters, scenes, actors, locations, props, etc. You can add these forms to your project navigator and organize them in folders. It’s also possible to open and attach nearly any type of file to a project including media (movies and pictures). For example, when writing a movie script, in the character form, you might attach some artwork to help remind you of the character’s persona. With the actor form, you can create or attach a head shot to help jog your memory or appropriately cast your characters. When writing a novel, a good basic word processor is added, with index card and title page tabs at the bottom. A sketchpad is also available for scenery or characters. These options can be a great aid to beginning writers, and a good organizational tool for experienced ones. While options are a little basic with the initial download, additional organizational add-ons for Celtx are available inexpensively. Additionally, Celtx Studio allows you to upload, share and collaborate your projects with the Celtx writer’s community for a reasonable price. Celtx is available for the Mac, PC, and Ubuntu Linux platforms. It also offers mobile applications for the iphone and ipad.