writing tools: yWriter

I find word processors intimidating. When I sit down at the computer and fire up Word, I'm thrown right back into the head of that seventeen year old Donna, the one who always seemed to have a paper due and never knew what she should write about. She'd dutifully set her margins and her font and her font size, and maybe she'd even come up with a title. She'd stare at the screen for long enough that she could tell herself she'd accomplished something, and then she'd save the nearly empty file and walk to the mall with her friends.

Even if a typical word processor window didn't feel like a visit from the Ghost of Writing Failures Past, I think I'd still have a hard time working on a book in one. It just doesn't feel practical or convenient for me. I skip around a lot. I write down little bits and pieces that are parts of upcoming scenes, and I often go back to check some half-forgotten detail.

That's why I'm totally in love with yWriter. It's a novel-writing program, and it's awesome. First of all, it lets you split up your writing into chapters filled with individual scenes. I give each scene a title that reminds me of its contents, so I can always find the part I'm looking for with just a few clicks. Some of my scene names are on the silly side, because there's only so many times you can use "X and Y talk about Z." My favorite of these mini-titles at the moment is "I'm Doing Science and I'm Still Alive."

The program shows how many words you've written that day, which is good motivation when I'm nearing my goal. I also like that I can see the word counts of chapters and scenes at a glance, that's helped me keep the pace of my story moving along.

There are places to store reference information about characters, locations, and items, which sounds like a useful feature. I keep forgetting to enter all that stuff, but I'm planning on getting around to it. Then there are sections for notes and goals attached to each scene. I've been pasting some of the things I edit out into the notes section just in case I want to reuse or restore them later. I probably won't do that very often, but keeping all those stray words around makes me feel more confident in my editing choices.

I've tried out some writing programs that felt hopelessly overcomplicated. Setting up and maintaining a project in them never seemed worth the effort. Even though yWriter has a lot of similar features, it's still easy to use. The interface provides more structure than a big, blank window, but it also gets out of your way. The best part is that it's free, though the author/programmer who created it accepts donations.

Go try it:
yWriter5 - novel writing software

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