After I started taking writing seriously, I decided that looking for better novel-writing software (say, better than Word) would likely help me to stay organized as I tried to complete one of my stories.
I’ve had Scrivener recommended to me multiple times, along with other paid software, but as a mostly-poor working adult, I wanted to find something else that would serve my needs for free. And eventually I found yWriter5.
While the style of the software might not be for everyone, I wanted to give a brief review for those who are looking around for other options.
*The software was created by a writer: Simon Haynes. Thanks for being generous and ingenious, Simon!
Disclaimer: I am not being paid to endorse the product, nor have I been asked to review it. Also, while I have used it for several months, I have not fully explored every function available. That said, my breakdown and review:
The first thing I loved upon moving my work over to the yWriter5 program was the simple structure of creating chapters and scenes individually, and the ability to move them around at will. Not only do I not write in a linear manner, but I often discover that a character introduced in chapter 5 actually should have been introduced in chapter 2. In Word (or whatever your equivalent is), that would take cutting the scene and moving it up several pages (if not more) and pasting, then trying to make it fit in with the surrounding scenes.
With yWriter5, I can insert the scene between two other scenes by dragging and dropping it individually, and then adjusting the surrounding scenes accordingly. You still have the option of cutting from one scene and pasting into another, but if your plot is convoluted enough that small pieces need to be in a certain order, it’s easy and simple to keep them separated but organized. (Scene window below.)
The opening window (top) serves as a bird’s eye view of your story. You can “zoom in” as close as you want (scene or character options), or move back to see the list of every chapter. Under ‘Tools’ there’s even a ‘Storyboard’ (below) option that will graph your story for you, as well as an option to see the list of all your scenes together. As someone who struggles with keeping the big picture in mind as I write, this is invaluable to me.
The ‘Tools’ menu has a lot of great stuff: daily word count targets, a progress log and even a word usage count (for those of us who like to be descriptive but unoriginal).
Scenes and characters
Another function I love about yWriter5 is the tab options within the ‘Scene’ and ‘Character’ windows. Choices under ‘Scene’ such as characters, locations, items and goals allow you to make notes on things you’ll want to tie in later, or who a newly introduced character really is – the options are endless, really. There’s even a place to import a picture if you prefer a visual reminder of where or what is going on in that scene. And at the bottom of the ‘Scene’ window you can specify whose viewpoint the scene is from, if you’re not writing a singular perspective.
The ‘Character’ window (files) are also extremely helpful, as you can input as many characters as you want, and specify whether they occupy a major or minor role. There’s a place for a description, bio, notes, goals, picture and even tags. Once you’ve input a character, they come up as options in your Scene window, either as P.O.V. options or just a note that they are involved in the scene.
Locations and items
Beyond those basic options, you can add in locations and items, if your characters are jaunting all over creation, or if you’re writing a magic story with lots of objects that need to be collected, or a knights’ tale where you want to keep track of their weapons.
The visual appeal is low compared to other software, but I’m a pc girl – I like simple and straightforward. And if you’re wanting to do more multi-media creation, you’ll probably find this is not the program for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend this to any writer, whether for a short story or an epic. At the very least, it’s free to try out!
The only downside I’ve discovered (or yet to find the solution to) is how to compile every scene into one document once you are finished. But perhaps you’ll have an answer for me in the comments, if you’re moved to try the software out!
Katie signing off
 More efficiently organized; I’m the kind of organizer who uses so many labels I lose things after trying to create a system.
 Ironically, this feature is almost a con for me, based in how distracted I can get with adding in extra details.