Sure, you can write your novel in a moleskin-bound diary or type it up in a Word file, but several thousand words in, and several characters and plot lines later, you will come to realize just how confusing your story has become. There is a variety of software out there that can help you with this. Scrivener, WriteWayPro, and yWriter5 are excellent tools for organization. Or, for a little more guidance and a little more cash, WriteItNow can help you build dynamic characters. Then, there's Scapple, created for those of us who have difficulty even getting started or who are simply stuck mid-scene.
Scrivener for Windows or Mac
At US$40.00 (US$35.00 for students), Scrivener is an excellent program for taking writers from the initial stages of their story, straight through to publication. With a binder feature to organize your outline, a virtual corkboard to keep track of notes, an archive to store all of your research, and a word processor to actually write and edit your story, Scrivener seems to have everything a writer would ever need. There is even a free trial, tutorials, and Scrivener Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Jennifer Ackerman Kettell, to ensure that you are able to tailor Scrivener to your needs.
Aside from the various organizational features, WriteWayPro offers a variety of other tools including a word processor, research folders, character profiles, a computer read-back of your book so you can hear how it sounds, and exporting and printing options. At US$35.00, WriteWayPro is very comparable to Scrivener in price and function. Both programs have a free trial option, so it might be best to try them out first to see which is a better fit before you buy.
Ideal for beginning writers who do not have a set organizational style, but adjustable for experienced writers who do, WriteItNow helps you organize your thoughts, characters, and overall story with a user-friendly interface. It also provides a wealth of tips from helping you develop characters to setting word goals and getting you past the ominous writer’s block. The downside - it is nearly double the price of Scrivener and WriteWayPro, listed at US$69.95 on Amazon.
yWriter5 is a “no-frills,” free download to help organization your story while you write it. Storing your story as a series of chapters that can then be broken down into individual scenes, yWriter5 makes it easy to sort, review, reorder, and edit your work. Amongst the tools available are those that let you summarize each section and character, list out important characters or objects that appear within each scene, move scenes to different chapters, and create a work schedule to keep you on track.
Scapple for Windows or Mac
This program is a bit different from the others in this list. Brought to you by the creators of Scrivener, Scapple software is basically designed to help aid the brainstorming process. You can type your notes anywhere on the page and then connect them, plotting out your brainstorming session in a map-like format. While it won't make decisions for you, at only US$14.99 (with a free trial option), it will help you visualize how your story connects and which paths to take. It can also be used as a companion to Scrivener, allowing you to drag your notes from Scrapple to Scrivener for use in your story.