Software for writing (Part II)

Typing on keyboardYou may have noticed that after a quick burst of progress (see Software for Writing and  a recommendation for Pro Writing Aid) I have gone quiet on the topic. This isn’t because I have forgotten or been too busy but because the topic has expanded somewhat. In my previous post I thought I had whittled my way down to a short-list of just two options to explore. How wrong I was…

What happened

I devised a model for writing to help me assess relative scores of various products. This included plotting / character generation / novel structuring / writing / proofing tools / export tools. I was looking for something that might support writing novels, short-stories and various factual pieces.

Realistically Word with some scrap-booking is not a bad place to start so I reduced the scope of this quest to just novel-writing (with short stories always lurking).

I installed a few demo packages and after very little experimentation I decided that the real determining factors were:

  • How I want to work (which is still forming)
  • Familiarity with other products
  • Do I want structure or pure flexibility
  • Do I want a clever package with lots of reports or merely a robust writing environment?
  • To what extent is script-writing in scope?

Script-writing is its own beast and I have taken it out of scope at present. If I get some work writing scripts more than once I may invest in something specific if needed.

Some general observations

There are a lot of packages in the $40 – $75 range with a good cluster neat the bottom. Lots of older packages seem to have not been updated recently and don’t always play well with Windows 7. The more recognised names (ie lots of reviews and mentions) seem to have stopped developing (that may be unfair but it is the sense I reached).

Some products are really well focussed on a particular topic – plotting or script production being examples.

There are some fantastic, expensive options as well which are well outside my budget!

What’s the new short-list

Here are some start of play notes; I still haven’t reached a final decision.

Scrivener (Literature and Latte)

The least constraining (ie structured) of all the packages and retails at $40. Hugely popular for a range of reasons. Intuitively I installed the demo then thought ‘now what?’ which is probably more a reflection on me than on it. I have since read around on how to use it and will give it a proper assessment. I also like the way the 30-day demo is not calendar days but actual days you use it!

WriteItNow 4 (Ravenshead Services)

At $60 this comes in near the top of the range and although I really like the character creation and clever visual reporting I found the interface rather mechanical. The package is incredibility mechanistic which might stifle some people’s creativity.

Had it been cheaper I might have persevered but for now I have decided I will probably not pursue this.

Novel Factory (Novel Software)

This is a UK package and new to the market. It is in active development and has a button that lets you tell the creators what you think of it; I was impressed that they answer all queries (so far) and are happy to help or discuss why the product is as it is. It sells for £24.99 ($40) and is aimed at new writers.

I am still evaluating this but do feel it has lots of potential. I also produced a 3,800 word short story with it for a competition which was a fairly painless experience. This was also from the 30-day demo version!

It is quite structured for plotting (with a monomyth type approach) and appears prescriptive but does allow you to ignore the rules and just write.

NewNovelist 3 (New Novelist)

This appears quite similar to Novel Factory: it sells for £30 ($48) and is a monomyth driven programme aimed at new writers (hence the name). They don’t have a demo version but do have a sale or return policy. This is disappointing as it looks (on-screen) like it might serve a fledgling writer well.

Storybook 4 (Intertec)

This is an open source project that I rather like, though it has some quirks. It appears actively supported and realistically you need the Pro version at $39. It is a good mix of tools and features though the analytic tools aren’t in the demo version.

It’s worth checking out this product as it appears to link together scenes, characters, places and objects quite well.

Update – Jan 2014 – the original website has vanished. I found the site linked above which has content from this month but no software! If anyone has more details could they update me? Thanks



  1. Thanks to Jeff Pearson who sent me the following information on Story Book:

    Hi Tony – have you seen this link? (download link) apparently the original creator of Storybook was hit by a tax problem by the Swiss government and folded the company. It’s now been taken up by a French guy who was part of the original software team. This is the thread link I found for it all… Hope this helps – I’m off to download it now.
    15 minutes later…
    It downloads fine from Sourceforge (37.7mb), but the installation didn’t go well on my Vista laptop. All the files exist, but the desktop shortcut didn’t find the programme, and I’ve had to dig in and find the oStorybook jar file and run it from there. I’m just playing with it now and for a Java app (which it now is), it appears relatively stable.
    Hope this helps!


    • Jeff then followed with:

      as a further update, all I had to do was to drag the oStorybook.jar file out onto the desktop, make a shortcut to it, then replace the jar file where I found it and Voylah I’ve a clickable link. Shame about their own icon shortcut though, it’s quite classy.

      Thanks very much Jeff!


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