Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fiction – Writing Software

The decision to invest in a fiction writing program was an easy one for me. I needed a way to organize information. Tired of wasting energy, time and effort jumping between spreadsheets and documents, searching for things — as small as spelling a character’s name, location, or relationship to becoming frustrated when I wanted to make changes to multiple chapters that I had stored on separate documents.

The choice of which one to use was the difficulty. I read reviews and investigated multiple writing programs, and narrowed my choice to Scrivener, Write It Now,  WriteWay, or the free version of  yWriter. Scrivener seems to be the choice of many writers, but the learning curve was more than I wanted at this time. I was looking for a more intuitive based program. WriteWay and yWriter didn’t seem to fit me as much as the one I ultimately chose, Write It Now. WIN4 Write It Now provided the most flexibility. I like to “co-opt” databases– that doesn’t mean tampering with any of the program itself — I simply like to use fields for what I want, not necessarily what the original intent of the program design intended. I played with my new program for a few weeks, and fine tuned a system that works well for me.

I appreciate the organization and functions of the program, and using it allows me concentrate on my writing. I also works well in checking overall structure, and I can make changes to my outline as I revise.

Chapters and Scenes, Characters, Locations, Notes and Ideas, are made available in a collapsible menu on the left side of the screen, and provide instant navigation to any point in the story. Having the ability to color code scenes and chapters, and colors correspond within the story board function, is indispensable. I use it to track POV (Point of View). Moving, adding or deleting a scene or chapter is smooth, and there are nifty tools built into it – the ones I use most often are:


thesaurus and spell check,

global word find and replace (when I decide to rename a character or change a location),

word count to track my progress (or identify overly long/short scenes that might need attention),

reading level for each scene (useful because this novel is geared to young adults),

word usage (number of times words are used),

graphs to track everything from conflict and action to meeting writing goals

The character builders, with thought provoking built in questions and prompts is interesting and helps flesh out characters, and the program has relationships and friends tracking and visual charts. I had already built my characters before I installed the program, and only played with it a little so far. There is a lot more this program can do. I think all of the programs I looked at supplied most of these functions.

Bottom line: choose a program that fits you and your style. They are meant to help you organize and ease some of the more mundane, and sometimes  overwhelming issues that come with organizing and writing a long piece of fiction.

I’ve only used this program for a couple of months now, but I think first draft and early revisions will be the programs strongest point. I’m guessing I’ll transition to WORD for final manuscript fine-tuning, but won’t know until I get there!

Do you use a software program for writing?  What have you found to be the most helpful product or function?

 Lesson #11:   Using a fiction writing software program helps me concentrate more on my writing, keep track of characters and their relationships, locations, and provides me with an easy way to insure my novel’s structure is on target. Along with other helpful writing tools, it speeds along a first draft, with places to store and retrieve thoughts and ideas, and make changes to the text easily as I go.

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….


Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Writing the Book


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Storytelling Basics

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a blog entry. It’s not because I’ve lost interest or just got lazy, it’s because I’ve been involved in an intensive learning and writing cycle. I couldn’t fit one more thing in. Until now.

Three months ago,  I had written twenty thousand-plus words, and found myself straying mostly into dead end chapters.  This happened even though I knew what I wanted to accomplish and thought I had built a pretty thorough outline. I even had three distinct “acts,” and had worked diligently to develop believable, likable – even lovable – characters.  And yet I floundered.

My precious book had become “confusing, ambling, and not at all compelling.” It was flat and non- engaging. Even knowing that first drafts suck didn’t help. I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

Determined to get to the bottom of my writing problems, I used problem solving skills honed over many years. Applying critical thinking basics, I searched for what I was missing.  With that I realized how poor my storytelling skills are. I tend to ramble and digress, and even telling jokes, never get the punch lines right.

So began my quest for basic material on storytelling. I didn’t find much in the fiction writing category, so I cast my net further out. When I saw this one, I was  hooked.


I love this book! I’d recommend it if anyone needs help with basic storytelling skills.

The authors have compiled material they use in workshops given mostly to scientists, bureaucrats and business people. It is a basic, practical guide for communicating ideas through story. The three person team consists of scientist-turned screen writer Randy Olson, actress-screen writer Dorie Barton, and improv comedian Brian Palermo.

It focuses on the elements and structure of story, how to connect and make your audience care about and become engaged in your story. And it is fascinating reading. The information and tools are practical and instantly usable. This was my Rosetta stone, the missing link in my understanding of fiction writing .

I scrapped my first effort, all nine chapters.  And it hurt less than I thought it would.

Armed with an understanding of what makes a story, I put more work into building the main ideas I wanted to get across in each chapter, before I started any writing. I used the same basic ideas, but reorganized them into a story. The first draft is now approaching thirty-five thousand words, and my writing is now more specific.

It’s still a suck-y first draft, but I am confident I can polish it into something worthwhile, and I am no longer lost. My story is unfolding, and daily writing has become a joy instead of a scary burden.

During my blog absence, I have read another half dozen writing books, and three novels. With a basic plan and structure, I’m able to jump back into any part of my story and make adjustments as I continue learning about story structure, character development, dialogue, pinch points, and more — all without having everything come crumbling down. That shows me the foundational work I did was worth the effort and time invested.

I’ll be sharing some lessons I’ve learned from my recent studies, and here is the first post-break lesson learned:

10. Make sure you’re telling a story, not just knitting words and scenes together.  Storytelling is what makes a connection with your readers. Imagination, a clever turn of phrase and thought provoking ideas can make for interesting prose, but don’t skip over checking to see if you have actually told a story. Doing this will help, particularly if critiques have mentioned (in similar remarks) your work is “confusing, ambling, and not at all compelling.”

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….


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