Word Processing Software for NaNoWriMo

Posted: October 20, 2009 in Books, computers, NaNoWriMo, software
Tags: , , , ,

It’s a personal quirk of mine to never write my novels in Microsoft Word. There’s no reason for my snobbery. I just think it’s more fun to write in other programs instead. Word is for making your manuscript presentable, not writing it.

For the past few years I’ve used Q10, but this year I’ve been hesitant to do so. I was introduced to the wonders of Liquid Story Binder and yWriter last March for NaNoEdMo. As a result I’ve been bopping between the three, looking at pros and cons.


My novel in Q10

My 2007 novel in Q10

For raw, unstoppable word count power, Q10 is your friend. I love these features:

  • Takes up the whole screen, so you can’t be distracted by your friend in your Gmail window
  • Has a timer function. I like ten-minute timed writings.
  • Sounds like a typewriter. You can turn this off, of course, but for some reason the typewriter sounds make me type faster.
  • Word count goal. I like setting it to the full 50,000. There’s nothing like seeing your “percentage complete” increase as you write.
  • Simple interface. It’s nothing but a blank screen (in the color of your choosing) and a small statistics bar at the bottom. Maybe that’s scary for some people (“blank page syndrome”), but it keeps me focused.

The only reason I’m not sure about using it this year is because I have a tendency to ramble when I’m writing prose. Q10 displays my story as a giant sheet of text. After taking a course in Playwriting and doing Script Frenzy, I know that my writing is at its best when I stay focused in a  structure of several acts and many small scenes within them. It’s hard to tell how much time I’ve devoted to one scene or another in Q10. Having won NaNoWriMo five times, I think I can move beyond the simple goal of getting 50,000 words written. My challenge now is to make sure they are words I can edit and work with later.


My novel in yWriter

My 2007 novel in yWriter

This is where yWriter enters my debate. It’s exactly what I need. I can keep my story moving with these features:

  • Divides the story into chapters, and divides chapters into scenes. You can add a description of each chapter and scene
  • Each scene is written separately, and you can easily go from one scene to another
  • You can fill out a worksheet for each scene to evaluate it in terms of importance, which characters are featured, which locations and items are used, and other variables
  • If you fill those pages out, you can make graphs of your overall story
  • Character worksheets. You can easily keep track of all your characters and their information
  • Saves all your files often

So why am I not using yWriter? Ironically, I haven’t figured out a way to view the book as a cohesive whole. You have to export it first and view it elsewhere, which isn’t terribly convenient. Yes, I need to focus on the small scenes and not get carried away with rambly prose, but it’s also nice to read the whole book without clicking between scenes. Also, writing the scenes in a tiny window doesn’t work for me. I feel claustrophobic.

Liquid Story Binder

2007 novel in Liquid Story Binder

2007 novel in Liquid Story Binder

This brings me to Liquid Story Binder, which I’ve been using for a few days to plot my book. It was difficult to get into this program because of all the features. But if you find a way to use it that works for you, it’s pretty neat. My favorite features are:

  • The organization. All of my relevant files, characters and outlines and such, which would normally be scattered on several pages in several notebooks if I were plotting by hand like usual, are in a single list.
  • Dossiers. All of my main characters have a detailed dossier with a picture and loads of information. It helped me piece together my story as I thought about the characters.
  • Outline. My plot is looking sharp in one simple outline.
  • Okay text editor. You can change the color of the background and font like in Q10, and you can set a word count goal. It also shows how long you’ve been working, which is helpful for people like me who need to remember to work on school work.

That’s where the helpful features end. My book is in better shape than usual for this time of October because I’ve had a good time putting it together in this program. But there are some serious cons:

  • UNRELIABLE. I’ve had to restore my book twice now in three days. If you don’t back up often, you’ll lose everything.
  • Confusing. I had to keep at it to begin to understand how I’m supposed to be using it.

So, I’ve been torn on what to use. I’m nervous having all my plans in LSB. I certainly don’t want to start writing in it; plans are one thing, but I can’t imaging losing my whole novel.  yWriter keeps me organized but isn’t pleasing to write in, and I have a tendency to get lost in my own words while using Q10.

My game plan is this: Continue planning in LSB. (It’s almost all done, I might as well.) If it weren’t so unreliable, I wouldn’t mind writing the book in the program. But it is, and I can’t. Because Q10 has never let me down, I’m going to use it again. Maybe this year I can stay focused on the story, because the outline is so thorough. Sorry, yWriter. Familiarity won. It’s not NaNoWriMo unless I have a timer beeping every ten minutes, typewriter sounds, and a purple word processor.

If only CeltX had a useable text editor.

  1. […] scribbled on my class notebooks. This year I’ve made an effort to keep my notes in one place (Liquid Story Binder) and think the plot through. My plotted novels tend to be faster to write than the unplotted ones, […]

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