yWriter5, for Windows PCs:
Recommended instead for Mac OS/X users:
What is yWriter?
yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you're encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.
If you're just embarking on your first novel a program like yWriter may seem like overkill. I mean, all you have to do is type everything into a word processor! Sure, but wait until you hit 20,000 words, with missing scenes and chapters, notes all over your desk, characters and locations and plot points you've just added and which need to be referenced earlier ... it becomes a real struggle. Now imagine that same novel at 40,000 or 80,000 words! No wonder most first-time writers give up.
(Although yWriter was designed for novels, enterprising users have created their own translation files to customise the program to work with plays, non-fiction and even sermons.)
Who designed it?I'm Simon Haynes, the designer and programmer. I have twenty-five years computer programming experience and I'm also the author of a science fiction comedy series and a new middle-grade science fiction comedy for ages 9-12. ALL of my novels were written in yWriter.
What's so special about yWriter?I really struggled with my first novel because I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file and I just couldn't make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing.
Next I tried saving each chapter to an individual file, with descriptive filenames, but moving scenes between files was a nuisance and I still couldn't get an overview of the whole thing (or easily search for one word amongst 32 files)
My last attempt to use Word involved saving every scene as an individual file - e.g. Chapter 01 Scene 01 - Hal Spacejock Gets a Job.doc. That was fantastic until I decided to move one scene three chapters ahead, and had to manually rename all the files. Then I decided to put it back again! I could never remember which of the 200+ files contained a note I was looking for either.
As a programmer I'm used to dealing with projects broken into source files and modules, and I never lose track of my code. I decided to apply the same working method to my novels ... and yWriter was the result.
I realise Word, OpenOffice and other modern word processors have outlining features, but they don't have snapshot backups to sequential files like yWriter does. Roll back scenes to where they were half an hour ago, or re-read a version from four months ago - yWriter stores them all, automatically.
Why focus on scenes instead of chapters?A scene is a pleasant chunk to work on - small and well-defined, you can slot them into your novel, dragging and dropping them from one chapter to another as you interleave strands from different viewpoint characters and work out the overall flow of your book. You can also mark a scene as 'unused' if you've written yourself into a dead end, which will keep it out of the word count and exports without deleting the content.
Of course, you can't just write a bunch of unrelated scenes. You need an overall design goal ... your plot. yWriter will generate a number of different reports from your scene and chapter summaries, from a brief scene list to a comprehensive synopsis. If you update the 'readiness' setting for each scene it will even generate a work schedule showing what you have to do to meet your deadline for the outline, first draft, first edit and second edit.
yWriter also allows you to add scenes with no content - just type a brief description and you can pretend you've written it. This is great for the parts you're not ready to write yet, or for when you get blocked. Skip over that part and come back later! Unfinished scenes, rough ideas ... it's so much harder to keep track of them when they're all pasted into one long word processing document.
yWriter may look simple, but as the author of several novels written with this tool I can guarantee it has everything needed to get a first draft together. Without yWriter, I would never have become a published author.
yWriter is a standalone application which runs on Windows PCs. It doesn't need or use an internet connection, and all data is stored on your own computer. The only time it uses the internet is if you use the inbuilt 'check for update' routine (in which case yWriter simply checks the latest version number from spacejock.com), or the 'backup to ftp' feature (in which case you have to provide the server address and login details.)
You'll find the yWriter facebook page here.
Best of all, yWriter is free.You won't pay anything to download yWriter, and the software contains no adverts, unwanted web toolbars, desktop search programs or other cruft. You can register your copy if you wish, but this is optional.
Feature list:Organise your novel using a project.
Add chapters to the project.
Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
Allows multiple scenes within chapters
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Multiple characters per scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
Re-order scenes within chapters.
Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
Automatic chapter renumbering.
... And many more
Users of earlier versions: You can install later versions (e.g. yWriter 4 and 5) at the same time as versions 2 and/or 3, and each version of yWriter has an importer which will read in any earlier yWriter project, right back to yWriter 2. The only thing you can't do is re-export your project back into older versions.
Every major version of yWriter uses different installation folders and start menu entries, and they won't interfere with each other.