Writing a novel is no easy task. Reading an average 300 page book only takes around six or so hours to read.
For authors, we know that every one of those 60,000-90,000 words are both a labor of love and exercise in frustration.
Coming up with your idea, doing research, creating characters, crafting an outline, and then keeping it all organized so you can reference it quickly is easier said than done.
If you are old-school, then you probably still have your notecards and maybe even a corkboard where you constructed the underpinnings of your novel. Thankfully, today, there are software tools that aspiring novelists and the seasoned writers can take advantage of to make the entire process easier.
Before going any further, it is important to talk about the toolbox fallacy. The tools you use in your craft can help you accomplish your goals better, but they won’t do the work for you. If you want to write a novel, you should be able to do that with a cheap spiral bound notebook and a pencil. Many people stumble because they spend so much time worrying about what tools are best or whether it will help them accomplish their dream that they never even get started.
If you know you can write a novel and have tried it and found that you weren’t able to organize and manage all of the pieces, then maybe the below software is right for you!
We start with Scrivener because it is the most feature-rich application on this list. Writers who want a pure experience should be warned about its complexity. You will want to watch a few tutorials on how to take advantage of every feature and decide if you even need them.
Scrivener comes in a few flavors, including a version for macOS, Windows, and iOS. Each version is different, with macOS being on version 3 (the latest), while Windows is still on version 2 and has been in active development for a few years. iOS takes advantage of the iPhone and iPad ecosystem to deliver cloud saves so you can retrieve the latest version of your manuscript no matter the device or where you are in the world.
Scrivener is a powerful writing tool to help authors succeed. With several templates, drag and drop features for almost every part of the program, a virtual corkboard with notecards, and easy ways to track your progress, characters, and even exporting to digital or print, Scrivener does have it all.
Novlr was first developed and released in 2017 and has been in active development since. It is a web-based application, but can be accessed offline so long as you have cookies enabled in your browser. If you fail to reconnect to the internet or wipe your cookies, any progress you make offline will be lost.
Other than that word of warning, Novlr is straightforward in its approach to writing. Start at your dashboard and select create a new novel. From there, you will see a simple page with each chapter and sub-chapters on your left, and several options to customize your text and colors on the right.
What’s exceptional about Novlr is the ability to set color modes, including day, evening, and night, making it easy to write even in a dark room so you aren’t putting a lot of strain on your eyes. You also have a focus mode that will hide everything except your text to get distracted.
As mentioned, this program is newer and development is ongoing. However, what is here works fantastically. Although some may dislike that there isn’t a good way to track characters or even create an outline. But if you want a way to organize your novels, chapters, and just write, this is the one for you.
For the person who wants cloud saves and no cost, Google Docs is the best option. Create a Google Account and you are good to go.
The downside to Google Docs is that it isn’t necessarily designed for novel writing. While you can set headers for each chapter and move between them using the Outline View, there is no way to rearrange chapters and the export tools are limited if you want to self-publish to Amazon or other digital platforms.
Another thing to watch out for is the stability of Google Docs with a large amount of text. At around 15,000 words you may experience lag that can get in the way of writing. One solution to consider is to separate each chapter into individual documents.
You can’t fault Google Docs for its limitations when it comes to novel writing given its free price. However, seeing Google offer some sort of overlay to make writing novels easier would be welcome.
We won’t go too deep into Ulysses. It is a macOS and iOS only program that blends the cloud-based advantages of Novlr with many of the powerful features found in Scrivener. If you are an Apple user and want to write the novel of your dream and make it look and feel how you always imagined, then it is entirely worth purchasing.
The above programs can make writing your novel a little easier. Each program is different, so you may want to spend some time with each and decide what is right for you. Just remember not to get too hung up on deciding. Make sure you are sitting down and knocking out around a thousand words a day.