Sep 6, 2009

A Nifty Tool for Novelists

by Marsha Ward

Increasingly, software programs are being written specifically for novelists. Everyone has seen the ScriptPro ads on the back of Writer's Digest, and there are several more high-priced and powerful programs out there. They amount to several hundred megabytes in size, too.

I'm here to tell you about a novel writing software program so compact you can run it off a flashdrive. Even with its small size, it's quite powerful, and doesn't drown in the code required to run MSWord, with all it's formatting features.

It's called yWriter5, and the best thing is, it's FREE! Written by a programmer with 20 years experience, it's made with novelists in mind, because the designer/programmer is Australian novelist Simon Haynes. Simon has written a series of novels dealing with a space jock, so the site is There is even a Google Group forum you can join to learn more about how to use the program and other tips. Even though the help menu is scanty, the program isn't difficult to figure out, and there is a PDF QuickStart Guide you can download and print.

Here's the blurb from the Spacejock Software website:

This free novel writing program has evolved over the years into a powerful piece of software, allowing you to break your book into chapters and scenes. Tracking progress is easy with the 'status' flags you can apply to each scene: outline, draft, 1st edit, 2nd edit or done.

Because losing work is the pits, this program will also create autobackups by date and time, as frequently as once a minute if desired. These can be browsed at will, making it easy to revert to an earlier version of your work. Includes a text editor, project overview, daily change log and much more. I've used this program to write three complete novels of 90,000+ words each. I would never have finished them without it.

yWriter5 opens with a New Project Wizard that helps you set up for writing a new novel. Already working on one? You can also import existing files into the program. Don't ask me how, as I haven't done it, but I'm assured that it does work.

Within each scene, you can keep track of characters, locations, and items used, in addition to such details as if the scene you are writing is action or reaction. You can set up project goals for the Outline (if you bother with one), Draft, 1st and 2nd Edits, and the Final Edit. There is even a Story Board that shows who is your POV character for each scene.

One thing I found odd at first, but learned to like is when you ask for a printout of scenes (with descriptions you added included as headers), your browser window pops up. Then it is up to you to choose your printing process. I found out this is one way Simon kept the code so small. You can also export scenes, chapters, or the entire project to RTF files for printing. I plan to export the entire project when I'm finished, then turn it into the necessary Word file for publication.

Although the initial writing input appears in single spaced format, I learned that if you're bugged by it, you can highlight your scene and hit CTRL+2 to force a double spaced output. I haven't tried that yet.

I really like this program for drafting and editing. Did I mention it has a voice reader? I can have my work read out loud (in an electronic voice, it's true) to check for flow.

Simon has also written several other free programs. Check them out!


  1. That sounds incredible. It's awesome of Simon to make it free for his fellow writers. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks Marsha. This sounds great. I am going to give it a go.

  3. Been looking for something like this..thanks Marsha.

  4. This looks great--can't wait to give it a try. Thanks!

  5. Amazing! Maybe this is the tool that is going to get me started on the novel I have wanted to write, but didn't know how to organize...hmmmm.
    thanks for the tip Marsha!


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