Using Software Tools to Plan

Whether you would benefit from using software to help you plan depends on your own work style. If you like being organized and are comfortable with electronic tools, then you might want to explore basic options and more.

Word processing software like Microsoft Word and spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel make it easy to create tables, allocating each row to the description of a single scene. It's easy to shift, insert, or delete rows as your plot grows and changes. You can even print out the table later and cut it apart, moving around the pieces to see how shifting plot elements affect the overall story. Or use the outlining tool in Word to create an outline.

There are many special software programs available, designed specifically for writers in general and fiction writers in particular. Most offer a free demo, or can be downloaded and used for a trial period so you can see if it helps you or slows you down.

Here are just a few examples of the tools available:

  • Dramatica Pro: Calls itself the “ultimate creative writing partner” ; through a slew of questions about plot and character it helps a novelist construct a story and then stay organized (for PC and Mac).

  • NewNovelist: Helps structure a novel using the “hero's journey” paradigm; it includes a word processor, tools for storing notes and outlines, and story prompts (for PC).

  • Scrivener: Contains both a word processor for writing, and management tools to help track ideas, take notes, storyboard, outline, store all kinds of research material, and write (for Mac).

  • Storyist: Includes word processing software tools with a range of planning and outlining tools and project views to help an author stay organized (for Mac).

  • StoryWeaver: Uses interactive “Story Cards” to help an author generate ideas and a plot for a novel (for PC and Mac).

Remember, how you plan and what tools you use are your choice. It's fine if you are most comfortable with a yellow pad and a sharpened pencil. The tools you use and processes you follow should help you write the novel, not get in your way.

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