About yWriter


yWriter is a free word processor that breaks your project into chapters and scenes.  It is intended to help you keep track of your work, leaving your mind free to create.

yWriter's user interface is simlar to the development environment computer programmers use. They have projects, classes and functions while we have novels, chapters and scenes, but the idea is still the same: it's much easier to manage a large, complicated project by breaking it into smaller pieces.

You'll find more information on the official yWriter site.

Below is how a yWriter user described the program on the mailing list.

 Just to clarify (and because I've had some awfully stupid days, too), you don't have to write multiple scenes per chapter. You can just write one scene and make it the entire chapter. So basically, you create a chapter, and then create a scene for it. And then you just write your story in that scene. Your story is actually contained in the scene.

yWriter also does automatic backups of your work as you're writing, plus it automates the final save when you exit out of it. (You would think I wouldn't fall prey to this after so many years of working with software, but I STILL manage to close files without saving my work!) It also creates automatic zip files of the entire project, by date.

yWriter lets you easily re-order your scenes. Say you realise a character is acting on knowledge they don't possess until later in the story, and you have to shuffle things around. You can temporarily take scenes out altogether if you don't think they fit anywhere, and you won't lose them if you change your mind about it and want to pop them back.

You may, if you wish, do preparation for every scene by adding characters (in the character list), decide which character's Point Of View a scene is about and then easily track which characters are the "star" of how many scenes each, place the chapter in a specific timeframe (i.e. day one, hour one), note if the scene is only an outline, or a draft, or which draft it is, and of course, track word counts in all sorts of ways (by daily progress, by total, or per chapter or per scene, and it even can count letters. It can check if you're over-using any special words (so that it doesn't become an annoying tic for the readers). HOWEVER, these are all optional features that you may use or not use depending on your individual writing process. You can make scene notes, or overall project notes. There's also a timeline feature which lets you see a sort of "big picture" of how your events are moving along.

yWriter also allows you to print out a variety of scene reports and summaries, which I find are helpful to make sure that my story is moving forward and isn't getting bogged down in irrelevant detail or can help me identify where my story might have derailed itself. If you maintain the scene titles and descriptions to match the content of each scene, you can even generate a synopsis of your novel. There are also two types of work schedule which tell you how much to do each day to meet your deadline: one expressed as a number of words to write, the other showing how many scenes to convert from outline to draft, draft to first edit, and so on. There's no setting up involved - just remember to update the status of each scene as you apply edits. (E.g. convert a scene from 'Draft' to '1st Edit')

yWriter isn't a word processor program like Word. Word processors are as much about formatting a document as they are about writing a document. I first tried writing in Word, but found it difficult to organize chapters, much less re-ordering them, and never could figure out where I was with word count. yWriter uses the Rich Text Format with rudimentary text formatting (cut and paste operations, italics, caps, bold) but no more than that. This actually frees you up to worry about your characters and plot, and of course, tracking your progress with the word count.

Once your work, or a section, is complete, you can export your work to an RTF or HTML document which can be opened by any word processor, and then you're free to format away to your hearts content. (This export feature exports your entire project, and the only evidence that will be left of each of your individual scenes is the "***" symbol signifying a new scene. But, like I said, if you don't want scenes, just write one giant scene for each chapter.) You can choose whether to include all your scene titles, descriptions and notes.

So, with all of these nifty organizing and tracking tools, yWriter makes it easier to develop, and actually write your story. However, if it doesn't suit your writing process, then nobody's feelings will be hurt if you decide that it's for the birds. After all, many masterpieces were written using only pen and paper. I might also add that as much as I depend on yWriter for the actual writing of my story, it's not the be all and end all for me. I still use several other pieces of software for capturing my notes, organizing my background research, brainstorming plot ideas, and for working through some intricate plot twists. There are even times when I resort to the old fashioned pencil and paper method, too.