Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TOOL WEEK! Question #3

I mentioned authoring software yesterday.  By that I mean programs that go beyond word processing to help writers develop fiction in particular.

The ones I've seen are focused on a) organizing the work by chapter and scene, and b) allowing you to enter metadata for scenes, characters, locations, and items.  For example, you can enter the date and time of a scene along with the location and whoever appears in it.  In some cases they show you outlines and graphs of the data you enter.

I haven't used any of the commercially available ones because the advertising puts me off.  ("Learn the SECRET best-selling authors DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW.  We GUARANTEE you'll finish your novel in 24 HOURS!")  The free versions look innocuous enough; a typical one is yWriter5.  I have used similar programs for screenwriting and was underwhelmed.  I already have a way to store notes, and I can already save my work by scene or chapter or whatever I like.

That said, there are lots of things I would love to have.  Here are a few.  I've even started writing my own programs that do these things. 
  1. See most frequently used words and phrases, including counts and distribution through novel
  2. See count and distribution of best-in-moderation things like "-ing" words, parentheses, semicolons, and dashes.
  3. See count and distribution of modifiers.
  4. See ratios and distribution of dialog, description, action, exposition, etc.
  5. See variation in sentence, paragraph, scene and chapter length.
  6. See all the written description pertaining to a specific character, location, or thing.
  7. See all the dialog spoken by a specific character. 
And this brings me to today's question.  Do you think any of this stuff sounds useful for the way your write?  What would you want to add?


  1. I honestly don't think I'd want all this stuff. It would provide me with too much temptation to fiddle with my statistics instead of writing!

    Of course, I only recently discovered index cards. I may be a bit of Luddite, here.

  2. I have the yWriter downloaded, and I was planning to try it out once by manuscript is finished. I like the timeline option and the character bio stuff, and the fact that you can mark which chapter/scene certain plot elements or characters appear in. I'm also a sucker for a nice layout, and it looks promising.

    We'll see if it's any good once I actually get around to using it!

  3. JJ - You have a point. It also occurs to me that one might fiddle the magic right out of the writing, though honestly I could only hope to have such problems.

    Maybe - I'd love to head how it works out for you!