Peter L.S. Trevor

We are stories made manifest

Software for authors

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A recurring question asked on social media is what software do writers use?

There are many programs that authors can use.  Part of the choice lies in familiarity and if you are a PC or Mac or whatever person.

Okay, so as a PC person who has used the Microsoft Office suite for many years, some of my choices should be obvious.  But there are a few non-MS programs here.

OneNote.  One of the MS Office suite of programs.  Great for keeping notes on plot, characters, and any background research.  A OneNote ‘book’ can be divided into tabs, pages, subpages, and sub-subpages.  And by locating the OneNote notebook file on OneDrive, it can be accessed by multiple devices or through a web interface.

yWriter.  One of the few non-MS programs here, yWriter was designed by a writer, for writers.  Great for drafting, it allows you to divide your book into chapters and scenes; these can be reorganised using simple drag-n-drop.  It has chapter and scene word counts, simple character/object/location tracking … it’s basically Scrivener lite.  Initially PC-based, there are now versions for Android and iOS (with MacOS in beta).  And it’s free.

Word and Grammarly.  Word is one of the programs in the MS Office suite.  When in the editing phase, I prefer to export each chapter from yWriter into a Word document.  Grammarly is a third-party spelling and grammar checker (running as a standalone and as a Word plugin), far superior to Word’s built-in functions.  To get the best value out of Grammarly, recognise that it flags up potential issues; you have to vet these and decide which ones are valid.  But it’s better to have to manually deselect a false positive than have it miss something.  Be aware, Grammarly does need an internet connection to work.

Hemingway Editor.  Another non-MS program, this lightweight editor is great for readability.  It uses colour highlighting to indicate adverbs, passive voice, phrases where they may be a simpler alternative, hard to read sentences, and very hard to read sentences.  It also provides a count for each of these and an overall readability score.  I use this during the editing stage (in parallel with Word).  For the best effectiveness, don’t strive for some mythical perfection but keep the different factors under control … and, much more importantly, keep each block (approximately 10% of your book) scoring the same in each category.  This will help make your novel consistent.

Excel.  This MS Office program might seem an odd addition, and strictly speaking, you don’t need much of its power.  But since I had it, here are a couple of things I do:

  • First, I have a table that tracks word count and Hemingway Editor stats per chapter.  (I use the chapters as units of story, so have twelve chapters in a 100K+ word novel.)  I can see at a glance which parts need reworking for consistency.
  • Second, given a large cast of primary characters, I have a grid of characters by chapters.  I populate this with a flag of when characters are present.  When I did this on my last WIP, I discovered that a couple of the lesser characters ‘disappeared’ for three chapters and then reappeared without explanation.  I was able to go back and make sure these characters were at least present in the background of some scenes.

Vellum.  This is a Mac-based program.  I’ve not used it yet but based on friends’ recommendations, I intend to use it when publishing my next book.  Vellum is a compositing program; it allows you to format your book (ebook or paperback) ready for publishing.

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