Loving the Gewgaws: Manuscript Organizational Software
Disclaimer: Chrinda Jones is not associated, in any way, to any of the products mentioned in the post below.
I am not one for chasing the new fangled, and I am not easily swayed by promises, but when it occurred to me that the dread I feel toward the daily Tango I dance with Microsoft Word might be alleviated by something new and fangled, I sat down and spent some time with my favorite search engine seeking out a new dance partner.
Keeping track of all the bits and pieces involved in writing a manuscript is time consuming. Constantly searching through Word files and notebooks for character profiles, events, character relationships, locations and notes to myself- even more so. I have found the writing process, especially when a new novel is in its beginning stages, creeps along when I must constantly search electronic files and notebook pages for forgotten story and character details. Enter the Godsend that is ‘manuscript organizational software.’
My search led me to several lists which compared MOS programs against each other. The two programs which consistently came out on top of comparison lists were WriteItNow 4 and Writer's Dreamkit. So I downloaded the free demos from their websites and spent a full afternoon tinkering with their gewgaws.
What I found when I opened Writer's Dreamkit was that it appeared to be for beginning writers. It didn't seem capable of handling plots that might be a bit more complex than a beginner's story and it clearly wasn't designed to help an author organize her manuscript. What it did have was a great tutorial for helping to guide a new writer through developing story ideas.
WriteItNow, on the other hand, was clearly developed for the working author. It does everything a working writer needs to stay on top of a manuscript and more. I was in hog heaven from the opening page.
Which one did I eventually purchase? I chose WriteItNow 4 because I am a very visual person, (hence the color coded 3x5 card layout of my manuscript scotch taped to the wall), and this program meets that visual need. Literally. It automatically creates color coded virtual 3x5 cards for chapters and scenes so I can see which story line I’m neglecting. I can also click and drag any card to any position on the virtual wall, and the program will automatically move the chapter or scene within the manuscript. The program also automatically creates relationship trees between the characters, another plus for visual people.
The greatest thing about this program is the way it is so intuitive to use. Every button is exactly what it says it is. Running from left to right at the top of the screen, there are buttons for creating and storing the information I once wrote in notebooks or typed in Word files. As I add detailed information into overview, chapters, characters, events, etc., the text is simultaneously added to the corresponding headings (from top to bottom) on the left hand side of the screen. It is amazing just how detailed this program will let me go with my characters, settings and events. Have you ever stopped to think about to what degree one of your characters dislikes another character? You will now.
WriteItNow will not create your manuscript for you; it only helps you organize it. It does have some interesting features that could assist with consistency issues, but the program only points out the problems, it won’t solve them. Other features include a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, ebook formatting and the ability to keep track of manuscript submissions when it comes time to shop the novel around.
After three novels and a fourth in the throes of completion, I now find the dance a more enjoyable endeavor simply because everything I need for my Tango across the room is only a click away. Truthfully, I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner.
Do you use a manuscript organizing program? Tell us which program and why. Are you a diehard Word user? If you are, tell us why.
Chrinda Jones is a crime writing and reading fiend, which she believes is genetic and began with her great-grandmother, who hoarded crime novels. "Darkness Knows Me" is her crime novel debut and "Angels Sing to Rest" is next in her series. When she's not putting her time in with the writing gods, you can find her playing music or enjoying a good meal with friends and family. Chrinda currently resides in Murphy, Texas, with her husband, children, grandchildren and her Jugg, Abby.