Writing a good novel requires dozens (or hundreds) of hours and authors need the right software to speed up the writing process. The best novel writing software will help you outline stories, create characters, and empower your writing process so you write better books, faster.
How do you choose the right software for writing your novels?
I’m not a software expert so I decided to ask someone who is.
Katja Kaine, award-winning writer and creator of The Novel Factory, helped me answer the most important questions about novel writing software. If you need to upgrade your writing process, and you’re curious about choosing the right software, this interview is for you.
Why should writers use software specifically designed for writing novels?
Every writer will have a different process, and will need to use different tools in order to channel and release their creative flow, so using purpose built writing software will not work for everyone.
However, for many people, using the right writing software will help make writing more efficient and fun, and will leave more brainpower and energy for creativity.
If you’re not using dedicated writing software, then the chances are you’re either using a simple word processor, like Word, or using pen and paper. This works perfectly for some people.
However other writers (like me) find it hard to keep all their notes organised and in order. Personally, when I first started writing, I found myself constantly getting frustrated when I realised I’d overwritten my master character profile document – again – or when I couldn’t find the location notes I needed, not to mention how unwieldy a whole manuscript is when it’s a single document.
At minimum, good writing software helps manage all of that stuff automatically, so you don’t have to waste energy on admin and data organisation. It will have easy-to-access areas specifically for characters, locations, notes, etc, which are visually appealing and intuitive to use. It will have a word processor integrated which breaks down the novel into chapters or scenes, which are much more manageable.
Some writing software goes even further, and offers resources and guidance for writers – such as character profile questionnaires, plot templates and even writing guides. If these resources are of good quality, then they can really help a writer develop their skills and hone their craft.
And some programs offer useful integrated features to help writers keep track of their plots, subplots, clues, foreshadowing, and all the rest. This could take the form of virtual corkboards with drag and drop index cards or subplot manager grids where you can cross reference plot threads with scenes.
Taking advantage of these technologies can make the daunting task of plotting and writing a novel a lot more accessible and manageable.
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What is a good sign that it’s time to use Software specifically for writing novels?
I would say if you find that you’re spending a lot of time frustrated because you can’t find the right notes, that’s an excellent sign that dedicated writing software could be of use.
Likewise, if you like having prompts to help you develop your plot, characters and locations in new directions and in ever greater depth, then software can help with that.
Finally, if you’re quite new to writing, and you’d like guidance which takes you from idea to completed manuscript in manageable stages which explain all the most important aspects of novel writing as you go along, then finding software that offers this could be the difference between finishing your first novel and having repeated false starts.
How does Novel Factory make it easier for writers to plot their novels?
The Novel Factory contains two features specifically for plotting, plus a bunch of other features will support plotting from other angles.
The Plot Manager is basically a virtual corkboard with index cards which you can drag and drop. You can also organise the cards into chapters. And if you’re new to plotting, then you can use the Plot Templates which are fully integrated. There are nine Plot Templates, which cover genres from Romance to Thriller to Detective Noir and also include more universal templates such as the Hero’s Journey and Character Driven.
And for novels that are further along, we have the Subplot Manager. This is a grid based tool inspired by J. K. Rowling’s excel spreadsheet notes. It allows you to create columns for plot threads and then cross reference them with scenes to see how the thread develops. This is extremely useful for keeping track of complex, multi-layered plots.
How does it make it easier for them to finish their novels?
We have received many emails over the years from writers thanking us because they’ve finally managed to finish novels they had been struggling with for years.
One of the major reasons the Novel Factory achieves this is its integrated Novel Writing Roadmap. This is a step-by-step guide which takes you from initial concept to completed manuscript. Each step contains a lesson, with examples and explanations, and ends with a task for the writer to complete in order to move to the next stage.
By breaking down the process of writing a novel into this bitesize structure, writers are able to break out of feeling overwhelmed and simply put one foot after another (or one word after another in this case) until the novel is complete.
What is something every writer should look for in their software?
A program that supports their writing and creativity.
I realise that sounds a bit vague, but this truly is the most important thing. Our software works really well for a great many writers. However, there are so many different methods and processes people use to write, that there’s never going to be a simple solution that suits everyone.
So my advice would be to think about your own writing process, and what you might need to help you.
If you like to write completely freely, with no constricting structure or planning, but find it hard to keep focus, then search for some software which is utterly minimalist and includes some distraction combatting features, such as being able to cut you off from the Internet for a certain amount of time.
Or if you have problems similar to what I describe above, with notes getting lost, or feeling overwhelmed by the task, then more comprehensive, feature-rich software like the Novel Factory may be better suited.
The best way to find what works best for you is to try a few out and see if any make you jump up and down in your seat with excitement.
How does your novel software compare to other software in this space? What makes it unique?
We believe that what makes the Novel Factory unique is its balance of being feature rich but also intuitive and easy to use with an elegant interface, combined with the integrated Novel Writing Roadmap, which some people have favourably compared to an MA in creative writing.
Let me explain why these features are so important in a bit more detail.
Elegant and intuitive – we believe that software should be easy to use from the moment you start. There’s already not enough time for writing, you shouldn’t have to use some of that precious time reading a manual or even doing a course, just to be able to use your writing software. You also shouldn’t have to spend time being confused or frustrated because you can’t work out what to do. And even more than that, we believe having an uncluttered, visually attractive interface is more than just a vanity – it puts our minds into the right calm frame to allow creativity to flow unhindered.
Feature rich – while we’ve done our best to make the software appear simple and inviting – there is an awful lot going on under the hood. It is full of carefully constructed, integrated features which allow you to get a high level overview of your novel, and also to drill down into the tiny details. There are drag and drop tools to allow you to easily construct and rearrange your plot, colourful graphs to keep track of progress and your novel’s breakdown, exporting options, quick reference bars and so much more.
The Novel Writing Roadmap – if there’s one thing that really sets the Novel Factory apart from the other options on the market it is the integrated novel writing ‘course’. So many of our users have contacted us to say how useful they found it – whether it was in helping them complete their first novel, or filling in gaps in their writing craft knowledge, or allowing them to identify the weak spots in their book that they knew were there but couldn’t figure out. The Roadmap covers everything from character development to plot outlining to drafting to editing and more.
What’s your favorite feature of your software?
That’s a really tough question. I’m extremely proud of our integrated character and location development features, and I also get a great deal of value out of the Plot Manager, as I can work out the beats of my plot and continually refine it as I’m writing.
But the two – I’m sorry, I can’t pick one! – features I am most excited about right now are the two which have been most recently released: custom fields and the new subplot manager.
Custom fields – This is a game changer for the software with regards to allowing people to make it really suit them. Initially all of the panels and fields in the software were defined by us, and while you could choose which ones to use and which ones to ignore, that was the limit to the personalisation. Our recent release of Custom Fields changed all of that. Now you can create your own panels and fields, which contain whatever you like. So if you have a preferred set of questions you like to answer when creating characters, for example, you can create them exactly to your desires.
New Subplot Manager – the subplot manager has been part of the software since the beginning, but we’ve never felt that it’s fully lived up to its potential. So we spent a great deal of time rebuilding it from the ground up and we are truly proud of what we’ve created. The new subplot manager allows much smoother creation and editing of subplots, resizing and features a reversible axis.
What new feature are you excited about that’s coming soon?
There are a few features which are currently in development which we’re very excited about. One is Dark Mode, as we get asked for this fairly regularly. Another is an integration of our wealth of writing resources, into a ‘Resource Library’ within the software. And we’re also planning on adding a Timeline feature very soon, and we’re excited to add a Character Relationship Map feature!
While we feel the software is already a leader in the market in terms of functionality, we have so much more in store for the future.
How will writers know if Novel Factory is worth it?
We think the best way to find out if writing software is going to be a good investment for your writing is to try it out. That’s why we offer a free 30 day trial. Unlike some apps, we don’t require credit card details when you sign up for the free trial – because we have no desire to rely on people forgetting to cancel in order to make money. We are only interested in having users that are delighted to be subscribed to the software because they can see how much value they’re getting from it.
The free trial is fully featured, and there is nothing to lock you in. If, after the 30 days, you decide that the software is not for you, then you can export all of your work to a Word document and walk away. You don’t even have the hassle of having to cancel anything.
So many people who try the software fall in love with it, and tell us they only regret they didn’t find it sooner, so if you’re curious, then you’ve really got very little to lose by giving it a little look, and a great deal to gain.
Final Recap: Highlights from the Interview
Thanks to Katja Kaine for the interview! Detailed and thoughtful, I feel like she answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Here are a few answers that stood out to me:
The Novel Writing Roadmap is amazing.
Every writer (even bestselling authors) should always work to improve their writing. Having a roadmap that guides you through the novel-writing process is huge, even if you’ve already written a few novels. This guide will keep you on track and help you keep the fundamentals in mind, so you stay focused on what matters most.
The Subplot Manager is life-changing if you have multiple, complex story lines. I’m writing the final novel in my series right now, and wrangling multiple stories is so much easier with this method.
Last, I love Katja’s stance on finding the software you love:
“The best way to find what works best for you is to try a few out and see if any make you jump up and down in your seat with excitement.”
So if you’re ready, go try The Novel Factory right now: Start Your Free Trial
Find out if the Novel Factory gets you jumping up and down in your seat, excited and fully prepared to write your next novel!