Yesterday I linked to this article and its 50 open source applications for writers. After a while, I decided it might be a good idea to test-drive them (the ones I can, of course) and tell the world what I thought.

*the world waits, breathless with anticipation.*

That gives me 50 days of useful blog-content. You should be free of word-count posts for a good two months. Unless I crack.

First up is yWriter.

Bslaveboy points out that this software is not strictly open source, as Simon writes and maintains the code himself, and the source code is not available for modification. (Simon Haynes, if you ever read this and I’ve got it wrong, please let me know).

The Slave also says that I should point out the small download size (3 mb) and the fact that you can run yWriter off of a USB stick. So yes, cool stuff, duly added.

yWriter was devoloped by author Simon Haynes and he lists the following features on his site:

Organise your novel using a ‘project’.
Add chapters to the project.
Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
Allows multiple scenes within chapters
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Multiple characters per scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
Re-order scenes within chapters.
Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
Automatic chapter renumbering.”

According to Simon, YWriter is designed for Windows, but should run fine under Wine. (I use Ubuntu, a very user-friendly Linux operating system so if yWriter doesn’t run, this will be a very short review)

The Start up wizard opens under Wine, no problem and I open a new project. The help file contents don’t open for me (sad face), you can however, set yWriter to work in a variety of different languages so that’s always nice if you’re writing in Swedish.

Luckily, I see Simon has a quickstart guide up on his site, which walks you through the basic principles. Always good for people like me, who need step-by-step instructions with pictures. I really suggest working through this as soon as you open yWriter for the first time. There is also a google group that has tutorials and FAQs.

Oooh, like the character sheet it brings up. I can think of a fair few (published) writers who could benefit from using this so that their character’s eyes don’t change from green to blue and back again. (Hey, I’m not immune – in the first draft of hob I think Jek’s eye and hair colour changes about three times. :P)

Here’s my very exciting character sheet for Irene.

I think this is a good tool for people who are meticulous about character and world-building consistency. (I should be, I know. I have to train myself. What better day to start?). I’m not much of an outliner, so I can’t see me using this for a first draft, but I do see how this would be a pretty good way for me to organise a second draft into a more cohesive whole.

It looks like yWriter can be as complicated or as simple a tool as you want it to be, and with things like chapter and scene selectors, a synopsis builder *a million writers hug Simon in relief*, and character and setting sheets, I think it makes for a good organisational tool for writers. It saves your work in .RTF, which is nice and standard so you should have no problem opening documents with Open Office or Word.

I’d say there is a lot here to learn, but once you’ve worked through one novel with it, that shouldn’t be a problem.

My little baby steps in the new project window.


Those of you who decide to give yWriter a bash, I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

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6 Thoughts on “yWriter

  1. this looks good, very handy. Can you set the formatting? the only feature I want is to be able to automatically indent the first line of a new paragraph.

  2. tbh it doesn’t seem like it.

    I suppose you could always write in an office or word file, and then just cut and paste the content.

  3. Lapillus on May 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm said:

    I used yWriter for a time and did not like it much. I cannot seem to recall the particulars, but I did not like the way it imported word documents or the way it saved files.

    I am now using Page Four, which offers less in many ways, but it is simple to use, keeps my novels and notes organized, and has some decent editing tools. It will identify overused phrases and words and you can customize it to ignore others. It does a very quick word count, has a built in thesaurus, search tools, password protection, and a spell check that offers multiple languages. It also allows the user to take “snap shots” of pages, which is basically a very quick, automatic save so you can edit and revise but have a snapshot of the original handy should you need it.

    I use it for my notes and outlining more than anything, but it comes in handy for editing and revising as well.

    I apologize if you’ve done a post on Page Four in the past. If not, you may want to check it out.

  4. Cool, I’ll have look at it sooner or later. Thanks for the tip.

  5. BrianM on October 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm said:

    I started using YW at the beginning of this month. This will be my second book (the first done with Word) and so far I love it. I used the features to write a basic outline for each chapter, and now as I work through the chapters I write a basic description for each scene. It has *really* simplified my work and helped me stay on-task. My favorite part is the character sheet. I have descriptions and photos of each of my characters, as well as a short bio (to keep track of aunts and uncles, schools, etc.)

    I am also fond of the word count per scene and per chapter. This helps me work on my pacing at a 10,000 foot level.

    For me (amateur hoping to get published) it’s an ideal tool to keep me in the groove.

  6. Pingback: Open-source software for writing fiction/novels? Drija

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