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From Concept to Completion - Free Software to Help You Write That Novel.

15 Jan 2017

 

 

MindMaple

 

What is it?

Mindmaple Lite is a mind mapping software, perfect for capturing your ideas quickly.

What should I use it for?

At the very first stage of your novel and throughout. Whenever ideas arrive and you need to note them down quickly in one place without having to create files, folder or tags – the core concept, character traits, theme ideas, pieces of dialogue. Anything, really.

 

How do I use it?

The beauty of Mindmaple is that you can get your ideas into text quickly in one central location, but also you can arrange those ideas just as quickly into sections and subtopics. You can add notes in Mind Maple, but it can become a little cluttered.

 

Best features?

Being able to see your idea grow on ‘paper’. You can create relationship links between topics and have floating topics too, which is great when you need to connect some of your novel’s elements from different sections but need a shared or umbrella category.

There’s the ability to create links to the web or to your own files, which works brilliantly in conjunction with linking to notes in Evernote (see below for more details). You can also add labels to topics (for example: Theme, Plot, Characterisation)

**What would be great about MindMaple and Evernote would be if we were able to create a new note within Mindmaple that saved to both our mind maps and the Evernote app and were linkable.

 

Evernote

 

What is it?

Excellent, is what! Evernote is an online note collating software that you can access from your desktop or mobile device. The free version allows you to use two separate devices, but if you want more you’ll have to pay.

 

What should I use it for?

This app is brilliant for taking notes quickly wherever you are. It’s not quite as quick as Mindmaple, but its advantage is in the sense that you can add more details to your notes than in Mindmaple. You can also categorise them under tags for easy searching while also keeping all notes under those categories in an open view on your device, and you can write a whole scene if inspiration suddenly grabs you in your lunch break. All from your phone or tablet! It’s also great for collating related information into workbooks.

 

How do I use it?

Create a workbook with your book title. Now you can collate all information relating to that project within this notebook - research, ideas, web links, bits of dialogue you’ve written on the fly, etc. You apply tags to each note so you can find them quickly. Or create a set of tags in advance that you think you’ll need most and assign notes as you create them.

To link Evernote notes in MindMaple, open the desired Evernote note, right click and copy note link. In Mindmaple click on hyperlink and paste the link in the field ‘link to’ and click OK. You can also link between Evernote notes by pasting the link within the notes you want linked.

 

Best Features?

Definitely the Webclipper. This is an add-on you must install to your web browser but, once you do, it makes online life that little bit more sublime. Found an article pertinent to your research? Clip it! Hit the elephant icon on you browser and save the article as a link, full article, a snapshot or a bookmark. Easy.

Another great feature that might be more useful to those already publishing novels is the ability to real-time chat. You can send your manuscript attachment to your editor via Evernote and s/he can talk straight back to you with their thoughts and advice. You can organise a time slot to chat with them and to ask them all the questions you need relating to your story without having to wait hours or days for an email reply.

 

 

WPS Spreadsheets (Excel)

 

What is it?

Just like Microsoft’s spreadsheet program. WPS Office I am still testing out (good so far in fifteen days, but not yet sure if I’m running a trial of the full version or not!), but Libre Office gets a lot of recommendations. I’m yet to try the latter out, but if you do, please come back and share the pros and cons with us in the comments box!

 

What should I use it for?

Pre-planning and later tracking your plot. Some people don’t like to pre-plan in this way and that’s fine, but I’ve listed it as the third software to use in the stages of novel writing for those that do. Either way, tracking your plot on a spreadsheet will become necessary at some point.

 

How do I use it?

See this blog post, and read my novel editing series.

 

Best features?

Excel – or alternative but same – excels as a plot tracker by being able to freeze the first column so that you always have your list of POV characters in the screen. You can easily add scene details without having to keep scrolling back. Also, the comments feature found under the review tab is an absolute must have. Using that feature means you can add little notes for reference to the main story details without cluttering up what you need to see most clearly – the plot. If you’ve already got notes in Evernote you feel are pertinent, you can add the links in the comments box.

 

yWriter

 

What is it?

yWriter is a less fancy, free version of Scrivener novel writing software. They both pretty much do the same, but if you are on a low budget, or not yet sure if this kind of software is for you, yWriter is an excellent choice to test it out or just as a viable alternative. OK, it uses less