Ever try to construct an elaborate, Tolkien-style fantasy world, but got lost in the lore? Having trouble keeping your notes straight for constructed languages, or lost track of your character arcs? Or is your fiction novel proving difficult to organize? An author aid might be just the tool you need to keep track of your work as your writing your epic novel. While many come with a range of options for a hefty subscription, many have simpler versions that are entirely free. Here, we’ll break down several popular brands to find out which works best for you.
Dave Chesson, a publishing consultant, writes that Scrivener is the best non-fiction writing aid. Scrivener comes with premade templates, options for place and character sketches, a corkboard, formatting features for publishing, and the option to upload your own templates. Jill Duffy, writing in PCMag, gives a glowing review for scrivener as the best writing app for long projects.
Scrivener allows you to export versions of your work that change the formatting without changing the original text. Duffy notes that the key to mastering Scrivener and using it efficiently lies in hiding options that aren’t being used. Unlike many of the other subscription-based models, Scrivener comes with a one-time fee for continued use, making it ideal for people who don’t like to keep up with yearly or monthly subscriptions and plan to use it long-term. Duffy does note that for those who can’t master the myriad of options, Ulysses might be a better, more pared-down option.
Dave Chesson writes that World Anvil is great for the fantasy author designing complex constructed worlds. It has five different tiers with increasing benefits and storage, with the first tier free. World Anvil provides authors the means to collaborate with other authors, ways to link different ideas in their work, cork boards, and ways of keeping track of family trees and diplomatic connections.
Considering the bulk and complexity of worldbuilding that many fantasy authors find themselves creating, World Anvil may be a great choice for those crafting long complex epics, eliminating a lot of headaches. It is also compatible with Discord for fan outreach, allowing authors easy ways to give fans updates and market their work. The community aspect may be appealing to authors who enjoy sharing their work or have difficulty building a fan base. Shaelin Bishop, a writing Youtuber, describes how you can import and link maps and a host of other options, though notes it can get complicated for those with a more minimalist style.
Bishop lists Novel Factory as a writing aid that will likely appeal to those who love outlining or who want to find help with their outlining process. Novel Factory has templates for multiple types of story outlines, though some story ordering aspects may seem a little arbitrary. It provides a step-by-step process for writing a novel while still providing flexibility. Ease of use may be an issue with limited text drafting space.
Plot Factory has several similarities to Novel Factory. Yen Cabag at TKC Publishing.com writes that Plot Factory has multiple different templates for planning stories. You can create your own character templates or choose between two premade templates with varying degrees of detail. You can even import characters from other universes you’ve created. It makes scenes easy to rearrange with a drop and drag function, an especially attractive feature for non-linear story writers. It does have the limitation that there is no desktop app unlike many other versions, limiting accessibility for writers with spotty internet. Cabag also writes that it may be less useful for non-fiction writers and the multiple dashboards may be annoying to some.
Additional forms of Writing Software
In addition to the variety of options for novelists and content creators, there are writing aids geared to a range of other uses. For example, Jill Duffy writes that Final Draft provides professional screenwriters with prompts that help keep their work in conformance with industry standards.
Another example of writing software with specialized capabilities is MasterWriter. MasterWriter advertises a broad range of capabilities, but one prime feature is songwriting aid. MasterWriter’s website boasts a rhyming dictionary of over 100,000 entries and compatibility on all devices. They also list positive reviews from multiple grammy-winning songwriters.
Novels Made Easy
With the range of writing aid options, novelists and other writers no longer need stacks of note cards or files of character arcs cluttering up their desks or their Microsoft accounts. Writers can now organize their creative process more efficiently, allowing for fast formatting and organized note-keeping. Many writers who have stalled on complex writing projects in the past now have writing software that can make their work much less intimidating.