Software for Newbie Writers by Matt Mansfield

When I decided to get serious about writing, the first thing I did was look for software that would help me create my own writing process, one that fit the way I work best.

Okay, that probably sounds like the most blatant bit of procrastination ever voiced. After all, the first thing I should have done when I got serious about writing was sit down and write.

However, I’m a process kind of guy. Over my 47 years, I’ve become very good at taking pieces I like from other people’s processes and stitching them together into a process of my very own. I believe this is an especially important step to take when you begin to write.

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You see, writing has no path that has been followed more than once; it’s intensely personal and everyone does it differently. Discovering the process that works for you, whether you think about it beforehand as I did or develop it as you go, is a vital key to your success as a writer.

Given this diversity of individual writing processes, finding software that works for most writers sounds like an impossible task. I did however, find two solutions that were flexible enough to fit a variety of writing processes.

Used together, these tools boosted my writing productivity tremendously: I was able to plot out my first novel in a week and write more than 40,000 words of my first draft in a month.

Snowflake Pro

If you were to ask me whether I was a pantser or a plotter, I’d answer, “Both”.

I’m enough of a plotter that I like to lay out my novel’s details (characters, backstories, scenes) beforehand and enough of a pantser that I have no trouble making changes as I write, especially when my characters demand them.

In my search for a process that would help me lay out my novel’s details, I read book after book on plotting and character development. On the whole, they were useful but they lacked the one thing I desired: an actual “workbook-like” approach that could be easily implemented for each new book.

Enter Snowflake Pro. This truly useful tool was exactly what I was looking for as it instantly provided an easily-followed process for plotting, character development and more. For an overview of the tool, click the link above and scroll down the page for images and explanations.

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For me, Snowflake Pro fit the bill perfectly:

  • I could use as many or as few of the tabs as I needed to plan out my book. I spent a lot of time on Tab 2 (creating a one-paragraph summary that helped me determine my plot points), Tab 3 (where I developed a basic sketch of all my characters), Tab 8 (where I laid out my scenes and chapters) and Tab 9 (where I was able to add details to each scene as laid out in Tab 7). For full details on each tab, click the link above and scroll down to, “Here’s What You Get in Snowflake Pro”.
  • Examples (using Harry Potter Book 1, Gone with the Wind, Pirates of the Caribbean and Pride and Prejudice) and tutorial screens help me get the most out of the tool.
  • At the end, the tool takes everything you’ve created and exports an editable book proposal. How handy is that?!

Scrivener

If you’ve already heard of Scrivener, I wouldn’t be surprised as it’s a well-known writing tool. I’ve used it for years but it wasn’t until I discovered Snowflake Pro that I unlocked its potential.

Once I had plotted all the scenes for my novel, I transferred the scenes and scene notes to Scrivener one-by-one. Yes, it was tedious and took almost a full day of work but in the end, I had my entire novel’s structure laid out all pretty in Scrivener:

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Scrivener Example

All that was left was to go scene by scene and write my book. Everything I needed to know was waiting for me – the “Synopsis” panel showed the main action in the scene as well as the point-of-view and the “Document Notes” panel contained all my detailed notes for the scene.

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Of course that “All that was left” is said in jest. I still have the monumental task of writing the book ahead of me.

I wasn’t worried however because I’d found a process that worked for me and that made all the difference.

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