For working writers and amateurs alike, there are a lot of commercial products out there to help you along the way with your writing career. The problem is that many of them are expensive or have an unnecessarily steep learning curve…or both.
Here is some free software you can use to write, and help you along with your writing goals. I’m gearing this article towards fiction writers, but this software is extremely useful to writers of all types.
It wasn’t until I got serious about my writing that I realized just how awesome and powerful a tool yWriter is. It is a program for writers created by a writer. yWriter is billed as a word processor with extra features to help you organize your novel. But I think of it as more of a story management tool.
Not only can you write in it, but you can ORGANIZE with it. You can use it to break your work down by scene and chapter. You can make a database of characters, places, items and notes. In fact, of everything in this list, it is probably the most useful, versatile and powerful piece of free writing software. For each scene, you can add a description, POV characters, individual scene notes and goals. It’s all there.
yEdit is a simple text editor. You can think of it as notepad but with a couple of extra features. It is very no-frills and no-nonsense. This tool is useful for those of you that need to just type. Save the editing for later.
To help with that, yEdit includes a target word count feature. For example, you put in 3000 as your target word count and you can watch it count down to zero as you type the words. This is helpful if you are trying to write with a daily word quota.
Q10 is a full screen text editor. If you do not know what that means, think of the old word processors. It takes up the entire screen leaving you free of any background distractions. Much like yEdit, this can be a great tool for those of you that need to just sit down and write. It has word count settings and a timer alarm as well.
For fun, or just to change it up, it can use typing sound effects. I use Q10 when I want to just write. To put that in perspective, I use yEdit when I am writing segments or scenes. I use Q10 when I just want to pound out a few thousand words with no distractions, which is typically how I start most of my writing.
3.5 Dark Room
Dark Room is similar to Q10. It is also a free full-screen writing environment. I have never used it, but I see it come up often, so I’m including it here as a bonus.
I LOVE Roughdraft. It’s so simple and it just works. Now, Roughdraft is no longer maintained, so it may look a little dated, but it also still works, which is the most important part.
“Although suitable for general use, it has features specifically designed for creative writing: novels, short stories, articles, plays and screenplays. It’s designed to be as practical as possible, offering all the features you need, but without being complicated or awkward to use.”
I found Roughdraft very useful for organizing my writing along with my notes (which Roughdraft saves along with the current file in the same directory). That is to say, I think it’s a very useful tool for when you are first developing your story and just writing out some scenes as you try to figure out what it is all going to be about.
Yes, I said it, Notepad! You don’t need anything more than that to write. Notepad files take up very little space and the interface of notepad is very minimalistic. A bunch of icons, menu items and sidebars will not distract you. I honestly do not know why people do not use it more often.
Since it’s just plain and simple text, anything you write in notepad can then be imported into any other program including all the ones mentioned above. If Notepad is not enough, there are other notepad-like editors available free with a lot more features.
I personally like Notepad++ because it has tabs, which can really help when you need multiple text files open or if you want one to write on and one to keep notes etc. You can also try Notepad2 or TED Notepad or even WordPad if you want.
Other Free Options for Writers
Now, there are a LOT more free writing resources out there, but I wanted to keep this to the things that I use most. There are also some excellent free word processing programs out there like AbiWord and OpenOffice. I will write another article on other free programs and tools, including free online-only apps.
I have been writing articles and poetry for a good long while now, if you want to follow me on my journey to writing my very first novel, then you can start here: http://silenciobarnes.com/writing/writing-the-first-draft-of-my-first-novel-01/
For those that are curious, on this novel, I am using yWriter and yEdit heavily. That’s probably why they got the top spots on this list :)
More General Writing by Silencio Barnes