The computer has been a valuable tool for writers of all types on many different levels. The software available now can really revolutionize the way writers write, making you more efficient, and therefore more productive.
There are some excellent tools available for the writer with a computer, and for all types of budgets. I have tried a few, and I’ll share my experiences and opinions here. I am not affiliated in any way with the makers of any of these software products, these are just my impressions as a writer using writing software.
Dramatica is hands-down my favorite of all the writing software I’ve tried. It is extremely powerful–and therefore fairly complex, with something of a learning curve. Once you get past its not-so-user-friendly interface, though, you’ll find a storyweaving engine that can seriously help you create.
Dramatica leads you through a series of questions about your story, helping you fill in the holes and focus on the important points of your plot. It leads you through character development focusing on motivations and conflict between characters. Dramatica uses some archetypes that can be very helpful in defining the roles your characters should fill. The demo comes with a sample; Star Wars as it would look in Dramatica. This really gives you a strong idea how the components of Dramatica work.
Dramatica also allows several overall views of your story, showing how the plot progresses and how each of your characters moves through the plot. This overview can be very helpful as well. It also comes with some brainstorming tools that can help jumpstart your creative processes. After you’ve worked through the Story Guide questions, you can print out a variety of reports about your story that will keep you on track as you write.
The one drawback I found using Dramatica (aside from its complexity, which can be a hurdle) is that it tends to be slightly restrictive. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t used it before; if you take the demo for a spin you’ll see what I mean. The goal of all the initial questions the program has you answer is to get your idea down to a “storyform”. A storyform is a relatively narrow template that suits your story–sometimes it seems you end up restricting your story to suit the template. But that is, like everything else on this page, a personal impression that you may or may not agree with. Try the demo, and see how it suits you.
A free downloadable demo of Dramatica is available at The Storymind Writing Store. The demo allows you to do everything but print and save, which will give you a good idea of the power and flexibility of this software.
This is another of my favorites. If I could only have one program, I would pick Dramatica, but as it is I own both of these programs and I like them both. StoryWeaver is made by one of the same people who made Dramatica, and it shows in the way the program approaches the idea of a story. It is a little scaled-down from Dramatica, and therefore easier to use out of the box. It uses a question-and-answer index card format that is easy to follow and leads you nicely from vague story idea to completed plot outline. StoryWeaver is also considerably less expensive than Dramatica.
StoryWeaver also allows you to print out reports about your plot to help you stay on track as you write. When you’ve completed StoryWeaver’s exhaustive question list, you will have a fully developed plot, ready to put on paper.
StoryWeaver is more basic than Dramatica in some respects; there is no way to change the level of depth of the question-answer process, something Dramatica allows with three different levels. StoryWeaver does not have the overall views of the plot that Dramatica does. But these extras are just that: extras, and StoryWeaver does an excellent job of helping you hammer a storyline out of a vague idea.
Writing Tutor by Simon & Schuster is something I picked up on a whim one day browsing through Amazon.com. It’s an inexpensive little writing program with some tools to help you with brainstorming and some random-association tools. It’s an interesting way to spend an hour or so, but I wouldn’t recommend it for ongoing use. You’ll get much more use from Dramatica or StoryWeaver.
Now this is a really interesting program. I have to confess I only own the demo of this one. StoryView can create large outlines of your plot that you can print and hang on your wall. It can import your Dramatica story files and create outlines based on those, which saves you some work. With the StoryView outline, your timeline and plot progression is available at a glance…besides the sheer coolness factor of having your plot on your wall.
Other writing software titles that are “on my list” but I haven’t gotten to yet…
Mental Relativity (I’m not sure how well this one would relate to writing, but it sounds interesting)
Master Storyteller (This one sounds very similar to StoryWeaver)
First Aid for Writers
And others I haven’t found yet!