Monday, May 8, 2017

Product Review---Novelize Writing Software

I am a disorganized writer. I don't outline or plot ahead of time. I often find myself going down rabbit holes and then having to find my way out, usually resulting in lost words and time. My writing area has scraps of paper with notes and ideas scribbled on them.

It's not very efficient.

It's been nearly two years since I published a new book and I'm jumping in with both feet with a series of Regency romances involving a matchmaker. There will be some character crossover, too. I'm planning to write four books (at least) in this series. Having a way to keep it all organized seemed like a good idea and a much better idea than scraps of paper and random notebooks.

I went looking for a writing software program. Scrivener seems to be the big name in this area and from what I understand, many writers love it. Maybe I'd love it too...but I have a Chromebook and can't download Scrivener or any of the many other writing software programs that I found online.

All but one...Novelize.

Before I get into my review, a caveat---As a Chromebook user, it seems my options are either Google Docs or Novelize so this review will be a compare and contrast of those two things. If you have another writing program that you love, good for you. That's not what this review is about.

Novelize is a web based program so you can log in and use it from any device. However, you have to be online to have access. Google docs is also web based and can be accessed across devices, but it can also be used offline. This may not be a big issue most of the time, but if you can't be connected all the time or like to go to non-wifi accessible places to write without the temptation to check Facebook, then that might be a problem for you.

Here's a screen shot of my current WIP. As you can see, it's got the default title of My First Novel. That will change soon. 

On the left are the chapters and scenes that I have created. You can easily click to move to a different scene or chapter. You can also scroll down through the list of chapters and scenes (this is your outline) to see what is coming next without leaving the scene you are typing. 

In the right corner, below where it says Logout, you can see the total word count. I have had some issues with that feature which I believe are related to cutting and pasting my scenes (I got Novelize after I was about 1/2 done w/this book). If you cut and paste, you need to then go into the scene and at least type a space for the word count to register. 

At the bottom of each scene there is a word count for that scene and a word count for each chapter too. 

If you click "organize" you'll see something like this: 

This gives you a list of chapters and scenes which you can drag and drop. So if I decided to put the scene called "Naughty Dream" first, I could drag and drop it up to chapter one, rather than cutting and pasting as I would with Google Docs.

Here I have closed the list on the left and can type full screen. This is a break between scenes. You can see that I wrote this scene on April 26 and it has a word count of 1620. Then it goes on to the next scene. At the bottom of the scene is a box for notes. This is very handy. For example, if I'm further along in the book and I have an idea that will affect earlier scenes, instead of writing on a scrap of paper or post-it note,  or going back to that scene and writing a note in a different font or something so I see it, I can use the chart on the left (not pictured here, but in the shots above) to find the earlier scene, go to the notes and write in what I need to remember for later, then get back to what I'm working on presently without getting way off track or distracted by a typo that I see in the earlier scene.

One thing that Novelize does not seem to have is scene breaks so if you usually have *** or ### between your scenes, you'll need to add those in at the end or put them at the end of each scene. In Google Docs, you can just type them as you go.  Correction: Anita at Novelize tells me that Novelize does include scene breaks. 

In this screen shot you can see that the column on the left now says "Notebook". Here you have tabs where you can keep notes on characters (there's also a name generator here somewhere), locations, dates, and other notes.

There is also a "summaries" tab, which gives you a place to write your general ideas about the beginning, middle and end of your book.

Since I am working on several books with some recurring characters, I went to the Novels tab and created more books. I haven't written scenes, but I have used the notes to write things about those characters as I am working on them in this book. This should save me from having to search all over book one to find out what I said about a particular character when it comes time to write book two.

In the Export tab, you can download the book in it's entirety in Word or PDF. It automatically generates a title page and also includes the page breaks and page numbers for a professional look.

Support---I had a question about something and clicked on "support" and typed in my issue. I promptly got an email from a real person who was very attentive. I was impressed.

One feature that Novelize does not have (but I think they are working on it) is find/replace. I often use that to go back to an earlier scene, so I hope I can get used to using the scene outline on the left to do that instead. Also, once you download the doc into Word, you can use find/replace there or convert the Word Doc to Google docs and do it there if you're a Chromebook user.

Novelize is $5 per month or $45 per year. They have a generous 17 day free trial so even for those who are only able to write once or twice a week, this should be enough time to get a feel for the product and whether or not you like it.

I'm still in the free trial, but plan to sign on for a year. I like the outlines and the ability to move easily from scene to scene and book to book. You can easily see where your scenes are a little short and it helps to see if any of your chapters are way out of line on their word count.

My usual method of writing and then looking at notes I've written on paper often results in me losing my focus (because I'm busy looking for the notes or while I'm searching for the notes a shiny object goes by and there I go...).

I usually write straight through, in part because otherwise I'd just have random scenes to organize later. With Novelize, if I decide to move on to another scene or I'm not in the mood to write a sex scene, I can put in the scene description and any notes and then move on, rather than laboring over a scene that just isn't working today.

Overall, I'm excited to have Novelize and look forward to starting a new novel and using it from start to finish.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact Novelize. As I said before, I was impressed with quick and personal customer service.

Click here to find out more.