When I write, I create a rich backstory for the world I’m writing in. And while I can remember many details of that world, I can’t remember them all. Trying to keep track of all those details has been a constant pain for me, especially as I replace computers, send documents from work to home, or even just forget where I put the file with all the information.
One day I ventured onto the Internet to look for a database program. I was hoping to find something that would allow me to create a Wikipedia type database, with links between files so I could move from one page to another. I did eventually find one, but first I found yWriter.
yWriter showed up as a writing program designed for writers. In the words of the website:
yWriter is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author, not a salesman!
I downloaded it and gave it a try…and I am very glad I did.
yWriter most appeals to me because of the organization it applies to the writing project. Before, I would write with either a single file for the whole project or each one file per chapter. I wasn’t really happy with either one. yWriter allows me to add chapters to a project, and add scenes to chapters. The program keeps an automatic word count, and even tracks how many words I add in a given day.
For any scene and chapter I can add notes separate of the words in the actual document. A writer can also keep track of a number of Details for the scene, including Type, Tags, Importance, and various Ratings (I don’t use these, personally, but they’re there to be used).
What I really enjoy is the ability to turn scenes off, so that the program keeps them but they don’t apply to the book as a whole. For example, I recently read a scene that started strong but petered out into a boring exchange. I copied the scene and turned the first one off, so I can access it, but it doesn’t appear in my word count. I deleted most of the copied scene and I can continue writing without losing the first attempt.
yWriter has three different databases: Characters, Locations and Items.
Adding an item is as easy as highlighting a word and right clicking. Once it is added, I can add notes and pictures to the database without changing anything of the scenes. I can get as detailed or as simple as I want.
This is a nice program to keep track of the little things when I add a new character, but it does have a problem. The database will find every instance of the word and track it, even if it isn’t an instance that you want it to track. For example, if I have a character named Mars, the program will highlight the first half of the word Marshall.
Spell Checking and Printing
No program is perfect, and yWriter’s flaws come towards the end of the process.
yWriter has a Spell Checker option, but it is not very good. This would normally be a deal breaker, but the programmer managed to add a way to side step this. You can export chapters to Microsoft Word and spell check your work there, then import back into yWriter (just be careful not to delete the coding that allows yWriter to import to the correct chapters and scenes).
The printing function is okay, but I’ve found it much more useful to import to Microsoft Word and fix the formatting before printing or changing to a PDF. Part of this may stem from so much of my first project in yWriter being imported from Google Docs, Microsoft Word and Open Office. I’m hoping this will improve over subsequent projects.
I have found yWriter to be a very useful program, both as a writing system and as a simple database for notes. And that is fully admitting I don’t use everything this program has to offer. I hope some of you go and try it out.