Fiction Writing Software:
Worth It, or a Waste of Money?

If you're struggling with your novel writing, you might decide you need fiction writing software to help you get your book done.

Stop. Before you run out to buy any, do some research first. Don't throw money out the window. Plenty of programs promise you'll finish your novel faster, better, easier. You name it, they say they can do it.

But thousands of authors write novels every day without using anything more than a word processing program. So before you buy, check your potential purchases out thoroughly so you don't get taken.

Researching Software

One of the first things I'd recommend you do, if you're considering fiction writing software is to go onto several writers' forums and see what others think about any programs they've used. If you don't find a discussion already going about the topic, post the question yourself.

I've read several forums, and most of what I've read leads me to think I'm better off saving my money. Most writers manage to write novels with simple word processing programs and nothing more.

Others swear by the organizational tools some novel writing software offers. Different people work in different ways, so whether the programs work for you or not will depend on your needs.

I haven't personally tried any of the programs, but I do see plenty of them offer demo versions that you can try before you buy. This is a great way to see if the particular software will help you while you're learning to write a novel. Don't expect miracles. But do expect a minimum of useful tools to help you connect characters and plot logically.

You may find, after trying some demos, that you do better with the simple approach: just typing it. If that's the case, you're better off not having spent money to find that out.

The other thing I'd look for, even if you've tried the demo, is a money-back guarantee. If they won't guarantee your satisfaction with the product, you shouldn't trust them to offer a good product. If they've created a winner, it won't hurt them to guarantee it, will it?

Finally, if you find the fiction writing software isn't helping you, but you still need help, try joining the writing community itself, through forums, writing groups and such. Other writers can often help you focus merely by cheering you on. And they can certainly help you polish your fiction if they write good fiction, too.

Choosing Your Poison - I Mean Potion

Below is a partial list of fiction writing software available, when I researched in late 2008. I know there are more programs, and some of these may have disappeared. I don't think you need an exhaustive list. This will get you started on your research, at least.

Look for ones that have tools you feel you need. Try ones that offer free demo versions before you buy. Don't just throw money at any of them without seeing if anyone else has used them and had success using them. (Check writers' forums, remember?)

All programs are offered for both PC and Mac unless otherwise noted. I haven't noted which ones offer demos, but a quick web search will tell you.

Dramatica Pro - $270 - Driven by a patented "Story Engine" to cross-reference every dramatic choice you make to ensure a perfect structure. This one's been around quite awhile and gets good reviews.

Dramatica Writer's DreamKit - $50 - Same as larger version, but has fewer story points you can keep track of.

NewNovelist (PC only) - $55 - Boasts it lets you write any part at any time, then paste it together. A little organization can do that anyway, in my opinion, so I don't know if this one would be worth your money.

Power Structure - $150 - All-in-one writing "environment" which allows you to organize and cross-refernce your story development.

Power Writer (Not yet available for Mac) - $100 - Toned down version of the above.

StoryBase (PC only) - Story plotting software.

StoryCraftPro - $70-80 - Another one that touts helping you along the way when you may only need a word processing program.

StoryWeaver, Story Design Software - $30 - Story cards to guide you through the creation process.

Throughline - Index Cards (Mac only) - $20 - Interactive index cards to add notes, titles and drag to rearrange.

Writer's Cafe - $65 - More of the same as above options.

I've included just a few screenwriting programs with my fiction writing software list, in case you lean toward turning novels into screenplays.

Between the Lines (Mac only) - $30 - Low cost auto screenplay formatter. Includes interactive index cards linked to your script.

Final Draft - $200 - One of the industry standard programs used worldwide.

Movie Magic Screenwriter - $160 - This one is the preferred file format in the industry and used by professionals and studios worldwide.

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