Who will rescue the kidnapped infant prince… and will they save him… or kill him? Find out in LIGHT OF THE OUTSIDER!

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In my continuing wrestling match / cliff dive / blind fighting with my next novel, Light of the Outsider, I’ve been procrastinating experimenting with different writing software that might help me keep my head on straight.

For Brave Men Run – A Novel of the Sovereign Era, I outlined in a custom spreadsheet template, which was okay for that book’s single point of view and very linear structure. “LOTO” is too complex for that.

I’m lucky enough to have received some full-version promotional copies of all the stuff Write Bros. puts out (Dramatica, StoryView, and so on) and gave ’em all a go. Dramatica was great for organizing my ideas, but then it wanted me to learn a whole new methodology for storytelling… um, no thanks, I can delay actually writing all on my own. StoryView could be a good outlining tool, but using it simply for that is like driving to work in a tank.

All I want is an outlining tool I can also write in. After a lengthy Google search and plenty of false starts with various demo versions, I found yWriter, from Spacejock Software. Basic outlining, scene breakdown, some basic character tools, storyboard view, able to print scenes as index cards, customizable story element tracking… and, hey, how about this: it’s free.

yWriter is one of several free applications offered by the brains behind Spacejock, Simon Haynes, who just happens to also be the one of the brains behind Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, the Australian science fiction magazine that’s been around since 2002. That gives yWriter a little added clout, if you ask me — a writing application written (and actively used by) an actual writer / editor.

So if you’re hunting around for a light (but not lightweight) tool to help organize your fiction, give it a go.

Did I mention it’s free?

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  • A

    Sal — Use the link to Spacejock Software — that is the home site for yWriter, and it’s above, in my post.

    It’s a bad idea to download free software from anywhere other than the creator’s site, with a few exceptions.

  • Aquarius*Sal

    I’ve been using yWriter for a few months now. It was okay at first, but recently I’ve been having problems with my computer and I don’t know why (it may not be related to the yWriter at all). I also use Zone Alarm security suite, like Tom. I’m thinking now that perhaps I should uninstall the copy of yWriter (which if I’m not mistaken, I’d downloaded from another site, which is not Simon’s), and re-install a copy of the software from Simon’s website. Umm… can anyone please direct me to his website?



  • A

    Hi Tom!

    You should directly contact Simon, the creator of those programs… but I have a pretty good idea of what it might be.

    Assuming you downloaded both from Simon’s site,and not some third party, it’s probably not a virus. Simon’s software is capable of self-updating — in other words, it goes out on the internet and sees if there’s a newer version, then offers to download and install it. That might be what’s making ZoneAlarm uptight.

    Of course, again, I recommend asking Simon himself.

  • Tom Colvin

    After reading raves about yWriter, I downloaded and installed it 3 days ago, along with a companion software yBook, an e-book reader.

    Ever since, something from somewhere has taken over my internet comment. ZoneAlarm is going crazy with lots of “red-line” activity, tho when I go to the Zone Alarm Control Panel, it shows no unusual activity among programs accessing the internet.

    I’ve run the anti-virus component of Zone Alarm Security Suite Pro. No problems detected. I’ve just now tried the online virus scanner HouseCall, and it crashed, then immediately sent a message that the system was virus-free, even tho it had no time to scan anything.

    I’m still trying to track down the culprit. But in the meantime, maybe the versions of yWriter and yBook released just over a week ago have caught something that’s causing problems. I use caution until a few weeks go by so that the anti-virus people will have a chance to check this out.

    I like these two programs by the way, in my initial review — I just hope my virus problem comes from elsewhere.


  • A

    Keiko, a rootkey isn’t a virus… it’s how Windows identifies applications in its registry. I’m not a Windows SysAdmin, but as far as I know, a rootkey in the registry simply tells windows what file extensions to associate with a given application, saves preferences, and so on. It’s perfectly ordinary… it’s the updated version of the countless *.ini files applications used to use.

    I had an early version of Writer’s Blocks, years ago. Great idea, but yWriter does the same basic thing for free.

    Dramatica… yeah… if only it didn’t ask you to learn a whole new set of proprietary terms and definitions to use it. Damn thing comes with its own glossary!

    You wrote: “That is where Writer?s Cafe helps. It doesn?t tell you what to write but it does allow you to store and organise your information.”

    Exactly what yWriter does… and it’s free.

    And on the subject of eating brains… you should watch the Jonathan Coulton / WoW video I mentioned here.

  • Okay, Matt. You asked for it.

    *Whitesmoke created a load of popups that couldn’t removed by my AVG program. It was a nice little trial but it did cause the CPU usage to go through the roof on my antique PC. Well, you could call it old after the beating that I have given it.

    *Writer Blocks wasn’t my fave either for what I recall to be a rootkey but my memory is about as fuzzy as one of Jack Handy’s shorts on Saturday Night Live.

    *I tried Dramatica but it also came with its own issues, a rootkey as well if I recall correctly.

    Simon, to answer your question…

    These three program were all trials. In my mind’s eye the clues indicate rootkeys as the primary issue with full versions rather than trials. Some folks that I have spoken to who understand more about this old ‘computer thing’ have suggested that the site that you download is also a factor as some shareware sites sometimes add small lines of special code to programs that have been uploaded to the servers. But I think that all of the programs that I downloaded were all from their developer’s official site. I did download other programs as well but the three that I mentioned prior were the ones that I remembered off the top of my head.

    A small correction to my previous previous post:

    I actually had no problems with Writers Cafe strangely enough but I made this ‘life decision’ to rely on editing and reworking my ideas rather than software after my computer was formatted. After all, talented people have been using their own tricks for hundreds of years with success. I wanted to see if I could learn what works for me by trial and error. It probably sounds messy and chaotic but I have to avoid the mistakes that I have made in the past. I can’t act like there is some magic formula that will fix the bugs, no special word that will suddenly transform me into a writing dynamo. I need to find my own path.

    That is where Writer’s Cafe helps. It doesn’t tell you what to write but it does allow you to store and organise your information. I don’t use it anymore for the above reason but I could see it helping other folks. Here is a link to the developer’s website if you are interested in checking out Writer’s Cafe yourself.

    I hope that this reply didn’t sound like gibberish but I am half asleep at the moment even though it is nearly 10 am. I have been suffering from insomnia of late which has created a zombie-like version of me walking about the house. The only difference is that I didn’t crave brains, yet.

  • Thanks for mentioning yWriter. Just one correction: I’m just one of the people behind ASIM and my claim to writing fame is more as the author of the Hal Spacejock novels.

    Re: virusus. I’ve never, in all my 12-14 years online, seen a virus or trojan in a legitimate downloaded app. I have seen adware, which is one reason I check over new stuff very carefully, and I’ve also seen a few false positives which were quickly fixed up by updating my anti-virus signatures.

    If you’re talking about downloads from warez sites (full versions of apps, pirated) then I’m not surprised if they’re loaded with all kinds of nasties. However, legit downloads from company websites – never.


  • A

    Hi Keiko,

    I’m curious… where did you get these programs that they had virii attached to them? I’ve downloaded just about every trial version for nearly every writing application out there, and haven’t experienced that problem.

    Feel free to name names; the software police won’t come looking for you.

  • I, too have tried to develop my literary projects (yes, I do call them projects) by downloading software to assist in this purpose. What I encountered was viruses even on the more expensive programs that I had trials for. It was sad really. You’d think that with all of that work that they’d still throw in such invasive, destructive code. It doesn’t bode well for the full versions at all but I won’t name names for obvious reasons.

    On another note, I find that most of my problems tend towards the vocabulary and sentence structure issues. I have so many ideas floating around my head at any given moment and then there is this huge hindrance that leads to many hours of scratching my head whilst staring at my computer monitor. I am sure that with all of this time spent in front of my computer that I will develop some form of cancer in no time at all. 😀

    So, that is when I get an idea, sad though it is. I do a search for some online dictionaries and thesauruses and weed through the crap links. I weed through the reduntant addresses and irrelevant links like an over-caffeinated wiz-kid. Success!

    My personal favorite is The Free Dictionary which allows you to add your search into several dictionaries, a thesarus, idioms, acronyms, wikipaedia and the columbia encyclopaedia. There is a lot of resources out there on the web as well as a sister site at The Free Library which allows you to read through some classic literature.

    One of these days I will actually complete one of my ‘projects’ but that will only occur if I do the work. For many of us there is a definite need to remold and rework our literature over again. For most folks this gift is not innate and there is a great number of obstacles that restrict creativity.

    My mother-in-law recently said something about writing that I am using with some success. I write everyday without fail and find that my resourcing is becoming more along with my technique. I am more perceptive of flaws in my own writing and can quickly deal with any issues that come my way. Most ideas tend to find their own voice as they are written but it is hard to allow this process to occur if all you are doing is eating fritos on the couch. This is less directed at you, Matt and more at others that are reading this feedback.

    The journey from the head to the hand is a long journey but I think that we can all agree that it is worth taking!


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