Tried and Tested: Writing Software

Getting organised to make writing easier

Last year, when I was trying to motivate myself to get writing, I became convinced that writing software would help me do just that. Having just finished editing my crime novel, I realised how poorly organised I was as a writer. There was nothing but the novel itself. I’d made zero notes about the characters, the settings, the timeline or anything else that’s pretty essential in a novel. And when it comes to editing it, I’ll admit I got myself into a bit of a pickle.

I forgot key characters’ names, my timeline made no sense at all, and all this made the editing process a lot more cumbersome and frustrating than it needed to be. I got there eventually, but it was a mess, and it did teach me a valuable lesson about making notes and organising as you write. Especially for someone like me, who might take long breaks between writing and within that time completely forget a character’s name.

So, the logic of getting writing software in place was sound. In terms of finding one, I did a fair bit of research. I eschewed Scrivener, purely because I know what I’m like and didn’t want to pay money for something I wasn’t convinced I’d use (spoiler alert: that’s exactly what happened surprise, surprise). Instead, I looked at a few free options and decided on Quoll. Mostly because it seemed to have the most functionality of the free ones out there, and looked easy to use.

In terms of the actual software, Quoll was definitely up to the task. The only thing I was a little wary of was the fact that there was no way to back-up work via the cloud and you can’t transfer a project between different devices like you can with Scrivener. Other options (free and paid) do have that functionality, so it’s worth shopping around. But aside from that, Quoll had everything I wanted, it had places to make notes, character sections to help you keep track of who’s who, research areas where you can just dump information you might want later.

All in all it’s a very nifty piece of software, and I can 100% see the value in using it. Did I use it? Nah, of course not. Well, that’s a lie. I used it for a couple of weeks, until I gave up on that particular WiP and moved onto something else.

I should say that one of the main reasons I didn’t use it was actually technical issues on my end. The laptop I use for writing is old, low spec, and can barely manage loading up a few web pages without crashing. And while Quoll isn’t particularly resource intensive, it was too much for my little laptop, which had trouble loading it at times. This became a bit annoying, so in the end I just gave up and resorted back to Google docs.

But I do genuinely think that writing software is useful, especially if you’re writing a book with quite intricate plot details, lots of characters, world-building elements, or where you need to refer to a lot of research. Even though my stories don’t tend to be that in-depth, I did find it useful to be able to input all of the initial ideas, names, and information upfront to refer back to. And I do fully intend to return to using Quoll because it’s got a lot of features that will help make writing and editing simpler. Part of the reason I haven’t gone back to using it yet is simply because I haven’t been writing much anyway, so it seems a bit redundant. But now I’ve got a better laptop, and I’m edging towards a writing splurge, I’m ready to use it again.

Now, one thing I should point out is that part of me also hoped that using software would suddenly make writing a lot easier or motivate me to do it more (one of the features I liked on Quoll was it’s word count feature and the fact you could set writing targets). Naturally, that didn’t happen, because as it turns out, my motivation and willingness to write has nothing to do with the software I’m using. And even though I know I get over excited about stuff like this and assume it will fix everything, while knowing it actually won’t, I still lived in hope.

So, my advice would be, if you are hoping that piece of software, a new notebook, or whatever it is, will magically make you write more, it probably won’t. It might help make sure all your character’s have the correct name, and I definitely think it will help with the editing process, but turns out the writing bit is still down to you, so find the way that works for you and crack on. 

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