With NanoWrioMo season nearly upon us, it’s time for many of us to start thinking about the novels we’ll be writing in November. While mapping out a plot and characters are likely to be on every NanoWriMo contestant’s mind, writing software can be a great investment to help you reach your 50,000 word goal. If you’re like me however, you’re probably not looking to blow any of your hard-earned money on a paid program like Scrivener. Fortunately, there are a number of quality open source and free alternatives you can use to help you write your novel this November. If you are interested in looking into Scrivener however, they have a discount for NaNoWriMo winners and even a special trial version just for participants. The following are a few of the best Scrivener alternatives that won’t cost you a dime.
Probably the most widely known alternative to Scrivener, yWriter isn’t as robust as some of the others on this list, but has every feature you could need to assist you in your writing. Like scrivener, yWriter gives you the ability to create character profiles, set locations, and allows you to create a storyboard. And when you’re finally ready to begin writing, in yWriter you can create multiple chapters and scenes to keep your work organized. Once you have completed your novel, you can export it as an e-book or in a NaNoWriMo format to validate your word count. The biggest downfall to yWriter is probably the user interface. Some features aren’t as user friendly as they could be, but it does the job. For those of you on the run working from multiple computers, yWriter can also be run off of a flash drive. All of the programs on this list are great in their own right but yWriter has proven to be my favorite several times over.
For PC and Linux: Download
Where yWriter gives you everything you need and not much more, FreeWriter has lots of different features, many of which you probably won’t use. My favorite feature of FreeWriter is the productivity section. It enables you to set word count goals and shows your growing word count graph, similar to the word count feature on NaNoWriMo’s own website. This feature is of course perfect for NaNoWriMo participants to help them stay on track. FreeWriter’s other features are great, albeit distracting. You can create complex storyboards and create random notes in the “thought” section with images and web links. You can even do research right in the program. I love all the features, but it is easy to get caught up with all the cool stuff you can do and get distracted from the writing. But the organization tools and interface make up for the distractions. I mean, chances are you’ll end up researching on the Internet anyways, but being able to stay in your novel while you do it decreases the change you’ll end up on Twitter. If you really love having the extra tools at your finger-tips, FreeWriter has a paid version you can invest in too. Overall, FreeWriter is one program you absolutely must look at if you’re looking into novel writing software.
For PC: Download
Unlike many open source novel writing programs, Manuskript has a very clean interface that doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be on Windows 95. With Manuskript, you can do much of what you would expect, although it doesn’t have as many features as yWriter or FreeWriter, you can create chapters, characters, and set details about the world your characters live in. A unique feature to Manuskript is your ability to find words and phrases you use allot to help keep your writing fresh. If the UI’s of yWriter and FreeWriter aren’t your cup of tea, Manuskript is worth a look; especially for it’s distraction free mode to help you stay on track and focus on hitting your word count goal.
For PC, Mac, and Linux: Download
Bibisco also has a great UI and a few features that are rather unique. Where Bibisco really shines is in it’s organization interface. It’s easy to add new characters and in the analysis section, you can see character distribution and their list of appearances. While other programs on this list do have similar abilities, the UI really sets Bibisco apart and allows you to easily visualize everything. Bibisco is probably the best on this list for organizing a novel with multiple narrators. My favorite thing about Bibisco however has got to be the clean interface when writing. it’s a world of difference compared to yWriter which can feel a little cumbersome at times in that respect.
For PC and Linux: Download
At the end of the day, I really like all of these novel writing programs for different reasons. I think the perfect program has elements of all of these and if you’re like me, choosing just one won’t be easy. Hopefully this article has helped you find a new tool in your writing arsenal to help you reach your NaNoWriMo goal.