Not just a Microsoft Office Word rival, powerful word-processing tool WriteItNow has many features aimed squarely at authors.

The late Douglas Adams stated, "Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds." Ravenshead Software's WriteItNow ($60, free demo) aims to make the bleeding process easier and to help authors through every stage of the process, from "What shall I name my lead character?" to "Where should I send this for publication?" The numerous specialized features for authors helps answer the question, "Why use WriteItNow, and not a general outlining/text tool like TreePad Plus?"

For example, WriteItNow's Characters tab gives you ample room to write free-form text, but also includes fields for birthdays, title, and gender; and even tabs for Family, Personal, and Other relationships, which are aware of the other characters in the book. Thus, you can create several characters, then set their relationships via a grid. There are many pre-defined relationship terms ("Wife of," "Friend of," but you can also add your own ("Clone of," "Cyberlinked Partner Of,") and assign levels of strength to the Personal and Other relationships. All this data can then be viewed in a relationship graph for each character. For short stories, this might not be helpful, but anyone writing a large novel with dozens of major and minor character can benefit from this.

Some writers might find aspects of WriteItNow too mechanical - "Mary has an aggressiveness of 67 and an intelligence of 56" - but I find this sort of thing to be very helpful, especially when trying to maintain internal consistency in a plot and looking for plot holes or poor motivation. If the sliders don't work for you, though, you don't have to use them. Obviously, it's the author's job to convey all of these character traits through the action and dialog; WriteItNow doesn't write the novel for you, it just helps you keep the pieces in order. An incompetent author will get no more benefit from WriteItNow than an incompetent artist would get by buying Leonardo da Vinci's paintbrush.

WriteItNow provides other tools, such as a timeline to track events, a section for general notes, and several plug-ins that can serve as prods to imagination by randomly generating names or personality archetypes. I find these less useful than other features, but other authors might disagree. Writing is very personal and authors are a notoriously iconoclastic bunch. You are not required to fill out a form for every character or set up events prior to writing about them, so it's up to you to decide.

You can place links in your text to characters, locations, events, and external sites. This makes it easy to move from one aspect of your work to another; if you're working on a scene which contains two characters, you can link to those characters and then click them to see their details, then add the scene they're in as a link. A chart shows events organized by time, and the characters in each event, which helps you make sure Legolas isn't at Helm's Deep and the Gates of Mordor at the same time.

I have a few small complaints. WriteItNow uses Java's Swing interface library, which means it differs a bit from the standard Windows look-and-feel. There's no option to just show the story top-to-bottom without exporting it first. You are limited to one font for all text, which can be problematic in some circumstances; I use different fonts to show alien or inhuman voices speaking, for example. Last of all, with the tree interface, I'd expect more drag-and-drop - why can't I drag a character to an event, for example?

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WriteItNow: Specs

  • Windows XP, Vista, 7 Mac OS X
  • Windows XP, Vista, 7 Mac OS X


The demo version is full-featured, with one very important caveat: You cannot save anything you do. Exploring the sample file which arrives with WriteItNow will give you a good look at all of its features and how they work. At 37 quid, this isn't a casual purchase, but if you write fiction professionally (or want to)--and especially if you regularly write works longer than 10,000 words or so--WriteItNow may improve your productivity enough to pay for itself in under a year.

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