Computer aids and novel writing

If you’re like me, I tend to carry around a notebook everywhere and jot things down as I think of them. It makes for slightly unorganized note-taking, but it’s great for brainstorming. Last year, I hadn’t really considered using the computer to manage my note-taking, but when Tim suggested Papel, a freeware program, I saw potential.

I love Papel. I especially love it because I did my novel plotting by doing the notecarding method, where you write down scenes/ideas on notecards until you have an entire desk of notecards and you have to put a yellow tape barrier around your desk so the dogs/husband/ghostly spirits will not accidentally bump into your desk and accidentally shuffle the cards. (Solution 1: Post-it notecards. Solution 2: Papel)

Papel was great for me because you can basically write your novel, scene by scene. I think writing a novel beginning to end, in one endless Word document, is very intimitating. I knew I had “x” number of scenes, so I made “x” number of Papels, and every day I would write one or two scenes. I did not write my novel in order.

I’ll come back tonight and try and post a screenshot of my Papel project from last year, so you can see. (I’m at work, now. Clearly, working hard.)

Papel has some issues. My major issue was trying to connect everything together to make total wordcount, as well as exporting everything in order into my final Word file for the deadline. During my Pledge 2 Publish revision phase, I tried using Google notes, but gave up on that program.

This year I’m thinking of trying a program called yWriter. It looks like it might be more useful to me than Papel. I’ll have to download it and poke around.

The purpose of this post is to hopefully get suggestions from other users. Tim, what programs do you suggest? Where is the best place to download those program from?



  • You can find Papel here (its author abandoned it, alas). The concept is very close to what I need but misses the mark enough for me that I probably will not use it this year. Things I like:

    • the underlying data is in text files; the user gets to re-order these simply by connecting the papels
    • there are chapters and scenes that get linked up to generate the final novel (useful also for getting something you can wordcount; this part actually works pretty well–I’m not sure where you were running into problems)
    • there are also other blocks you can write that hold background material like descriptions of characters

    Things I didn’t like:

    • there was no way to define an external text editor. I use vim that allows me to navigate the file without ever reaching for the mouse
    • there was no way to automatically straighten up the papels. As a result, my desktop view got messy the more I wrote

    I still have it in mind to create a better Papel in Romanzo (which is the Italian word for novel). It looks very straightforward to do so if I can free up some time for it. In the meantime, I will likely go back to editing my novel directly in vim.

    For brainstorming/organizing my scenes, I’m relying on Freemind (as I noted in a few NaNoWriMo forum posts).


  • Tim, I wanted to post a screen print of my 2006 nano papel project. I was having issues trying to do it in this blog. Do I need to go through a program like Gimp to make the screen print into a jpeg?



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