I did quite a lot of reading / research before I set ot to write my first novel. I did not have a plot or story in mind at the time and I was looking at the tools that were advertised as helping writers design their novel. In fact, I started testing them with quite simplistic ideas and wanted to see if they would really offer any help.
I looked at simple mindmap software which was great as a brain-storming tool but it seems that like all software, too many functions were simply superfluous to my requirements. It was just as easy to use a pencil and notebook. OK if I started to make a lot of edits, then my notebook began to seem a little messy and I did need to redraw. A free mindmapping software is Freeplane. Lots of features but far too many for my simple needs. Could work for you however.
I looked at Trello, which is a sort of on-line pinboard; lots of uses, in fact the link contains lots of ideas and I found the site via an articlec on writing an outline for a novel. However this was too simplistic. (does this sound a little like Goldilocks and the three bears?)
After this, I considered a word -processor, very simple and multi-layered; I could even start writing based on the outline which was developed. But the aim of most tools in this genre was to keep track of not only the chapters and scenes but also the characters, locations, items (anything else pertinent to the plot) and 101 other things. Would a simple WP package allow me to do this easily? I have MS Word and had used it to write many articles; and I had always used an outline to write technical reports and an MSc and PhD theses. I had always managed before, but could I find an easier way.
My next trial was with Storybook. Another pinboard type of program but developed specifically for writers to aid in designing a novel. This keeps track of all those things mentioned above but I found it a little stilted and I must admit to having one or two issues. Firstly, there was no help available with he free download. Under the Help Menu were the choices to donate or contact, neither these nor the help file were accessible; simply giving a 404 not available error. The simplistic example file did not help a great deal, so I did not get very far with this at all.
After all these failures I hoped that yWriter5, a word processor, might be the one to ring the bell. It offers all that I could have hoped for. The main screen offers an outline based on chapters and scenes, and a datebase to cope with all the rest. Characters, locations, items. It has various tools and offers reports which may prove useful to monitor the efficiency of the writer. With the built in WP you can even write the basic novel in the tool. However it does not offer complete formatting so you will need to export the text ( several options are available) and use a more powerful WP package for tidying up before submitting to agent or publisher, depending upon your requirements.
Lastly, I had come across a method of designing the novel called The Snowflake Method, which I mentioned in my last post. I had said that I was hoping to follow this method to write my first novel, however after managing to get through the first few stages, I wanted to hop ahead. For instance, I could not list my characters without putting more detail into my outline - which the method seemed to leave until quite late. So I am on the cusp of modifying the method to my own requirements. Each to his own as they say! I have been quite satisfied with progress so far and will give more details about progress in my next post.
One last, one very last note. The Snowflake Method suggests using a simple spreadsheet to define the descriptions of each scene. This does seem to have much to say for it, and I would probably have used MS Word and Excel together but I am slowly getting used to yWriter5. I will persevere with this software for a while as it does seem to have most of what I think I need without being too complex. It does take a little getting used to as any software but would be easier if it had an easier Help File. The help file has been written by a third party and is quite simplistic, based on a set of FAQ's.
So it looks as if I have a way to proceed, using yWriter5.
I will push on with my novel, and provide a little more detail of the introduction and the main characters in my next posts.