The most basic production tool is word-processing software, and I’ll tell you my favorite below. But there’s more to production than just typing the words. You may also want to design your story before you write it. And if you’re an indie author (acting as your own publisher–a popular option these day), you also need to format your manuscript before you upload it to the online retailers.
Besides all that, you will always be growing in your craft as a fiction writer, and for that you need books. “How to write fiction” books. I’ve listed a nice selection of favorites below. Some of them are my own personal favorites. But I’ve also listed a few that many other writers have found useful, even if they don’t really float my boat.
Planning Your Novel Before You Write It: Snowflake Pro
Snowflake Pro is software I wrote years ago and sold on this website for a long time. The purpose of the software was to make it fast, easy, and fun to design a novel using my wildly popular Snowflake Method.
Snowflake Pro was tremendously successful, and had a very large number of loyal fans.
But at a certain point, I decided that I had too many other things going on in my life to be running a software company, so I took Snowflake Pro to end-of-life status. That means that I don’t sell it any longer, and I don’t add new features, but it’s available free to people who bought it in the past and need a fresh copy after their hard drive crashed. Snowflake Pro is also available free to anyone who’s read my book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method–with the caveat that there will be no upgrades or bug fixes.
Planning Your Novel Before You Write It: Plottr
When I took Snowflake Pro to end-of-life, I asked around to see if there was any software company making a similar product that I could refer people to.
Soon enough, a friend introduced me to the folks who create and sell Plottr, a tool that has the same goals as Snowflake Pro–to make it fast, easy, and fun to design a novel before you write it.
The Plottr team gave me a free license to test their software, and I used it to make some Plottr templates so that Plottr users can work through the Snowflake Method exactly the way I intended it to be done.
I handed those Plottr templates to the Plottr team, and they added them in as an official part of Plottr.
This means that you can use the Snowflake Method to design your novel using Plottr. I also worked with the team so that Plottr can import your old Snowflake Pro files. This means that if you started work in Snowflake Pro and want to switch to Plottr, all you have to do is import your Snowflake Pro files into Plottr and you can keep working. This doesn’t change your old Snowflake Pro files in any way. Plottr makes a fresh copy and works from there.
I like Plottr and I think it’s great. As I said, I have a Plottr license and will be using it on my own future novels.
My Favorite Word Processing Software: Scrivener
For many years, I did all my word processing in Microsoft Word, and it was adequate for the task. It had a lot of bells and whistles that I didn’t use, but it’s a universal tool–every publisher on the planet will accept Microsoft Word files.
But I didn’t love it. I’m not alone in saying so. Many of my writer friends don’t love Word. I don’t have anything particularly against it. Word works for me and does a fine job. I still own a copy and use it when I need it.
But. I. Don’t. Love. It.
Eventually I switched to another tool that I do love–Scrivener. Many of my writer friends also love and use Scrivener.
Scrivener has a lot of bells and whistles that I don’t use, just like Word has. That’s fine. The bells and whistles I do use are amazing. Starting with the simple fact that I can easily organize my novel into Parts and Chapters which I can move around at will. And Scrivener has a nice “Snapshot” feature that lets me save a copy of the scene I’m working on.
I guess the thing I like best is that Scrivener is blindingly fast. When I load a full novel into Microsoft Word, it’s going to take awhile for that puppy to load. It’s like watching somebody an elephant–one bite at a time.
Whereas Scrivener just loads it up–BOOM! Done.
So I very highly recommend Scrivener. I love it. Many other novelists love it. Scrivener has a free trial version so you can test it and see if you love it too. And if you decide to buy, it’s a lot cheaper than Microsoft Word.
Of course you can export your Scrivener files to Microsoft Word format. And you can import Word files into Scrivener. So in case you need to, you have that option.
My Favorite Typesetting Software: Vellum
Why would anyone need typesetting software? Only if you are an indie author who wants to publish your work yourself and get all the money. Many thousands of successful writers have gone indie and some of them are earning more money as indies than they ever did working with traditional publishers. (I certainly earn more money since I went indie. I have many friends in traditional publishing and I am thrilled when they do well. But I do much better as an indie.)
Indie authors have to typeset their own work–or else pay someone to do it. They need to produce e-book files and print edition files, ready to upload to the major retailers–Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc.
Vellum makes this almost as easy as falling off a log. I am not joking here. An indie friend mentioned Vellum to me several years ago on Facebook. I immediately went to the Vellum website, downloaded a free trial version, loaded in a Microsoft Word book manuscript, and about 20 minutes later, I had a beautifully formatted e-book, ready to upload to Amazon. This just beat the pants off the process I’d been using before.
I love, love, love, love, love Vellum. Five hearts. Yes, really.
A couple of caveats: Vellum is not cheap. And Vellum only runs on a Mac. Sorry about that on both counts. If you were to hire someone to format your book, you’d probably pay them close to the purchase price of Vellum and you’d have to wait days or weeks for them to get the job done. And if you later need them to change things, that’s more money and more time spent waiting. With Vellum, once you own it, you can format as many books as you want. Make them as cool as you want. And it usually takes less than half an hour, as long as you started with a Word document that had actual chapters already defined.
I have many, many indie author friends. A very large fraction of them use Vellum. Some of them bought a Mac solely so they could use Vellum. It’s that good.
My Favorite Books on the Craft of Writing Fiction
I’ve got a long list of books on the craft of writing fiction. I’ve had them on a separate page on my website for a long time.