S02E03: Writing Software and Character Arcs #WriteANovel2021

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Hello, and welcome to week three of the #2021NovelChallenge here on The Writer’s Everything…

#WriteANovel2021 Week 3

If you listened to last week’s episode, then you’ll know that I also called it “week three”. That’s an unfortunate side-effect of having a bonus introductory episode which I label “week zero”. But hopefully I’ll get my basic arithmetic straighted out for the rest of the year.

So how are you doing on your #2021NovelChallenge so far? Did you pledge to write a novel? Have you followed the directions for the last two weeks, or do you have your own process. I’d love to hear from you directly. If you go my updated podcast address, anchor.fm/thewriterseverything, you can send me a voice message talking about your #2021NovelChallenge experience, and then I can share it in a future episode.

If you’re listening on the day of release, January 18th, then you have 348 days left in 2021. That’s more than enough time to get started on writing your book. If you’d like to see the countdown until December 31st, you can find it on any page on TheWritersEverything.org.

Ok. So last week, I promised to discuss the options for writing software that are available to use this year, as well as my recommendations for which ones you should use.

If you already know what apps you plan on using for the #2021NovelChallenge, then feel free to skip to the 8 minute mark.

Of course, there are some apps that are great for jotting down notes, and there are some apps that are great for organizing novels. On top of that, every author has their own preferences for writing software, as well and every author’s mind works differently.

But hopefully this list will help you narrow down your list of potential writing apps until you identify your all-time favorites.

The links for all of the software mentioned will be available in the transcript for this episode at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. Some of them are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase anything using those links, I may get a small amount of money at no extra cost to you. This will help me to continue sharing content like this podcast with you, and it in no way affects my recommendations or opinions.

So the first step for any well-prepared novel is getting a bird’s-eye view of the events and the structure of your story. To do this, I highly recommend SimpleMind. It’s available on iPhone, iPad, Windows, and Mac, and if you purchase the Pro version for $7.99 on Android, $9.99 on iOS, or $$33.24 on Mac or Windows, you’ll be able to sync your projects between devices using Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and more. SimpleMind is a mind-mapping program that’s easy to use but also has powerful features that I couldn’t even begin to get into here. Personally, I tend to put miscellaneous ideas and events on one branch of my project, then slowly drag and drop them into place within the story. If you’ve never used mind-mapping software before, I regions you try out the free version and see how it works for you.

If you just want to jot down your ideas on an old-fashioned notebook-style app, there are all sorts of options available to you. If you have an iPhone, the built-in Notes app would be a simple but useful option. You can write notes with minimum formatting and organize them into folders. Notes also syncs across all your Apple devices, as long as you don’t turn that feature off on the settings.

Microsoft OneNote and Evernote are both powerful options for taking notes on the go and having them available on whatever platform you happen to be using. Syncing in Evernote is available for $7.99 a month, or $69.99 a year, while it’s free on OneNote, along with virtually all of its other features. Personally I prefer Evernote, butt I haven’t found it useful enough to actually pay for, and the free version is quite limited in comparison.

Once you actually get into the meat of writing your novel, several different word-processing applications can come into play. The simplest and most common would be Microsoft Word, which is available on all platforms as part of the Microsoft 365 subscription, starting at $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year. If you’re the proud owner of an Apple device, then Pages is a great, free alternative, and it also turns publishing to iBooks into one of the simplest processes imaginable. Both apps, however, are straightforward and easy to use. The only problem worth mentioning is that it’s not easy to get a quick, full impression of your story using Word or Pages. Unless you master the use of section breaks, you’ll be stuck scrolling through dozens of pages of text in order to find the part of your story that you’re looking for.

If you’re on Apple’s ecosystem, I can’t recommend any program more than Scrivener. Scrivener is the go-to app for countless writers, with the only limit being your own imagination. It has a ton of organizational features, and export options for numerous formats, including Word, ePub, Mobi, and more. It’s a premium app, however, and it has a premium price, $49 for Mac and $19.99 on iOS. Unfortunately, there is no android version, and I’ve heard that the Windows version of Scrivener is missing much of the functionality found in the Mac version.

If you have an android phone or tablet, Novelist is a great alternative to Scrivener. I’ve written nearly an entire book on it before, and it worked surprisingly well for a completely free app. I’d also suggest taking a look at JotterPad and Pure Writer. And if you have a desktop or laptop computer but can’t afford Scrivener, Bibisco is a great alternative with a pay-what-you-want model.

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the plethora of writing tools available to you. Instead of being stuck with s typewriter or a pen and paper, you have the ability to choose the perfect app for you with the perfect features and abilities.

I’ve personally used all of the apps I recommended in this episode, but there are plenty more to choose from, so be sure to hit me up on Twitter @QJ_author if there are any you’d like to recommend, or you can send me a voice message by going to anchor.fm/thewriterseverything and be featured on next week’s podcast.


Ok. Now that we have that out of the way, it’s time for this week’s writing assignment. For the first week of the #2021NovelChallenge, your assignment was to write down your favorite stories that are similar to what you would enjoy writing. Then you made a list of the aspects and details of those stories that really call to you on an emotional level. For the second week of the challenge, you used those two lists to help you define the genre that you wanted to write in, the setting of your story, and the scope that your tale would entail.

For week three, your goal is going to be to identify and flesh out your characters. As I mentioned in this week’s blog post, titled Authors—Kill Your Mentors, characters are what drive a compelling story. The plot of your novel should ideally be shaped by the choices and decisions your characters make, so even though this is a point of contention among writers, my belief is that if you start out with solid characters who have well-developed motivations, the events of the story will essentially write themselves.

So of course, the person the character is on the inside is going to be the midst important thing for you to develop before you begin to delve into the complexities of the plot. However, many authors find it nearly impossible to visualize the emotional and mental makeup of a character without being able to visualize them physically. For some, this could be as simple as choosing a gender and age. For others, this could include race, hair and eye color, skin tone, height, weight, and more. And it’s the rare author who doesn’t want to have at the very least a placeholder name for each of their characters. There are many different name generators online, some of which include attributes that can really help jumpstart your creativity. If you’d like to see some of my recommendations, you can sign up for my newsletter at TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter and receive exclusive access to my Character Generator blog post.

Once you feel sufficiently inspired to begin the task of fleshing out your characters, you’re going to need to identify two aspects in particular for every character that you don’t want to be two-dimensional or cliche. Those aspects are the character’s wants, and the character’s needs. I’ve talked extensively about character wants and needs in The Writer’s Everything magazine, and I’m going to write an extensive blog post about them which will be exclusively available for those of you who sign up for my newsletter. I also recommend listening to S01E01, S01E02, and S01E05 of this podcast, which all discuss character arcs and character development.

But in short, character wants are what the character is pursuing in the beginning of the story. They’re often selfish and self-centered in nature, but even if they aren’t, they are still getting in the way of the character becoming the best version of themselves.

Character needs are the things that would give the character a sense of fulfillment and true happiness, and make their life all-around meaningful.

A character arc is the evolution of a character as they come to realize that what they thought they wanted is not what they really want, or not what’s in their best interest, and as they come to identify and accept their character needs.

A character’s wants and needs are going to influence every aspect of the story, and as I said earlier, will basically lead to the story writing itself.

For example, in Shrek, Shrek wants to be left to a life of solitude so that he can avoid the pain he feels at being hated by those around him. He accepts a quest to save a princess in a tower in order to succeed in his pursuit of his wants. Along the way, though, he realizes that he needs, and deserves to be, loved, and having people who care about him is more important, and more beneficial for him, than being alone.

That’s all for this week. Don’t forget to work on developing your characters, their wants, and their needs. And sign up for the tWE newsletter at TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter so you can get exclusive access to the bonus articles mentioned in this podcast. Then come back here to listen to Week 4 of the #2021NovelChallenge.


Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Writer’s Everything podcast. If you’d like to read a transcript of this episode, you can find it at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. If you’d like to listen to future episodes, be sure to subscribe on whatever platform you’re currently listening on, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re at it to let me know what you think of the podcast. The Writer’s Everything is also available as a free downloadable magazine. If you’d like to read it, simply go to TheWritersEverything.org/magazine, and download the issue of your choice. If you’d like access to exclusive bonus content, such as my list and review of the top Character Name Generators on the web, you can go to TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can do so at Patreon.com/QJMartin. For your convenience, all the referenced links will also be in the show notes.

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