Ugh Writing! (Finding software solutions without having to install actual software.)

Over the last few days, I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a novel. I’ve got a really good concept, a strong character, and a decent premise for at least the beginnings of a series. I’ve also decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. Or at least do a test run with it. That said, I don’t usually plan out my stories unless absolutely necessary. But I’ve seen the benefit of such an approach. Thus, I’ve been on the lookout for things to make it a bit easier for me, a bonnafied pantser.

Due to the limitations of my hardware (DAMN YOU ACER CLOUDBOOK!) and my strict financial budgeting, there’s no way I could afford to purchase dedicated software. So my attention went to open source solutions.

Normally, I would be using yWriter5, as I’d downloaded and installed it on my old laptop, and was just getting the hang of using it when my laptop did it’s hot glue in the fan routine. I’d found a few solutions, but they required I install Java. That is something that I WILL NOT do, under any circumstances. Me and Java (unless it’s the drinkable sort) do NOT get along.

I thought I had found a solution with NowNovel. And I do quite like the process they use to help get you motivated as well as helping narrow down ideas and implementing a question and answer system for brainstorming. Unfortunately, it’s a subscription service you pay for, and it only lets you get about 15% through the process before popping up and saying “Hey, pay for an upgrade to finish your novel!” – So, at least I was able to use it enough to get a solid concept nailed down and start brainstorming how I want my character to act, and the emotional and mental situation with the character as well. And it helped me to narrow down my vision to a few pictures in order to help me understand the tone and mood I’m going for. Definitely a service that, if I had the funds, I would throw my money at. But it’s just out of my price range at the moment. Maybe down the road when I’ve got a little more leeway and free money, I might revisit NowNovel’s process and service.

So, I sought another alternative. Checking the NaNoWriMo forums, I kept seeing people suggest Storybook Pro or Schriever, both of which are completely out of my price range. And requires installation. I also saw Snowflake Method software, whatever it’s called, suggested. Once again, out of my range and requires installation. Then, I came across a thread on HackerNews about a site called Litlift.

After Googling it for about half an hour, reading as much as I could about it, some of it from the creator/programmer themselves back in 2009 when they presented the project before other programmers and design pros and sought their opinions and legit assistance, I decided to sign up and give it a whirl.

I am NOT disappointed. It’s free, which is a plus! It doesn’t require me to install anything, double plus – and when I’m done I can export all of my text and stuff into my choice of .rtf or .txt so I can then do whatever I wish with it. What’s more, it helps give me the feel of not planning and outlining, but definitely does the organization with pages and tabs specifically for keeping track of characters (minor and main), scenes, chapters, key plot points, sub plots, and even who currently has what key plot item at any given time (assuming I’ve updated that page with new info such as “Bob now has the idol statue while Frank now has the fake one made of cheese.”). And lastly, there is even a section called “Library” where you can submit your works for feedback and community reviews.

While the “Library” isn’t exactly the greatest, and has the Wattpad level story quality in most cases, it’s the novel building tools that I’m really after, so the Library section really isn’t my cup of tea. But if anyone else wants to explore it, be my guest. (Screencaps below include random page selections for sake of example.)


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