What is Jer’s Novel Writer?
Jer’s Novel Writer is a relatively simple word processor with extra features to support large creative writing projects.
I wrote this program to fit the way I write. More specifically, I wrote it to help overcome my shortcomings. It would be terribly presumptuous to think that anyone else out there faces the same obstacles I do when I write, but it would also be presumptuous to think that I was the only one in the world with these problems. So I offer what I created to make me a better writer, hoping that it will help others too.
This program is all about momentum, and reducing the number of things that break the flow when I am writing. Jer’s Novel Writer is designed to help me keep writing when the creative juices are flowing, and then find all the things I need to go over again when I am more in a nitty-gritty mood.
Jer’s Novel Writer has tons of handy features, as well as the features you would expect from a word processor. Here’s a list of the most important ones, with details about them following:
- Margin Notes
- Automatic Outline
- Full Screen Mode
- Separate formatting options for print and screen
- It actually knows what a chapter is (or whatever organizational structure you want to use).
- A panel for general notes lets you keep track of story issues and ideas (and the last time you ate).
- Word count
- More accurate page count estimates
- Better performance than most word processors for really, really big documents.
Often I will get hung up on getting a sentence right. I can’t leave it behind – it’s ‘good enough’ and will pass a reread, but I know with a little concentration I can do better. The thing is, my mind is already moving on. I have ideas, and that’s no time to be hung up on mechanics. A quick note “make this sentence flow better”, or, “Ask expert about this”, and off I go.
I use margin notes a great deal for continuity checking as well. As I’m writing I can toss “Does he know this yet?” or “go back and set this up” into the margin and keep on rolling. I also flag phrases I might be using too often.
The list of uses for margin notes is nearly endless. That made it important to allow you to set a category for each note, and only show the ones you’re interested in at the moment. Once you start using margin notes, you will get used to them very, very quickly.
One of the things that slows me down is looking up things I have written. That’s what the outline is all about. It allows me to move quickly to a passage I wrote some time in the past, read the bit I need, and get back to my writing. Before I had the outline I found myself reading large portions of my story looking for one sentence, and often I would end up editing the other parts rather than keeping rolling on what I had been writing.
The outline grows automatically as you add parts to your story, so your momentum is not slowed by maintaining the outline. Features that require effort to maintain just don’t get used.
Lately I have been using the outline for another task: planning. By defining the sections of the story ahead of time I end up with a much more coherent story in the end. Naturally, the outline is always easy to modify; you can even rearrange your story by dragging elements around in the outline.
Sometimes it will be months between when I first describe a character and they return in a significant role. Sometimes my idea of who the character is will evolve as I write. Then there are the names of places, the associations of characters, and other minutiae. The database window provides a place for me to keep tabs on all the moving parts in my story. I have made a special effort to make the database as simple to use as possible, so that using it does not interfere with the momentum of the writer.
Another writer I heard from uses the database to track references and citations in his non-fiction work.
The database lets you sort and filter your entries based on categories you define. Defining your categories is simple and intuitive.
So you have you document all set up to be friendly to your eyes while you stare at your monitor day after day. Maybe you like your text big, or prefer a sans-serif font. But now it’s time to ship it off to the publisher. You want to use a different font, double-space the lines, and change the spacing between parts of the document. You can do all that with styles in fancy programs like Microsoft Word, but it requires planning to make sure every piece has the right style applied to it. Once you get it all printed out, you’re faced with putting it back into the format you prefer to work.
Chances are you won’t change it back; you’ll keep the document in a printer-oriented version and just learn to cope with it.
Jer’s Novel Writer allows you save any number of printing format presets. You could have one for short work and another for novels, perhaps, or presets tweaked to match the preferences of individual publishers. You can set up the document just like you want it to look on the page – without changing the way it looks on the screen.
What it boils down to is that I am a rockethead. Anything that will give me a grip on what I have written and what I need to write can do nothing but help. This software is dedicated to fellow rocketheads – people with more ideas than memory.