January 26, 2013

Pacing with yWriter

Taking a short break from writing a new short story, and taking the opportunity to sing the praises again of yWriter, the freeware fiction-writing program from Spacejock Software. Why am I loving yWriter so much? Because it plays to my strengths as a writer, at the same time it covers my a** – er, weaknesses, most of which have to do with planning. 

I’m very much what writing circles call a ‘pantser,’ one who does things very much by seat-of-the pants navigation. But as more things call on my attention, it’s easy to lose that thread of thought, so it’s very useful to make notes.  Paradoxically, making too many notes can kill a a story for me.  I’m very much of Gemmell’s ‘put a character on a horse and see where he goes’ school.  Taking my character off that horse long enough to explain the story to me tends to end up with said character wandering off and out of my brainscape!

Enter yWriter.  With yWriter, I can whip up my first scene or three to establish the story’s main points – setting, characters, conflicts, etc.  Then as I slow down, I stop writing scene content and refocus on making new scenes, each with a single-sentence description of what I want to happen there, plus additional notes that will help in the later polishing.

I still don’t use all of yWriter’s available tools, but the very simple tree structure of Story > Chapters > Scenes is already very powerful for my methods, along with scene and chapter word counts.  When I’m writing, and I know the characters well enough, or the setting well enough, the story plays out as a movie in my head.  I see each scene as  a shot, or a sequence of shots, playing in my head. Writing it exactly that way, though, sometimes leads me to do too much description.

This is where the word count breakdowns really help.  They’re a pacing tool.  The proportion of words in each scene and chapter to each other tells me where I’m dilating time to focus more on something, and if the proportions start to get too lopsided I know I’ve gotten wordy, or inserted too much detail, which I easily do when I have the momentum. And good pacing for me is a big part, a really big part, of what keeps the reader reading.


  1. I'm experimenting with Scrivner at the mo, but I have used and like yWriter. Both are handy for the way I work as I prefer to work in scenes and the ability to keep them separate and shuffle them around is cool.

  2. Just downloaded yWriter. Pretty cool. Ever tried it for game play or scenario design?

  3. Not yet, though I imagine it would be useful for that too, specially with the character, item and location entries.


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