Updated: Sep 20, 2020
[NOTE: This post was originally written in October 2016. Some features or functionalities of the reviewed program may have changed since then.]
Welcome to Part 4 of my “Free Writing Software Review” Series (a companion series to my earlier post, “Free Scrivener Alternatives.”)
Today’s review topic: The Novel Factory!
Let me say upfront that The Novel Factory is the exception to my “Free Writing Software Review” series because it isn’t free! So, why did I include it?
Of the many programs I tested, this one was one of the most intriguing for me. I think perhaps my favorite aspect of this particular program was that it gives such an in-depth walk-through of the entire writing process, from creating characters to plotting all the way to tracking submissions sent out to agents or publishers. While the pre-structured format of this program is limiting in some ways, it is excellent for recording and storing lots of detailed information about your project, and their prompts to input info would also be helpful for jump-starting ideas in times of writer’s block. I also found this software aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, especially if you use their “Roadmap” guide to familiarize yourself with its features.
The downside: The Novel Factory is not free. It costs $39.99 (the license includes use on unlimited personal computers). However, they do offer a Free Trial that allows full use of the application. This trial even allows for full export of your work into another program in case you decide not to purchase the program once the trial ends. Because of the full-access free trial, and also because I found this program so useful, I’ve decided to include it in this series.
So, if you’re specifically wanting something permanently free, this particular software probably isn’t what you’re looking for. However, if you’re interested in making use of the free trial, or just want to know more about it in comparison to other programs, read ahead!
Now, for the detailed explanation:
The Novel Factory suggests that you start by reading their Roadmap, which is basically a “Getting Started” guide which provides a detailed walk-through of the features of the program.
This guide will lead you through creating a new project step-by-step, building your story in pieces according to normal 3-Act story conventions. You can choose a genre template to work from, which will impact the specific items you’ll be prompted to enter and the way that the program will layout your story structure framework.
Right away, it will have you create a premise and synopsis and a basic story skeleton, which the program builds upon with other features later. In the images below, you’re viewing the skeleton and premise for my Horatio story.
As you move forward, it will guide you through creating solid 2-part scenes, each including the Scene (Head) and Sequel (Tail), and it also allows you to visually display which is which by selecting an icon. These icons will be shown next to each section on the main outline screen, making it easily to immediately see how the underlying structure of your story is arranged.
You can also add plot points and color code them to keep track of plots/subplots, appearance of characters and items, off-screen events, etc. In the image above, I added a purple marker for “Lily’s growth” so that I could track it throughout my story.
The Characters section provides a Questionnaire for each character, as well as a place to put History, Notes, Introductions, Basic Info, and a Viewpoint Synopsis.
The Character Viewpoint Synopsis is an interesting feature, as it provides an easy way to make a note of what each character sees or thinks in a particular scene. This could come in really handy in a story with a lot of characters or intersecting plot lines.
The story content can be written within each individual Scene section, and it provides multiple tabs for the scene overview, a list of characters and places in the scene, scene blocking/planning, and even tabs for saving a First Draft, Second Draft, and Final Draft. This setup makes it incredibly easy to check back on your planning details and even previous versions of that scene, all right in one window.
The Novel Factory provides in-program Editing and Revision tips in the “Roadmap” under Second Draft and Final Draft, and when your story is ready, there is even a “Submissions” tab that lets you track submissions sent out to agents and/or publishers.
There is a Resources tab, which allows you to input relevant links that you’ve used for research or that you wish to include in your project, and in place of a memo board, there is a Notes panel, where you can add thoughts or ideas that relate to the project as a whole.
This software also provides a decent Statistics page. Because I created this project as a sample and didn’t input a lot of content, there isn’t much data showing in the image below, but it does give you an idea of what’s available. It will track progress across multiple drafts, keep track of daily word count in comparison to your daily target, let you set a target finish date, and even breakdown the novel’s word count by scene, give you a daily word count average, and chart your progress over time. On the top right, there is even a pie chart that indicates the balance of Head Scenes, Tail Scenes, and Incident Scenes in your story.
With Novel Factory, you can export as a .docx file, or export as an e-book (EPUB), or if you’re wanting to make use of multiple programs, it even allows you to export in Scrivener format. Also, it gives you the freedom to choose which parts you export, so that you can work with just certain sections of the story or choose to export everything once you’re done.
All in all, I’m pretty impressed with this software. For someone who is writing a novel, it could be extremely helpful. It is rather structured, so if you’re planning to try something other than the typical 3-Act story structure, this might be a bit too limiting for you. On the other hand, if you are a freewheeling writer who struggles with overall story structure, this could be really useful. You could even freewrite your first draft of the story, and then use this program to help you revise it and identify places where your structure might need work. Of course, if you’re writing something besides a novel — like anything nonfiction, for example — this program probably wouldn’t meet your needs, because it’s “The Novel Factory,” and is tailored specifically for that purpose.
As I said at the beginning of this post, The Novel Factory isn’t free. It costs $39.99. However, if you need it only temporarily, or if you just want to try it out before buying, you can get a 7-day Free Trial. The Novel Factory is available here: https://www.novel-software.com/.