Overview#

At its core, novelWriter is a multi-document plain text editor. The idea is to let you edit your text without having to deal with formatting until you generate a draft document or manuscript. Instead, you can focus on the writing right from the start.

Of course, you probably need some formatting for your text. At the very least you need emphasis. Most people are familiar with adding emphasis using underscores and asterisks. This formatting standard comes from Markdown and is supported by novelWriter. It also uses Markdown formatting for defining document headings. If you need more specialised formatting, additional formatting options are available using a shortcode format. See Extended Formatting with Shortcodes for more details.

Limitations

novelWriter is designed for writing fiction, so the formatting features available are limited to those relevant for this purpose. It is not suitable for technical writing, and it is not a full-featured Markdown editor.

It is also not intended as a tool for organising research for writing, and therefore lacks formatting features you may need for this purpose. The notes feature in novelWriter is mainly intended for character profiles and plot outlines.

Your novel project in novelWriter is organised as a collection of separate plain text documents instead of a single, large document. The idea is to make it easier to reorganise your project structure without having to cut and paste text between chapters and scenes.

There are two kinds of documents in your project: Novel Documents are documents that are part of your story. The other kind of documents are Project Notes. These are intended for your notes about your characters, your world building, and so on.

You can at any point split the individual documents by their headings up into multiple documents, or merge multiple documents into a single document. This makes it easier to use variations of the Snowflake method for writing. You can start by writing larger structure-focused documents, like for instance one document per act, and later effortlessly split these up into chapters or scenes.

Key Features#

Below are some key features of novelWriter.

Focus on writing

The aim of the user interface is to let you focus on writing instead of spending time formatting text. Formatting is therefore limited to a small set of formatting tags for simple things like text emphasis and paragraph alignment. When you really want to focus on just writing, you can switch the editor into Focus Mode where only the text editor panel itself is visible, and the project structure view is hidden away.

Keep an eye on your notes

The main window can optionally show a document viewer to the right of the editor. The viewer is intended for displaying another scene document, your character notes, plot notes, or any other document you may need to reference while writing. It is not intended as a preview panel for the document you’re editing, but if you wish, you can also use it for this purpose.

Organise your documents how you like

You can split your novel project up into as many individual documents as you want to. When you build the project into a manuscript, they are all glued together in the top-to-bottom order in which they appear in the project tree. You can use as few text documents as you like, but splitting the project up into chapters and scenes means you can easily reorder them using the drag-and-drop feature of the project tree. You can also start out with fewer documents and then later split them into multiple documents based on chapter and scene headings.

Multi-novel project support

The main parts of your project is split up into top level special folders called “Root” folders. Your main story text lives in the “Novel” root folder. You can have multiple such folders in a project. This allows you to keep a series of individual novels with the same characters and world building in the same project, and create manuscripts for them individually.

Keep track of your story elements

All notes in your project can be assigned a tag that you can then reference from any other document or note. In fact, you can add a new tag under each heading of a note if you need to be able to reference specific sections of it.

Get an overview of your story

It is not the documents themselves that define the chapters and scenes of your story, but the headings that separate them. In the Outline View on the main window you can see an outline of all the chapter and scene headings of your project. If they have any references in them, like which character is in what chapter and scene, these are listed in additional columns.

You can also add a synopsis to each chapter or scene, which can be listed here as well. You have the option to add or remove columns of information from this outline. A subset of the outline information is also available in the Novel View as an alternative view to the project tree.

Get an overview of your story elements

Under the document viewer panel you will find a series of tabs that show the different story elements you have created tags for. The tabs are sorted into Characters, Plots, etc, depending on which categories you are using in your story. This panel can be hidden to free up space when you don’t need it.

Assembling your manuscript

Whether you want to assemble a manuscript, or export all your notes, or generate an outline of your chapters and scenes with a synopsis included, you can use the Build Manuscript tool to do so. The tool lets you select what information you want to include in the generated document, and how it is formatted. You can send the result to a printer, a PDF, or to an Open Document file that can be opened by most office type word processors. You can also generate the result as HTML, or Markdown, both suitable for further conversion to other formats.

Screenshots#

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novelWriter with light colour theme#

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novelWriter with dark colour theme#