Friday, July 4, 2014

Got your head in the clouds? Now your novel can be there, too!

I've been so caught up in my housing angst I haven't posted about much else, so this post about a great tool for writers is long overdue.

The tool in question is called Yarny, an appropriate name for software designed for storytellers. You can find Yarny online at

The first thing that jumped out at me about Yarny was its clean and simple interface. As someone with a design background, this appealed to me.

The screen is divided into three panes. The main pane is the text editor, which is front and center. When you type in this pane, the other panes fade out until you need them for distraction-free writing. Your work is saved automatically as you write, so no need to worry about remembering to hit the save button.

The pane at the left shows a list of "snippets." Snippets are simply sections of text. They can be paragraphs, chapters, or scenes, whatever works for you.  The benefit of writing in snippets is they can be dragged and dropped into any order you like, or combined into groups, which makes re-arranging your text a breeze.

Screen shot from the Yarny website. Click to enlarge.
The pane to the right is for keeping all your non-story stuff organized. You can use it for jotting down notes or for organizing research. It is conveniently divided into three sections - People, Places and Things, which makes it easy to find what you're looking for later. Like the pane to the left, material here can be grouped or re-ordered by dragging and dropping.

Down at the bottom of the screen there are buttons you can use to track versions of your work, or add keywords to make your text searchable.

Best of all, your work is automatically saved to the cloud, making it easy to access from anywhere with an internet connection. With Yarny it is easy to jot down a few ideas in the morning at home while you have your coffee, then work them into a story on your lunch break at work. Later, you can edit your work into a second draft on your tablet while watching the kids play at the park after dinner.  

All this, and it is free, too! There is supposedly a more feature-rich paid version available ($4 per month), but the paid features seemed to mostly be cosmetic (ability to pick a theme, typewriter sounds, etc.). I'm not sure that any of those things is worth $4 a month to me, at least not now while I'm saving for a house.

There were a couple of things about Yarny that didn't work so well for me. I'm a Planner, so I utilize the cork board and outlining features in Scrivener a lot. Yarny (at the last the free version I'm using) doesn't seem to have equivalent features. If you're more of a Pantser, this might not matter to you. Another drawback, albeit a minor one, is there is no formatting toolbar in the free version.

Overall, I found much more to like than not here. I still use Scrivener as my main tool of choice, but one of my major issues with Scrivener is the lack of a cloud-based version. If Yarny ever comes out with a tool similar to the Scrivener cork board, I'll be more than happy to migrate to Yarny permanently.

Give Yarny a try, it just might be the portable easy-to-use tool you've been looking for.

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