Writers App: Build Your Novel

Unlike the vast majority of professions, Writing requires no qualifications of its purveyors — anybody can be one. The boundless level of expression afforded to authors of any genre is unmatched by any other art form. A level of expression limited not by talent or ability, but only by the imagination of the craftsman. It has been said that writing itself is not difficult, but rather the difficulty arises with forming good ideas.

Authors cannot be taught how to be creative or imaginative; it is for themselves to coax ideas out of their minds. What can be encouraged, however, is the development of those oh-so-rare seedlings of invention into fully rooted bougainvillea. Writers App isn’t designed to boost imagination, but it does provide the tools needed to help cultivate your ideas into flourishing works of literature. Intrigued? Let’s find out more.

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Writing is not hard. Just get paper and a pencil, sit down, and write as it occurs to you. The writing is easy, it’s the occurring that’s hard” – Stephen Leacock

Research, Research, Research

If you’re lucky enough to have an expansive imagination, you may have several ideas floating around your mind at any given time — but that’s just the beginning. Capitalising upon your imagination is the next step, and to do so effectively you must milk your mind for as much detail as possible. Building an information bank not only allows you to write deeper, more detailed content, but it also helps minimise writers block which thrives upon a lack of research.

Editing the list of outlines can be done by hitting Edit.

Editing the list of outlines can be done by hitting Edit.

Getting started with Writers App is easy: start by tapping + and then enter the title of your idea — simple! From this point onwards, all of your entries will be listed on the app’s start page which you can re-order or delete by tapping edit and altering the list as you want. Writers App allows you to save dozens of ideas at any time, thus keeping all your notes and research together in one app. Now for the really interesting stuff!

You can add as many Chapters, Characters and Places as your idea needs.

You can add as many Chapters, Characters and Places as your idea needs.

Building profiles of your characters, setting out plots and summarising chapters are just a handful of the most useful techniques I use for research. However, when it comes to writing, I have a strong nostalgic preference for the traditional pen and paper. As a result, my bag is strewn with pieces of paper filled with notes, accompanied by several notebooks — an organisational nightmare. This is where Writers App comes in. It provides in-depth outlines for you to build upon without the fear of losing your notes!

Profile Characters and Set Your Locations

At first you are provided with a bare-bones outline of options that allow you to note plots, premise and a synopsis of the entire idea. By using the Edit button, however, you can add character profiles, chapter descriptors and detail multiple locations all in one outline. Each individual section has several customisable areas for you to fill out with increasingly detailed information. Let’s take a further look.

Chapters

Unlike the other sections, Chapters has a limited scope for detail. It provides a couple of unformatted pages for you summarise key events and a general description, but apart from that it is pretty sparse. For the Course of Events option, I found that using a numbered list is one of the better ways of laying out any notes as there is no pre-prepared template to follow.

The most limited feature of the outline, Chapters still allows you to detail key events in each entry.

The most limited feature of the outline, Chapters still allows you to detail key events in each entry.

Remember, not all chapters need to be collated into one. You can add further chapters from the main outline. Some may consider the lack of formatting within Chapters a good thing, as it leaves you to detail the pages provided yourself. But as a directional app, I would have expected at least a couple more options to have been made available, or automatic numbering/bullet pointing.

Characters

By far and away the most in-depth section of this app, Characters allows you to detail almost every aspect of a character’s persona, appearance and relevance to the story. As I’m sure any author is aware, allowing your readers to build a rapport with characters is a crucial element of any novel or story. As such, the more detailed your character’s background, the more you can encourage such an understanding.

The more detailed your character research is, the better you can describe him to your readers.

The more detailed your character research is, the better you can describe him to your readers.

Plenty of aspects to characters have been provided already, but, as we know, not all characters are the same. Many have niche attributes crucial to their role, or deep backstories that need to be considered. to that end, the ability to create custom options tailored to individual characters would be immensely useful. Until that functionality is provided, however, make use of the Further Notes section.

Places

So your masterpiece is set in Paris and you want to describe the smells of freshly cooked baguettes? Writers App has you covered. Though it may not be as in-depth as the Characters page, you can still add plenty of information to your locations covering a range of minutiae, including the smells, sights and precise location of the place.

Where have you set your story? Is it real or is it fictional? Detail its composition here.

Where have you set your story? Is it real or is it fictional? Detail its composition here.

This is another area where the ability to add further areas to the outline would be a huge bonus. This would allow the outline to be adaptable, leaving you free to change individual places to something more specific as not all locations are the same. For example, a house would have different features to a crowded shopping centre, and the ability to recognise that would be great.

What Else Is There?

Like many, I consider cloud services like iCloud & Dropbox to be almost prerequisite features for any productivity related app. For a short while, Writers App lacked any such service, a feature so important to me that its absence delayed the writing this review until it received the feature. That day has since come, but it has proved to be a disappointment.

Dropbox is easily my favourite service, and as far as I can tell, it more than trumps iCloud. Take a guess at which service Writers App uses? You got it, iCloud. The syncing of outlines across devices is painfully slow and inconsistent, an issue that lies firmly with Apple not with the developer. However, it is an issue to take into account if you like to have your work available at all times.

Unfortunately, email is the only export tool available in Writers App.

Unfortunately, email is the only export tool available in Writers App.

Another feature, stunted by a severe lack of choice, is the exporting of your outlines. The email icon at the bottom of each outline’s page allows you to email the text to a writing partner, or to yourself for copying into another app—that is it. Sharing to the likes of Evernote, OmniOutliner, and Dropbox have almost become the norm throughout the iOS ecosystem and such additions would add more value to this app. However, perhaps the most disappointing absence is the lack of interoperability between Writers App and its iPad-only cousin Writing App. The latter is by far the more superior app when it comes to actual writing, but both apps could benefit from the sharing of research conducted in Writers App.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good: The Characters section of the outlines is by far the best feature of this app. Providing invaluable detail that allows you to build deep profiles of your characters.

Bad: The lack of any decent export options is the real let down here. However, it isn’t bad enough to prevent me recommending this app, but it’s a point worth remembering.

Ugly - The skeuomorphic wood panelling background on which your list of ideas is presented becomes very tired after a while, but if that’s your thing it won’t be so bad.

For those of you who want to add more detail into your writing, or want to explore your ideas further, this app is made for you. Despite a couple of disappointing aspects — none of which affect the apps primary goal — for $0.99 this could well be the cheapest and easiest boost to your writing you will ever get. And it’s only going to get better.

Keep an eye out for our review of Writing App the iPad-only cousin of Writers App!


Summary

Designed with writers in mind, Writers App provides simple yet effective tools to help perfect those precious ideas that can be so difficult to come by.

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  • Aaron Anderson

    I am extremely savvy with computerised devices, so please don’t assume there’s something I’m not doing right when I say that this software ABSOLUTELY, TOTALLY DOES NOT WORK ON MY BRAND NEW IPAD, WITH THE VERY LATEST iOS (as of today, 2013FEB05).
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    It simply allows me to add a title, and no more. The ‘settings’ button has nothing but to choose a font, font size, and I feel they’ve tricked me into giving my email address. I fear spam.
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    The only other accessible button was the ‘+’ button, but that was to enter a new title for a separate novel.
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    This has scared me right out of buying apps. Indeed, there are far too many reports of the work and ideas of app users being TOTALLY lost, especially after an upgrade. Many Writers have said nothing beats the ease and simplicity of pen and paper, but I wouldn’t go as far as abandoning my word processor. I’ve just bought ‘Pages’, but haven’t had the opportunity to use it substantially.
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    Oh, and I’ve lost trust in websites like this, that supposedly give advice and recommendations. Sure, one can find criticisms on such sites, but they appear to be just mild enough not to put us off making the purchase, but just strong enough to maintain credibility. I shall be saving this review in case it gets ‘moderated’ out of seeing the light of day.

    • http://sasmith.org Steven Smith

      Hi Aaron,
      Just noticed your comment, thanks for contributing.
      If you’re having issues with the app it’s a good idea to get in touch with the developer and let him know, maybe he can work something out with you.
      Personally, I didn’t encounter any problems with functionality beyond limited options and especially not the kind you have described. If you’re worried about losing your data after an upgrade I’d remind you that backing up is essential for anything you consider important. This applies on the iPad just as much as a home computer and Writers App does allow you to export data via email so you should have nothing to worry about in reality.
      I’m sorry you’ve lost trust in sites like this but I assure you we give fair, balanced, and reasoned reviews and we don’t stand to gain from not purveying accurate information. I paid for this app myself and had I found it to be sub-par i assure you I would have made that known.

  • http://sasmith.org Steven Smith

    Hi Aaron,

    Just noticed your comment, thanks for contributing.

    If you’re having issues with the app it’s a good idea to get in touch with the developer and let him know, maybe he can work something out with you.
    Personally, I didn’t encounter any problems with functionality beyond limited options and especially not the kind you have described. If you’re worried about losing your data after an upgrade I’d remind you that backing up is essential for anything you consider important. This applies on the iPad just as much as a home computer and Writers App does allow you to export data via email so you should have nothing to worry about in reality.

    I’m sorry you’ve lost trust in sites like this but I assure you we give fair, balanced, and reasoned reviews and we don’t stand to gain from not purveying accurate information. I paid for this app myself and had I found it to be sub-par i assure you I would have made that known.

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