Review: The Novel Factory Software makes developing a novel less painful than getting a shot

Sep 30, 2019 at 10:00 am by 3DFineries

The Novel Factory

Designed by a writer, Novel Factory was created to streamline the writing process. Users can build their story's blueprint, develop characters, write, and track submissions all in one place.

Novel Factory is easy to navigate and automatically saves your work. The Roadmap guides writers (especially beginners) through drafting solid stories. Exercises and examples teach plot structure and helps writers create well-rounded stories.

 

PLANNING
The Planning section has seven tabs. Plotters will love this section and beginners have a friend who holds your hand while you learn to develop a premise, a short synopsis, an extended synopsis, and outline your plot using templates. Although the Plot Outline templates adhere to the three-act story structure, the intuitive design allowing users to customize templates giving writers added flexibility.

After creating an extended synopsis, users can automatically generate a scene synopsis that breaks down the story into manageable chunks. However, this step can quickly become unruly. I found it more useful to make each paragraph a chapter summary instead. We'll discuss why later.

CHARACTERS
The Character Section is pretty straightforward. After you've added characters, they appear in the overview. Selecting a character goes directly to their profile page which has seven tabs.

The Basic Information tab covers profession, story role, physical descriptions, etc. In the Introduction tab, users enter a one sentence "game-show style" intro as a starting point to layering characters. Extensive examples are available by clicking the Help icon. Answering questions in the Voice tab helps writers develop a unique voice for each cast member. 

The next two tabs dive deeper into a character's personality and what drives them, so they consistently pop off the page. The Characterization tab includes five personality groups categorized into types and has boxes for character specific information such as motivations, flaws, and traits. Novel Factory is at a disadvantage here because it doesn't have a reference thesaurus so users have to go elsewhere to explore flaws, motivations, etc., to add here.

The Questionnaire tab has 197 questions spanning 14 categories. This seems like a lot, but it's a sliver of the possible questions to ask characters. I won't go into depth about these questions, but the Notes tab can be used for additional information and questions. Novices may struggle to answer all the questions and advanced users may not find them in-depth enough.

The Viewpoint Synopsis feature is good for single POV stories, but comes alive for multiple POV stories. After you've generated scenes, boxes are added for each character. Even if you don't have more than one POV, describing scenes from multiple angles can be helpful for important scenes. Besides, doing this fun step can spur new ideas and adds rich layers to your story.

LOCATIONS
Locations is straight forward. The landing page shows your locations at a glance. After you add a location, you're taken to the setting details page which include boxes for Basic Description, Sights, Sounds, Smells, Tastes, Sensations, & Notes. Again, you'll need to look up information for your settings, but user can link to other websites in the Resources tab.

SCENES

In the Scenes section, writers can either automatically generate scenes based on the Extended Synopsis or manually add Scenes and Subplots. Within the Scene Section are seven tabs.

Scenes are viewable as a list or thumbnails.

I found the list view best because it shows the sub-plots as side-by-side lists whereas the thumbnail view doesn't show sub-plots at all. Scene boxes can be moved around, edited, deleted, & added. It's important to note that changes here automatically update in the Scene Synopsis, but users must manually update the Extended Synopsis to reflect changes made. It would benefit users if Novel Factory automatically updated the Extended Synopsis too.

Information in the Overview tab is pulled from the Extended Synopsis when you generated scenes.  Located on the right is the Goal to Decision Cycle. If you're unsure what these are, those wonderful Help icons explains everything & are only a click away.From within this tab, users can also chose an existing character or location as well as add new ones that will automatically be saved to the appropriate section. As expected, the Characters and Locations tabs gives writer an at-a-glance view of the who and where of each scene.

Remember what I said earlier about writing your Extended Synopsis per chapter, not per scene if you automatically generate scenes? The Scene Blocks tab is why. Personally, I think the Scene Synopsis is more of a Chapter Synopsis because Scene Blocks is really where you put individual scenes into chapters.

First, Second, & Final Draft tabs
These tabs are self-explanatory, but there is one drawback for writers who are using scene blocking. The Scene Blocks aren't automatically added to the first draft and users must manually paste them over.

IMPORTING DRAFTS
Let me briefly touch base on the import option. If you've already written a draft, you're able to import it into either of the three draft options. There are some disadvantages to consider when choosing this option. To properly import the manuscript into separate scenes, you must denote breaks with a ### in the manuscript to tell the software where breaks go.

Also, if you've generated scenes in the previous steps, the import will add the manuscript as new scenes. It will not overwrite anything you already have in the scene lists. Users will find themselves with bloated scene lists and the only way to delete them is to go into the scene details, which quickly becomes tedious.

PROS
• At-a-glance tabs makes navigation simple and keeps your information handy.
• Help icons explain each step.
• Customizable story templates.
• Extensive questionnaire for fleshing out characters.
• Automatically saves work and breaks outlines into manageable parts.

CONS
• Users must manually update the Extended Synopsis to reflect changes made to the Scene Synopsis.
• Setup to import drafts is time-consuming.
• Importing drafts adds additional scenes which aren't easily deleted.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Novel Factory makes developing a detailed story blueprint less painful than getting a shot.

Its tabbed navigation and at-a-glance overviews put the world at your fingertips. Customizable templates add the flexibility to work with structures other than the three-act story. The profile builder and questionnaire are good springboards for creating believable characters with depth. Users can track their daily progress in the Statistics section, link to on-line references, and track submissions.

The Novel Factory is mostly geared toward beginners and plotters. The Road map teaches beginners how to plot and holds their hand every step of the way. Plotters will appreciate the software's templates, the ease of planning, and the ability to break outlines into smaller chunks automatically, but may want more structure than the program provides. While too restrictive for hard-core pantsers, it may be a good fit for plansters who want to hone their skills or like a map with flexibility.

Whatever your needs as a writer, it's worth taking a look at The Novel Factory for your novel planning and writing needs.




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