Scrivener Too Expensive? Try the Free Writing Software yWriter (Video Tutorial)

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with various writing software and have always found them wanting. I’d pretty much given up on the hope of finding a program that would meet my needs as a writer… and then someone introduced me to yWriter.

yWriter was designed by author and programmer Simon Haynes, who saw the same needs I saw in my own writing life and was able to use his programming expertise to put together one humdinger of a program.

Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K.M. WeilandyWriter in the quintessential organizer for writers. It allows you to see your scenes, chapters, characters, settings—and just about anything else you can think of—all at a glance. As an extensive outliner, I’ve found it particularly helpful in organizing my mountains of eventually undecipherable scrawl into neat, easily accessible notes.

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve moved on to using Scrivener instead (cost: $60), which is basically yWriter on steroids. It does everything yWriter does and more, but it does have a steeper learning curve.

And the best part about yWriter? It’s free for the downloading!

yWriter is very user friendly and self-explanatory for the most part. However, several people who have fallen prey to my gushing about its attributes and who have downloaded it for themselves, have asked that I provide a quick yWriter tutorial. Below, I’ve provided both a video and a transcript, which will walk you through the basic features.

yWriter Tutorial

1. Start out by clicking Project in the main taskbar, then New Project Wizard. This will take you through the steps of naming and saving your document.

New Project Wizard in yWriter Writing Software

2. Then click Chapter and Create New Chapter. The new chapter will appear in the field on the left. You can start out by typing in the chapter’s name and a brief description.

New Chapter in yWriter Writing Software Tutorial

3. Click the name of the chapter you just created. Then go up to the main taskbar, click Scene and Create New Scene. This will bring up a pop-up window, in which you can type all your scene info. By clicking through the tabs, you can keep track of POV details, characters, the time during which your scenes take place, the goals of your characters, and your scene status (outline, 1st draft, 2nd draft, etc.), among other things.

Scene Box in yWriter Writing Software Tutorial

4. You can add characters, locations, and items by clicking on the appropriate buttons in the main taskbar.

Characters in yWriter Writing Software Tutorial

And there you have it. That’s the program in a nutshell. Now you will be able to see all your chapters and scenes at a glance and easily click through your outline to find any particular scene. The program also features other neat gizmos, such as a storyboard feature (found under the Tools heading), which allows you to see how much “screen time” your various POV characters are getting.

Storyboard Feature in yWriter Writing Software Tutorial

yWriter puts all your information right at your fingertips. It’s so much better than flipping through piles of notebook—and it’s a lot more fun too!

You can download the software free of charge here.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What writing software do you prefer? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


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Scrivener Too Expensive? Try the Free Writing Software yWriter (Video Tutorial)

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. awesome! Thanks for this post Katie. I will be checking that out!

  2. I’ve looked at some writing software, but have shied away from them, not sure if they really worked well. So thanks for the thumbs up. I think I may give it a try!

  3. Never heard of this! But you’ve perked my interest. I’ll have to pursue it a bit further! Thanks!

  4. Nice looking tutorial! Would it be okay if I shared the link to the youtube video on the yWriter group & the main yWriter 5 webpage?

  5. I have yet to find a writing program I like, or works for me, so I will certainly try this one out. Thanks for posting the information.

  6. Going to try it. I’ve been dissatisfied with my note-taking process to date.

  7. Glad you all found the tutorial helpful!

    @Simon: Thanks for reading! Yes, it would be more than fine for you to use the video link!

  8. As I mentioned to you on Twitter, I checked out yWriter as soon as you first posted about it. I’ve been using it for several days now and am crazy about it!
    What a great tool. No more note cards sprawled all over my desk. I love that it tracks how many words I type each day and how many more I need to write each day to stay on track.
    Your post on this tool was a true gift for someone like me!

  9. I’m always thrilled when I manage to convince someone to share my fanaticism for yWriter! 😀 It really is fabulous. In the past, I always kept my notes in piles of notebooks and it was nigh on impossible to find what I was looking for. So much was lost. But no longer!

  10. Just tried yWriter and I love it! I’m putting a post about it on my blog, too.

  11. Yay! Spread the word!

  12. Annie Lynn says

    Speaking from someone who learns way better from seeing than hearing, thanks for making a video on yWriter.

  13. I had a lot of fun putting the video together. Stay tuned in the next couple months: I’m planning to start a video blog in addition to Wordplay’s written posts.

  14. Hi Friend,
    Congratulations for this nice looking blog. In this post everything about Web Development. I am also interested in latest news, sometimes i posted on Customized application development

  15. Wow, thanks for the great demonstration of how it works. I probably wouldn’t have given it any thought, but it really does look helpful. I don’t write with much of an outline, but I can see this helping a ton in the revision process–keeping everything on track and the like. Thanks again for pointing out this great (Free!) software and for giving the tour.

  16. It’s the best software I’ve run across. My one must-have for writing. I’m happy to spread the word!

  17. I browsed through your blog and came across this post two weeks ago. I went away and downloaded ywriter. I am not back to give my verdict. I love it! It has helped me so much. I am only using the basics, but oh the joy of being organised.
    Thanks for the information. I will probably blog about it on my author blog soon and will link back here. Thanks again.

  18. Thanks so much for the link! I’m always thrilled to find a new convert to my favorite software!

  19. I just discovered yWriter a few days ago and I am seriously over the moon about it. It has helped me get organized and makes me want to get my ideas down. I’m finally on the road to getting my first book completed and it feels great. Thanks for the video tutorial which was a great quick start guide.


  20. “Over the moon” pretty much describes my initial reaction to it as well. So glad you discovered and enjoyed it.

  21. E.Anne Knight says

    I stumbled across your tutorial on YWriter just when I needed it. Decided to give it a try after pulling it from the AlternativeTo website. I’m liking it so far, but I’ve noticed that it completely chews apart any prior formatting I may have had if I import a current work into the program. Any tips on fixing that?

  22. You know, I really don’t know on that one. I don’t import my own work, so I’ve never really messed with that aspect. You might want to zap the programmer Simon Haynes an email. If there’s a fix, he’ll know it.

  23. The formatting options aren’t as advanced in yWriter as they are on Word – which is one of the reasons I prefer to write my drafts outside of yWriter. You can indent by hitting the tab button. Only way to double space that I know of is to do it by hand.

  24. Although I’d like to use Scrivener, aside from being expensive, it’s also not compatible with Chromebook. yWriter sounds like it’ll be great for me but would the software work on a Chromebook?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ah, that’s stinky. I didn’t realize the Chromebook didn’t run a standard OS. I have to say I doubt that yWriter will run on Chromebook if Scrivener doesn’t. yWriter is Windows only.

    • Scriptito is a pretty decent writing application in Chromebook , but I sure wish we could also access Ywriter or Scrivener there.

  25. Jessica Salmonson says

    The last time I tried this program I couldn’t enter anything as I didn’t know much anything about the world, the characters, or goals, nor outline of any kind, just a mish-mash of notes everywhere… Well, I still do that, but am trying to organize it and landed on this article. YESS, perfect!

    This is why I like to do way deep into blogs you don’t know what gems of info or programs, website links, or eye-openers you’ll find. I’d forgotten about this program and am glad it still works! There are probably lots of new writers in your blog that don’t know about this program so re-posting this post would help them. 🙂

  26. Jessica Salmonson says

    Ugg. I really wish we could edit our comments! Dang you spell checker!


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