Many people want to write a book but don’t know how to start. Some authors have had problematic reviews for the books they’ve already written.
So what is an author to do?
Well, a ghostwrite is a solution for the novice, but that’s expensive. Really expensive. Maybe they just want to hand the whole project over to a ghostwriter, and that’s a fair solution. Ask for a writing sample and prepare to pay five figures (or more).
But this review is addressed to the novice who wants to do all the writing.
A manuscript evaluation or a developmental edit are certainly necessities for both the new novelist and the novelist who has gotten bad reviews. These services include suggestions for the author. Or there’s a copyedit where the editor points out a plot hole or identifies problems with dialogue.
Maybe the author doesn’t know where to take it from there.
The Novel Factory is an excellent solution for both the novice and the author whose books need help.
What is The Novel Factory?
The Novel Factory is a novel-writing application that allows you to write your book in a structured and logical way by filling in prompts throughout the process.
The Novel Factory is not ChatGPT. You do all the writing. The Novel Factory helps with prompts and organization.
Key Benefits of The Novel Factory
The Novel Factory contains modules explaining key components of a novel—from plot/structure to characterization to geography and more. The software contains a series of prompts, asking authors to fill in the blanks. In fact, the program actually helps you conceptualize the story!
In order to test out this software, I used a draft of one of my police procedural/science fiction crossover novels, Sick Puppies. Sick Puppies is a sequel to A Million Monkeys (on the desk of an editor), and it had stalled. I wasn’t confident that I had a good, cohesive story arc. I wanted to see if The Novel Factory could help.
First things first, though.
Writing a novel is an intimidating task, especially for the newbie. The Novel Factory has a section called How to Write a Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide. This section contains a Roadmap.
It’s a great list if you are an aspiring novelist who doesn’t know where to start. It’s also for you if you have written a novel or two—or more—but have been told your novels need more structure or organization. Indeed, the Roadmap prevents a lot of narrative ills—including loose ends, plot holes, flat characters, characters who all look and act the same, inconsistencies and discontinuities, and similar.
Once you get started in the guts of the software, you see a toolbar on your left. You start at the top and work your way to the end.
The top icon takes you back to the Roadmap itself. The other icons lead you through each point along the Roadmap, which is where the user does the work.
There is a Scene List on the left as a navigation pane to help you keep track of the plot. The Scenes are actually just elements of the Plot Template. There is Related Info on the right in navigation-pane form, such as date and time and weather.
Finally, there is a Statistics icon, which allows you to track your progress.
If you are new to writing, you might need an explanation of each step. And some of the terms in The Novel Factory are their own, so even if you’ve written a lot, you might need an explanation or a reminder.
The Novel Factory has a solution.
The Knowledge Base
The Novel Factory has an excellent and helpful Knowledge Base to educate the new author on the elements of the novel—premise, plot, characterization, and the like—and assist the user in filling out the prompts. Even an experienced author would benefit from a romp through the Knowledge Base, especially given that The Novel Factory has its own terminology.
However, in order to read the Knowledge Base, you have to find it. I only figured out how to do this by playing around with the software. You have to start by clicking the little green person icon on the top right of the screen, and then click Help Manual:
When you click on Help Manual, it takes you to the Knowledge Base:
Understand, you’re clicking on Help Manual, but you only know it’s called the Knowledge Base when you get to the Knowledge Base. Given its importance, the user should be able to identify it and access it in one click.
So off to the races.
The next icon takes you to the Premise and Synopses. In that section, I filled in the blanks. On first glance, this might be seen as “cheating,” since I’ve written 65,000 words about well-established characters. On the other hand, I knew that the book had run off the rails.
I filled out the Premise, the Synopsis, and the remainder of the elements on the page.
But then I wanted to edit them, as one does. This is the second sign that this software isn’t the most user-friendly. There was no obvious edit icon until I hovered the cursor over the top of the prompts.
That said, filling out the Premise, the Synopses, and other prompts started to give focus to Sick Puppies. It was already a better book! The prompts also help you write characters. I hadn’t explicitly set out the character’s chief objectives for this book. When I did so, it actually helped me fix up the plot, because you can’t make a well-drawn character act inconsistently and have the plot work.
The next stop in the Roadmap is plot development.
The Plot Template
The Novel Factory has excellent Plot Templates. On one hand, this is brilliant. Novels often need help with structure, and these Plot Templates head that problem off at the pass.
On the other hand, there are missing genres. There isn’t one for science/speculative fiction, fantasy, or dystopian fiction, and while there is a Plot Template for mysteries, there isn’t one for police procedurals.
One of the purposes of a Plot Template is to show an author how to conform to the expectations of a given genre, and the missing genres have well-defined conventions that cannot be found in any of the other Plot Templates.
Still, you can work off their Universal Template until they add the others.
How do these Plot Templates Work?
The relevant Plot Template gives you headings that act as writing prompts or helps your organize what you have written in the first place. Either one.
Given that there is no science fiction Plot Template, I picked the Universal Template for Sick Puppies. Because I’m so familiar with the conventions of science fiction, I can adapt the Universal Template and fake it.
You are taken to a collection of index cards with the relevant headings described in the Roadmap and defined in the Knowledge Base. You can add index cards, as desired.
So far, after I filled out the Premise, Synopsis, etc., Sick Puppies got a whole lot more focused. Especially since writing the Status Quo helped me see what parts of the draft didn’t work. And then, joy of joys! There’s a subplot organizer!
I would recommend The Novel Factory for anyone who wants to write a novel. But I also would recommend The Novel Factory for books that need help.
In fact, there are books that cross my virtual desk that aren’t ready for editing. For those, I offer a manuscript evaluation or a developmental edit, and The Novel Factory is an excellent next step for an author with an ailing book. The Novel Factory is the perfect practical means of applying an editor’s suggestions related to developmental or structural issues, characterization, and consistency. And, of course, some novels aren’t ready for even a manuscript evaluation, and I will send these authors to The Novel Factory too.
This section allows you to not only create the character but also to fill in the character viewpoint synopsis, backstory, voice, personality, and other elements of character development.
Clicking the Manuscript symbol gives you the list of scene prompts on the left panel to keep you focused. There are cards for date and time, weather, and other elements.
You get an email from The Novel Factory every day. I picked one at random with the subject line Lesson 6: Lesson 6: Let’s outline your first scene. This email does, in fact, consist of a useful lesson on scene blocking, which The Novel Factory describes as
“basically means roughly describing everything that happens in each scene from beginning to end. It should include every action, including rough descriptions of what the characters do, what they say, and where they go.”
There is also a Facebook Page and Writer Resources:
How Much Does The Novel Factory Cost?
The Novel Factory has a free thirty-day trial. After that, the user must subscribe, but there are some choices. What’s more, it’s possible to not only upgrade but downgrade memberships, so that’s a joyful plus.
Pros and Cons of The Novel Factory
As with all things in life, there are pros and cons.
- The Novel Factory gives you a Roadmap to guide them through the writing process.
The Novel Factory helps authors plan, organize, and write a coherent novel that conforms with genre conventions.
- The Novel Factory’s process amounts to a series of writing prompts, which helps prevent writer’s block and keeps the process interesting. In fact, filling out the prompts can be addictive!
- The Novel Factory helps authors focus on the elements of a novel that many authors forget, to the detriment of the book. This prevents inconsistencies in character attributes, dates and times, and objects, for example.
- The Novel Factory is a good place to fix an ailing book, either alone or (better) with the guidance of a developmental edit or a manuscript evaluation.
- The Novel Factory allows you to export your novel to a Word document.
- The Novel Factory will help you write the best novel you can write.
- Finally, there is a risk-free 30-day trial. You don’t even have to enter your credit card information, which is great in case you decide to cancel and miss the deadline, only to find the subscription fee deducted from your bank account. Thus, The Novel Factory’s risk-free 30-day trial doesn’t rope you in to a piece of software before you know whether you like it.
As I’ve alluded to throughout this review, this site is not totally user-friendly, even to the extent that you can’t immediately click to the Knowledge Base and the Writer’s Resources tab doesn’t give you a link to the Facebook page, which you can only discover by finding the FAQs.
Is The Novel Factory the Best Writing Software for You?
If you already know how to find essential content in a nonintuitive location, it’s a great tool. If you are not particularly tech savvy, you’ll find it frustrating until you get the hang of it. Once you do, you’ll find an amazing tool to either write a new novel or fix an ailing one.
I intend to subscribe and use The Novel Factor to fix and finish Sick Puppies and then use it to write the third novel in the series. I also intend to send my manuscript evaluation and developmental editing clients to The Novel Factory to help them with revisions!
All in all, I recommend The Novel Factory.
The Novel Factory Offers a Free 30-day Trial