MetaWrite Tech Writing

MetaWrite for Writing Books

Still Using a Horseless Carriage (a Word Processor)?

The first automobiles added engines to horse-drawn carriages, but did little else to improve transportation. Today’s word processors are like software horseless carriages — but there is an alternative.

While great for formatting, word processors fail to unleash the computer’s full potential to assist the author’s work: manuscript creation and revision.

MetaWrite is a game-changing improvement over word processors for people that create big manuscripts with structure, ideas, and relationships. Examples: novels, biographies, histories, plays, literary criticism, or technical writing.

This blog post will not describe how to use MetaWrite, but will provide a bit of insight into our view that for long literary works, a literary database is a more useful representation than is the word processor’s representation, which is, essentially, a list of words.

A Project is made up of manuscript Items (having roles, Book, Chapter, or Scene, for example) and meta data Items (having roles, Character, Note, or PlotLine, for example).

MetaWrite allows an author to capture auxiliary information about the manuscript (meta data), before, during, and after writing the manuscript text. An information-rich MetaWrite project is easier to create and easier to navigate. It’s easier to find things using MetaWrite, to try out changes to the manuscript. All of this contributes to much easier manuscript revision.

Each Item has a Title identifying the Item, a Role describing how the Item is used, Text, the editable, textual part of the Item, and Tags, which provide more information about the Item.

Items also are related to other Items through the Items’ Content and Relations:

Content is the list of other Items that are part of this Item. For example: Books have Chapters as Content, Chapters have Scenes as Content, and so on.

Relations are relationships between Items. For example: a certain Scene Item might have a POV Relation, to the Character Item, Mary.

The author decides what Roles, Tags, and Relations are used, so MetaWrite works the way the author wants, to support the way the author thinks about the work, and what the author determines is important.

A small portion of MetaWrite’s Desktop Tab

MetaWrite is currently in active testing. We hope to release the first production version within months. In the meantime, feel free to contact Steve Beisner at if you have any thoughts, criticism, or questions.

To subscribe to MetaWrite’s (low frequency!) email list and receive information about MetaWrite’s status and availability, send an email to with “SUBSCRIBE” in the title or body.

MetaWrite will be available this Fall at, or by contacting