This past week I coached two clients on using Scrivener for their writing projects. Many of the people participating in Nanowrimo are using the Scrivener program because there's a special deal offered by the Office of Letters and Light. Oddly enough, my clients weren't doing Nano or writing novels. One person, a psychologist, was writing a non-fiction book and the other was writing her dissertation.
I've really enjoyed using Scrivener for new projects because with it you can lay your information out in both linear and non-linear formats. I was using the corkboard feature this year to brainstorm about character names and locations for my story. You can also collect related photos and research articles and include them all in the same document.
I used to use a brainstorming program called Three By Five which was like laying out index cards with ideas. You could color code the cards, transform your ideas into an outline and print everything out in different sizes. That program survived three computer upgrades before I (sadly) had to retire it. Then I digressed to colored sticky notes on white pieces of paper spread out on the living room floor.
More recently I found a program called Scapple. It's a simple tool, but it works much better for brainstorming than Three by Five. You create balloons and you can connect them in whatever way you want. You can even connect things in multiple ways. There's color coding and font choices. For this time around it was a great way to organize my initial thoughts and figure out what choices I needed to make about my story.