Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing Software: It takes a Village?

A friend of mine recently got a free trial of Scrivener. She raved about how great it was in helping her organize her thoughts for her current WIP.

I myself do this while I revise:


It's an insane compilation of note cards, color-coded outlines, and sticky notes. A huge mess, but it's worked so far.

But what about using software for all this? After a brief but dizzying internet search, I found countless—and I do mean countless—software applications for novel and screenwriting. Here are a few links before I gave up because there were just too many.

Scrivener 2.0 for Mac
New Novelist
Character Pro
Writer's Cafe
Write it Now
Storyis

Many of these applications have free trials, and they boast a bunch of features such as:
  • ability to edit multiple documents
  • easy ways to take notes, like on a corkboard
  • files to put random snippets, picts, ideas
  • outlining program
  • electronic sticky notes
  • writing references (grammar, thesaurus, dictionary, etc)
  • novel templates
  • text analysis
  • read back and dictation
I find this all very dizzying. I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge.

Have you ever thought of using a software program to write?

67 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I used one program (free) for awhile, but in order to take advantage of all the features, you had to (gasp) input the data. So yeah, you could have these wonderful character profiles and time lines and lists of characters in each scene, but you had to ENTER all that information. I want something that Finds my character's names on pages 2, 4, and 6 and inserts them into the outline/scene list by itself...of course a program that spiffy probably costs more than I want to spend!

J. L. Jackson said...

I tried a few programs, but nothing fit with my writing style. I don't feel the grammar programs are up to par, though.

D U Okonkwo said...

This does sound very good, but I think I'll stick to the old fashion way of paws to keyboard :o)

mooderino said...

I've tried most of the ones you mention. The trouble I find is that they tend to have one or two features you find useful, and a bunch of other bloatware to make it seem value for money (dictionary, thesaurus, stopwatch, scrapbook, writing prompts etc., etc.).

I use writers cafe because it has the best pin board/index card system for planning out storylines, and MS Word for pretty much everything else. All the extra features seem kind of gimmicky and I don't use them more than once or twice.

They do organise stuff well, but none of them capture the feel of making notes/corrections on paper in your hands.

mood
Moody Writing

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thick I'll stick to what I know best.

Have a good day.
Yvonne.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

I've tried a number of different programs. Honestly, a good word processor (Word, LibreOffice, iWorks) seems to be the best. Simplicity does more for me than huge programs.

Liza said...

It sounds like fun...but I'm afraid the ramp up time would delay the writing time.

Susan Fields said...

I gave serious thought to using one of these programs before, but ultimately the thought of trying to figure it all out was enough to discourage me from even trying. So I'm still a laptop and notepad kind of girl. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've thought about trying one out, and one of my friends swear by the one she uses (I can't remember what it is), but ultimately I'm fine with creating files on Word for all my preplanning. I have my way of doing things, and it might not exist in the software package.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I just use Word. Sometimes I leave notes for myself right in the manuscript. Sometimes I create a new file (like 'Untitled Fantasy - Notes' for my WIP) and jot down things I think might be important. I also leave myself sticky notes and cover printed pages with red ink. :shrug: it's my process

Kelly said...

I think it would be good for organization. I have so many spiral notebooks, manila folders with all kinds of writing material that is bound to get lost at some point!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I am a man of high hopes and low tech. Sigh. I feel more comfortable with my tangible, visible, and comfortable corkboard and sticky notes! As always, a fun, helpful post. I think I'll look at some of those links to see if I am brave enough to test those choppy, cyber waters. LOL. Roland

Paul S said...

Interesting!
With all the new technology that's available I was curious if any of you writers or anyone you know still uses a traditional typewriter ?

Lynn said...

I have considered using a writing software but know there are features in my word program that I can utilize that do the same thing. I just need to take time to learn it all. As for Paul's comment, I heard a radio interview recently of a dad whose teen uses a typewriter and all his friends never text or use the computer. There may be a revolt against technology brewing!

Lindsay said...

I used to use Microsoft Word before I got my Mac at Christmas. Now, for drafting, I use Scrivener 2.0 for Mac. I send edits in Word (easier to send to the CPs), but Scrivener formats it for me.

I just like the way I can go straight to a specific chapter without searching for it.... or saving ten million separate word documents. And all my research is in one place.

Saying that, I do like to print off a hardcopy of my MS and attack it in pen. There's nothing like holding it in your hands, ripping it to shreds with coloured pens and sticking post-it notes all over! :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I bought a Mac because of all the great stuff I'd heard about Scrivener. I still haven't bought it! After I finish research for my next project, I think I will.

Janet Johnson said...

I'm a Word girl, too. True we have messes like you showed, but I kindof like that stuff.

Maybe someday I'll move forward, but for now I'm good. :)

Linda Gray said...

I got the Scrivener free trial a while back and did a readthrough of it. V. impressive. Then I got distracted by deadlines and the rest was history re getting organized with an online writing software. But I've heard great things abt. Scrivener and plan to go back to it. One comment I thought was interesting: it's not great for people who write linearly.

Dana said...

I'm a total Mac girl, and just started using Scrivner with my latest WIP. I really enjoy it. It's nice to have all of my research, scene cards and writing in one place. I haven't tried every feature, but it feels worth the $40, or whatever it was, to me. However, one of my writnig buddies had some ridiculous program for Windows that asked a bunch of questions and tried to write up character sketches and such for you. It looked terrible. He seemed to like it, but I thought it was ridiculously clunky. I think a good program can be useful for organization, but nothing is going to beat butt in chair time. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

After reading raves about Scrivener, I gave it a try. Alas, it wasn't for me. But it gave me an idea to try for my next project. I'm hopeful :)

PS...my revisions look like yours.

Catherine Denton said...

Not sure I'm ready to hand my baby over to software. I prefer the pen and post-it note method.
My Blog

Old Kitty said...

I can just about handle word 2007 and windows 7! LOL!! but thank you for these handy links though - I may try scrivener in the future but not now - I kind of like the post it notes and mad scribbling everywhere! Take care
x

Matthew MacNish said...

This is just my opinion, but I don't think these kind of things are necessary.

I was discussing producing music on a computer with a musician friend of mine once, and he made a great point.

"Music should be heard, not seen," he said.

Shallee said...

I've tested Scrivener, and it is indeed very awesome. However, I have a process already worked out for how I write and edit, and I like the way it works for me. So I just stick to my Microsoft Word.

lbdiamond said...

I'm hesitant to use the software too. For some reason, I like to hold the pages in my hand and physically manipulate them.

Let me know how it goes if you take the plunge!

Munk said...

I use Word and Excel with color coding and memory tags for easy search).
I do write short snippets on post-its, but dump them into my ideas log frequently.
I find most "easy to use" software packages too inflexible for my taste.

Feywriter said...

I'd really like to try out Scrivener now that they have a Windows version. Heard so many good things. My current process is a dozen different Word and Excel documents per manuscript, with various notes and name lists and research. Would be nice to have a way to better organize it and have it all in one place so I don't' have to open five documents every time I go to write.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I've tried Scrivener a bunch of times but can't get into it. Instead, I use YWriter which is 100% free and has a more plain interface. I use it for outlining, mainly. Being able to move scenes around is great.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I use Scrivener for Windows (in beta right now). It really helped me with organization. I had stuff everywhere: post-its, napkins, some on the computer, etc.

I took a week but I moved it all over. Now, I'm just a click away from the information I need.

Right now, I'm using it as a file cabinet for my WIP. I may write the next one in Scrivener.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Many thanks for the lovely comment,
Very much appreciated,

Yvonne.

Kristin Rae said...

I started using Scrivener a couple months ago and I like it. It's a little tricky to learn (and I'm still learning more about it as I spend the time to learn about it), but for me, it beats all the notecards and scribbles, because everything is in one place. And when you export to print or save to pdf or word, it auto formats it in manuscript form for you, the way agents want to see it.

Another feature that I use is the option for it to fill up your whole screen, so all you see is your page and black on the sides. No instant messages, no email... just you and your work. No distractions. I LOVE that I can do that.

Krispy said...

I'd like to try one of these out at some point since I myself am a woefully unorganized person. On the other hand, I always want to be super organized, but it somehow always gets messy. So I don't know if something like this will make it better or worse. Haha.

Heather said...

I have thought about it, especially since a lot of my friends use Scrivener. I just haven't taken the plunge yet. Thank you for the links, perhaps it's time I checked a few out...

Raquel Byrnes said...

I'm actually Beta testing the windows version of Scrivener and I have to say...I'm in love with it.

Plus the tech support is over the top awesome.

Can't wait for the full version. I like the index cards that you can move around on the corkboard.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

notesfromnadir said...

I like your picture w/ the post it notes & the handwritten notes in the margins. It works for me, too! :)

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I use Scrivener and love it! Now I can't imagine going back to Word. When it comes to revisions, I prefer to do that by hand as well.

February Grace said...

Oh, Lydia, I love your post it notes. Later on I'll try to post a picture on FB of the notebook (with little page flags and ink color coded by character) that I'm using for my WIP.

Many of the notes in it were written with both eyes shut (when one is stitched up they both hurt :~( while I was recovering from my last eye surgery- couldn't do that with software.

I was listening to the book on a Natural Reader created Mp3 on my iPod and then scribbling fixes in that notebook, and I was amazed later on that they actually made sense. I've used them ALL.

What I wish I had was something that I could copy/paste my manuscript into that would properly reformat it for submission. I think I'm going to have to hire it done this time- my eyesight and joints just make it too difficult for me to fathom the idea of retyping the entire thing. I'd make more typos (and risk missing them with my vision) than I'd do anything else.

Frustrating. If you try a program though please let us know how you liked it. The only one I've ever used is Final Draft (for script writing) but I can't seem to make heads or tails (ha, I first typed 'tales'!) out of using their manuscript feature. *sigh*

~bru

Theresa Milstein said...

I haven't thought of using a software problem. I just tackle one problem at a time in my WIP. I go through it with one thing in mind. When I'm done, I tackle the next thing. You're obviously way more advanced than me. What a picture!

nutschell said...

I love Ywriter! it's created by a computer programmer, who also happens to be a writer. The best thing about it is that its FREE!
nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

-E- said...

i write with a pen then type it out with a typewriter. i just don't feel creative in front of a computer screen.

Sarah said...

Whoa. I get so overwhelmed by even the idea of using software. I'm sure it would probably help, but it would take awhile to get used to.

strawberry Princess said...

i'm not a writer not even close to one hehe, but i guess if ever i am i'm going to stick to the old fashion AKA traditional way of writing.

smile

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I'll keep doing it the old fashioned way as well.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Hi, Thanks for the comment, I love music and musicals and I simply adored this, saw it on video, when I picked out my 26 words for the A to Z I heard Xanadu quite a few times on the radio.

Yvonne.

Nas Dean said...

Oh, change is so hard! I'll stick to the word!

Nas Dean said...

Oh, change is so hard! I'll stick to the word!

Nas Dean said...

Oh, change is so hard! I'll stick to the word!

storyqueen said...

I hate change. I had a very hard time getting to know the new Word. I can't imagine doing it if I didn't have to!


Shelley

Trisha said...

I use Scrivener for Mac, and it's SO much cheaper than getting an MS Office suite ;)

LTM said...

meh... not really. I have to say, though, I used that online thing that starts buzzing when you sit staring into space too long to start my last MS. I got an agent from it... the MS, not the buzzing software.

I just sit down and write. Too many distractions, and I"m off playing~ :D

Rachel Walsh said...

I use Scrivener and I adore it. It gives me a complete overview of my WIP in a single glance, and moving scenes around to see how they fit elsewhere is a cinch. It might not be for everyone, but it is a very good fit with the way I write and revise.

Karen Lange said...

It has crossed my mind but I haven't researched it much. Now that I am into my WIP, I'm thinking some help might be in order. Although your method looks very similar to mine. :) Thanks for the info!
Have a good weekend,
Karen

Stephen Tremp said...

I took a couple C+ courses in college. Then HTML classes on line. It takes a special brain to write code and I'm just not that type. Let someone else do it, that's my motto.

Emily Rose said...

Wow, that is a lot of ink on paper. Good luck with your editing.:)

Jonene Ficklin said...

Lydia, I love seeing how you do it! Whether with software or with notes and colored ink, keeping organized seems to be quite a bit of work. It's a good thing we love writing! : ) I've been using The Snowflake Method and I really like it, but I've been hearing a lot about Scrivener. I just might have to check it out.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I have heard of Scrivener, but haven't tried it or even seen how it works. Maybe I am old fashioned, I prefer sticking to the Word.

Rekha said...

I think sticking to good old Ms Word as a journal and basic spell check is enough...though I like the idea of files and novel templates...

Erin Cole said...

Hi Lydia,

I think there are two kinds of writers: those that work with paper, sticky notes, index cards, etc. like yourself, and those that need a more organized structure for outlining a novel, like me.

I posted about my process here if you are interested: http://erincolelive.blogspot.com/2011/04/secrets-revealed.html

It's a simple table, in excel, could be word, and it has helped me tremendously.

Jai Joshi said...

I can't be bothered with all those software programs. Technology in moderation is good but learning a whole new load of software just to revise when I can revise just as well the old fashioned way sounds far to labour intensive.

Jai

E. Arroyo said...

I tried one but didn't stick with it. I move things around and have to see it all out in front of me. It's chaotic and the computer cannot read chaos. I'll stick with my story board, stickies and notes.

Phoenix said...

Technology HATES me (I'm not joking, it's anthropomorphic when it comes to me) so I think I'll stick with my handy-dandy post-it system, thank you very much!

Jodi MacArthur said...

Your editing notes are colorful and cute! I'm curious if you edit your shorts & novels the same way? I always edit my flashes and shorts on Word. But novels it took me a long time to figure out a process I felt comfortable with. Mainly because of organization. I tried a software program or two like above, but it was too organized! ;-) And then I realized it was also because I didn't feel comfortable using the computer for longer works. I needed to print out like you did above and get close and personal with the ms. I finally ended up creating my own entire system and love it. Cool post as always!

Lynda R Young said...

Personally I prefer tools that take me away from the computer. Thus, I love my whiteboard. I'm at the computer too much as it is ;)

India Drummond said...

I used Writer's Cafe when I wrote Ordinary Angels, but for my next books, I've sort of developed my own system that works for me.

I *would* recommend Writer's Cafe though... but I find my systems change with every book.

India Drummond

Shelley Munro said...

I haven't tried any of these writing programs. Over the years I've developed a system that works for me. The problem is that I don't do a lot of preplanning. I work out things as I go while I think these programs work better for those who plot.

L'Aussie said...

I'm pretty techno but I found Scrivener too finniky and love my Word now that I've learned how many features it has, like bookmarking etc and Track Changes for editing/critiquing etc. Love it.

Denise<3

Dawn Kurtagich said...

I switched to scrivener and I love it :D It helps me to break apart my MS without the collage all over my floor and walls heehee :D

 
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