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Preferences for writing software (2 Viewers)

madon

Member
Does anyone have a preference in writing software? I've come to the conclusion that I need organization in my writing life and have begun looking into software to assist me with this. That, of course, led me to Scrivener, Bibisco, YWriter, Manuskript and more. Does anyone have experience with any of these apps? And if so, did they provide good organizational assistance? Or should I simply stick with the old standbys like Word, Libre Office?

Basically, I suppose I'm asking if it's worth learning any of the above mentioned apps for the sake of their built-in organizational tools?
 

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'm a firm believer that Word is the work of Beelzebub himself. Since getting Scrivener, I've not looked back.

That said, everyone is different so I'd recommend trialing as many as you can and deciding for yourself which one works for you. Give each one time though. It's easy to have a 5 minute play and decide that it's not for you but sometimes you need to persevere. When I first tried Scrivener, it seemed very complex so I didn't give it much of a chance. It was years later that I went back to it.

There are a few threads on here discussing it. one example
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
I don't worry about the software, just about the writing. It matters not whether pencil, ballpoint, fountain pen or computer, the only thing that matters is the result...
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
Does anyone have a preference in writing software? I've come to the conclusion that I need organization in my writing life and have begun looking into software to assist me with this. That, of course, led me to Scrivener, Bibisco, YWriter, Manuskript and more. Does anyone have experience with any of these apps? And if so, did they provide good organizational assistance? Or should I simply stick with the old standbys like Word, Libre Office?

Basically, I suppose I'm asking if it's worth learning any of the above mentioned apps for the sake of their built-in organizational tools?

MS Word will carry you from inception to publishing.
However, considering how eBooks have come to dominate the market, I could see writing with Sigil.
Sigil is an excellent eBook builder, free last time I checked, and makes a great platform to write in.
It is also relatively easy to use. I have built an eBook or two with it...but never tried to create a print book with it (not even sure it has this ability.)

Honestly, I have been wondering for the last 5 years why MSWord doesn;t have an eBook builder. It will convert docs to PDFs...why not eBooks?
Right?
 

madon

Member
I don't worry about the software, just about the writing. It matters not whether pencil, ballpoint, fountain pen or computer, the only thing that matters is the result...
I completely agree, but as someone who has always struggled to complete works, I love the idea of having built-in tools to organize and keep track of my thoughts. It's something I think would be useful and beneficial to my workflow.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Does anyone have a preference in writing software? I've come to the conclusion that I need organization in my writing life and have begun looking into software to assist me with this. That, of course, led me to Scrivener, Bibisco, YWriter, Manuskript and more. Does anyone have experience with any of these apps? And if so, did they provide good organizational assistance? Or should I simply stick with the old standbys like Word, Libre Office?

Basically, I suppose I'm asking if it's worth learning any of the above mentioned apps for the sake of their built-in organizational tools?
I wrote a comparison between Scrivener and yWriter.

I use Scrivener to write individual chapters, and it's convenient to keep separate folders and files for the outline, notes, and in the current project PiP and I are working on, out of sequence scenes. I've got a scene sitting out there now which won't come up for three or four more chapters.

Also, it gives me the word count by chapter more conveniently than Word does ... in Word you select everything in a chapter and see the word count of the selection ... which one time led me to accidentally delete a major portion of a chapter and not realize it until I was on my first read-through of the completed manuscript (pre-Scrivener)! Luckily my backup/archive software (ViceVersa) pulled my ass out of the fire on THAT one. :)

Once the manuscript is complete in Scrivener, I export it to Word for my first read through, then save that as an RTF to load into my Proofreading App. After I finish that and EXPORT from my Proofreading App, it goes back into Word for formatting, copyrighting, and publication. So Scrivener is out of the loop after the primary writing is complete.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Why do you do a chapter word count?
Why wouldn't I? I write to spec. If I set out to write a 100K novel, I write a 100K novel. If I set out to write a 3K chapter or a 5K chapter, that's what I write. I don't write bloat (anymore LOL). The way I started out in the business pretty much set me up to write to spec for a lifetime. If you have a budget for the word count of the novel, the chapters are building blocks, and I have a rough idea of how many chapters I'll be writing.

It certainly helps in the decision of if I should include this or that intermediate scene. Should I write the travel, or should they just 'be there'? Have I got too much plot, or too little? Does the scene I'm pondering actually set up some required future element of the story, or not? If it does, how long does it need to be to do its work? Is a 'scene setting' sequence running too long?

I'm at 4K in a chapter. If the next scene is going to be short and fits with the theme of the chapter, there's room for it. If I know it's going to be an extended half-chapter long scene, there's not.

These are things I must decide to write interesting, well-paced fiction, and word count is one metric to provide information.

However, I DO see authors go a bit TOO FAR with word count for their chapter breaks. In reading the first two Sue Grafton, I have to believe that she often broke chapters STRICTLY on word count. Her MC could be picking up a cup of coffee ... next chapter. Now she takes a sip. LOL

Also, from what I read, the trend is towards readers preferring shorter chapters. Knowing the word count in a chapter is pretty much the only way I can figure to keep track of that.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
I've used Word and Excel. I know there are a lot of slick programs out there, but these seem to work well enough for me. I could see a fancier program helping me better organize the random notes in my Notes document, but usually, when I reach the phase where I'm organizing ideas and plotting out my story arcs, I don't even need to look at those notes anymore because I've sorted it all in my head by then anyway--point being, those two platforms are able to get the job done for me.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Within the world of engineering there is a tendency to gravitate toward shiny new tools. Anything new has to be better, right?

Not necessarily. There's a learning curve involved, and the developers of these tools tend not to be hardware engineers (or novelists in our case). As such, they make incorrect assumptions and add complexity to a process that can be easily handled with a paper and pencil. Automated checking can lead to an assumption that the errors detected are valid, when they are not. These applications are sometimes updated, to fix problems that may or may not exist in our view and in so doing cause more problems and add complexity.

My advice is to stick with what works for you. If you're a newbie and want to try out the latest app with lots of shiny bells and whistles, by all means, go for it. Me? I'll stick with Word and Excel because that's what I'm used to. It's about the story, not the tool you use to create it.
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
Why wouldn't I? I write to spec. If I set out to write a 100K novel, I write a 100K novel. If I set out to write a 3K chapter or a 5K chapter, that's what I write. I don't write bloat (anymore LOL). The way I started out in the business pretty much set me up to write to spec for a lifetime. If you have a budget for the word count of the novel, the chapters are building blocks, and I have a rough idea of how many chapters I'll be writing.

It certainly helps in the decision of if I should include this or that intermediate scene. Should I write the travel, or should they just 'be there'? Have I got too much plot, or too little? Does the scene I'm pondering actually set up some required future element of the story, or not? If it does, how long does it need to be to do its work? Is a 'scene setting' sequence running too long?

I'm at 4K in a chapter. If the next scene is going to be short and fits with the theme of the chapter, there's room for it. If I know it's going to be an extended half-chapter long scene, there's not.

These are things I must decide to write interesting, well-paced fiction, and word count is one metric to provide information.

However, I DO see authors go a bit TOO FAR with word count for their chapter breaks. In reading the first two Sue Grafton, I have to believe that she often broke chapters STRICTLY on word count. Her MC could be picking up a cup of coffee ... next chapter. Now she takes a sip. LOL

Also, from what I read, the trend is towards readers preferring shorter chapters. Knowing the word count in a chapter is pretty much the only way I can figure to keep track of that.

You and Ken may be doing your writing a great disservice by keeping such rigid word counts...especially for chapter length.
Writing is an art form, not an assembly line. The best stories come from the heart...not a spreadsheet.
Not only that...but what are you basing your chapter breaks on? There are really no standards for that...and word count is an arbitrary reason to end a chapter.

Ken: You have an impressive list of published work, but your books are only clocking in with 4-star ratings. Dump the artificial word-count limitations and write from the heart, and likely you will pull better numbers. You have the skill to pull 4.5s, but you are allowing artificially imposed word-counts to hold you back.

$0.02
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
You and Ken may be doing your writing a great disservice by keeping such rigid word counts...especially for chapter length.
Writing is an art form, not an assembly line. The best stories come from the heart...not a spreadsheet.
At the end of my comment, I pretty clearly gave an example of dicey adherence to 'rigid word count'. There is a lot of art to writing, but I'll compare it to other art. If a painter can't manage to stay on his canvas, he's wasting his time. If a composer writes a 30-minute piece of music for a ten-minute window, he's wasting his time.

If a writer has no self-control or technical knowledge of what he's doing, he's also wasting his time. (Also her, to be inclusive). I can type away on stories. I'm a touch typist (once over 100 wpm but now typically about 90) and I can fill that screen. I could type 200k or 250K every time out, but I'm not going to. Not that many people WANT to read books that long, and I don't want to write a book that long. Why write one unreadable book when I can write two very good books with the same effort. :)

Even in my first novel, when I got to 80K, I realized that if I wrote my entire remaining synopsis, I'd be writing 125K. I didn't WANT to write 125K, I wanted to write 100K. I reworked the synopsis and cut down on 4th act action, and guess what? Not a single reader knew the difference. Plus, the story was tighter and better for doing that. I can tell when a writer is dragging it out. I'll reference JK Rowling in the last 4 Harry Potter books ... utterly self-indulgent ... and poor books if you hadn't already committed to the story by reading the first three. All four would have been MUCH better books by being trimmed by half (or more).

Writers should keep readers in mind, not only themselves.

So, if I want to write a story in 85K or 100K, I'd better know how many words I'm writing, and I'd better keep track of it along the way so I can pace my story. You may confuse writing to spec with mechanical writing. I don't. I may be lucky, but I can choose a specific word count, write a compelling scene, and if I need to, hit that count on the nose. Everyone who enters challenges here does that, so it's not only me. My one recent failure on writing to spec I'll forgive, because it led to writing a novel instead. LOL
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
At the end of my comment, I pretty clearly gave an example of dicey adherence to 'rigid word count'. There is a lot of art to writing, but I'll compare it to other art. If a painter can't manage to stay on his canvas, he's wasting his time. If a composer writes a 30-minute piece of music for a ten-minute window, he's wasting his time.

If a writer has no self-control or technical knowledge of what he's doing, he's also wasting his time. (Also her, to be inclusive). I can type away on stories. I'm a touch typist (once over 100 wpm but now typically about 90) and I can fill that screen. I could type 200k or 250K every time out, but I'm not going to. Not that many people WANT to read books that long, and I don't want to write a book that long. Why write one unreadable book when I can write two very good books with the same effort. :)

Even in my first novel, when I got to 80K, I realized that if I wrote my entire remaining synopsis, I'd be writing 125K. I didn't WANT to write 125K, I wanted to write 100K. I reworked the synopsis and cut down on 4th act action, and guess what? Not a single reader knew the difference. Plus, the story was tighter and better for doing that. I can tell when a writer is dragging it out. I'll reference JK Rowling in the last 4 Harry Potter books ... utterly self-indulgent ... and poor books if you hadn't already committed to the story by reading the first three. All four would have been MUCH better books by being trimmed by half (or more).

Writers should keep readers in mind, not only themselves.

So, if I want to write a story in 85K or 100K, I'd better know how many words I'm writing, and I'd better keep track of it along the way so I can pace my story. You may confuse writing to spec with mechanical writing. I don't. I may be lucky, but I can choose a specific word count, write a compelling scene, and if I need to, hit that count on the nose. Everyone who enters challenges here does that, so it's not only me. My one recent failure on writing to spec I'll forgive, because it led to writing a novel instead. LOL
I completely agree with @vranger .

Firstly, burying your story beneath a mountain of purple prose is not good writing. I prefer to keep my writing lean and use vivid descriptions where it fits the story. IMO, describing a character as 'a young athletic woman with blonde hair' is enough to paint a picture in the reader's mind, there's no need to give the location of her moles, or go into her family history if it isn't related to the story.

There's also the matter of the market - preferred word count for SciFi (which is mostly what I write) is 80K to 110K. Too short and the readers feel cheated. Too long and it becomes a door stop. I keep mine at 95K - 100K.
 

Visualinotion

Senior Member
I completely agree, but as someone who has always struggled to complete works, I love the idea of having built-in tools to organize and keep track of my thoughts. It's something I think would be useful and beneficial to my workflow.
If you struggle to finish your work, that my friend has nothing to do with the software. Of course being in an environment that fits you will make you more comfortable, but that's it. I use libre office to keep everything simple, for my current novel I have several documents for each thing, but of course that's possible because my head is tiddy in a way that only I can understand. I can find the conversion from a gold coin to the lowest one in a blink of an eye but you would have to read all of it.

Buf again, software is not going to solve your problem. If you can't finish your work my advice is to start small, maybe write a story that you can finish in 1 day. You can build from there, a few very short stories, then some that last 4pages, then a bit longer, then maybe one with several chapters...
 

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Board Moderator
I don't worry about the software, just about the writing. It matters not whether pencil, ballpoint, fountain pen or computer, the only thing that matters is the result...
Whilst I don't disagree entirely, the tool used can have an effect on productivity.

As an example, I've spent the last 20+ years writing process notes using MS Word and, more recently, Google Docs. I hate both but have no choice as that's what my employer provides my but I'll be damned if I'm going to use either for my personal writing. If I had, I doubt I'd have written a 10th of what I have done.

So I'd correct your statement just a little to 'the main thing that matters is the result...'
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Currently, Google docs and good ol' fashioned notebook and flash cards for plotting/ ideas. Maybe one day I will invest in scrivener, but I like scribbling in notebooks and writing on flash cards more than plotting on my computer 🤷‍♂️
i write my stories with a computer tho, cuz god bless my handwriting...

I think its more important to know how you want to go about organizing your work than with what. All depends on the person and what they are looking for :)
 
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Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
At the end of my comment, I pretty clearly gave an example of dicey adherence to 'rigid word count'. There is a lot of art to writing, but I'll compare it to other art. If a painter can't manage to stay on his canvas, he's wasting his time. If a composer writes a 30-minute piece of music for a ten-minute window, he's wasting his time.

If a writer has no self-control or technical knowledge of what he's doing, he's also wasting his time. (Also her, to be inclusive). I can type away on stories. I'm a touch typist (once over 100 wpm but now typically about 90) and I can fill that screen. I could type 200k or 250K every time out, but I'm not going to. Not that many people WANT to read books that long, and I don't want to write a book that long. Why write one unreadable book when I can write two very good books with the same effort. :)

Even in my first novel, when I got to 80K, I realized that if I wrote my entire remaining synopsis, I'd be writing 125K. I didn't WANT to write 125K, I wanted to write 100K. I reworked the synopsis and cut down on 4th act action, and guess what? Not a single reader knew the difference. Plus, the story was tighter and better for doing that. I can tell when a writer is dragging it out. I'll reference JK Rowling in the last 4 Harry Potter books ... utterly self-indulgent ... and poor books if you hadn't already committed to the story by reading the first three. All four would have been MUCH better books by being trimmed by half (or more).

Writers should keep readers in mind, not only themselves.

So, if I want to write a story in 85K or 100K, I'd better know how many words I'm writing, and I'd better keep track of it along the way so I can pace my story. You may confuse writing to spec with mechanical writing. I don't. I may be lucky, but I can choose a specific word count, write a compelling scene, and if I need to, hit that count on the nose. Everyone who enters challenges here does that, so it's not only me. My one recent failure on writing to spec I'll forgive, because it led to writing a novel instead. LOL

Write how you choose.
I bring it up because once upon a time I wrote that way. I adhered to strict word limits because of urban myths I heard from some randos. Ruined my first book that way. Could never get my ratings above 4 stars...
But once I threw out the word limits and just wrote the story that needed to be written, my ratings went up. Now most of my books have 4.5 star ratings.
Writing is an artform, but managing it as tightly as you advocate is more science than art. Writing isn't twitter...there is no character limit. Write the best story you can, and if that takes 125k words, then so be it.
 
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