Friday, February 25, 2011

Writing Software

And, no, I don’t mean writing the programs that make these computers of ours work! That stuff is way beyond me! I’m talking about the programs we use to write our stories, novels, screenplays, etc. But, of course, you knew that already, didn’t you? ;)

I started out like most people- using the word processor on my computer. For a long time, that was Microsoft Word. It works well, actually, as I think most decent word processors would. You can just open a blank page and start typing, or you can use one of the templates provided in the program to format your work. You can even make your own, if you are so inclined, or need a specific format for your writing. I used it for years, and was happy.

Then, I found out that there are people (and companies) out there who make software specifically for writers. Really? Hmmm, I thought, this may need investigating.

One of the popular writing software programs is called Scrivener. Lots of people use it. Only one problem- it’s always been a Mac program, and I am a dedicated Windows user. I won’t get into that debate now, but I am and I don’t see that changing in the near future. Recently, the folks who put out Scrivener (Literature & Latte) have put out a Windows beta version of the program, with the full program slated to go live this year, I believe. I was already using something else (which I will get to in a minute), but as this one is so popular, and the beta is free, I thought I’d give it a try. I downloaded the program, installed it, went through the tutorials, and gave it a shot with a new short piece I was starting. Early last week, I uninstalled it from my computer.

Why? No issues with the program. It worked very nicely and wasn’t particularly buggy, at least with the features I used. I stopped using it because it just wasn’t that much different from what I have been using for a few years now, and without an overwhelming “Wow” reason to change, I decided to stick with the other one.

I’ve been using yWriter, and I like it very much. It’s shareware, so you don’t have to spend any money, but I wasn’t really worried about that. The price tag in the Windows Scrivener wasn’t going to be outrageous ($40 last time I checked) and if I’d liked it well enough, I would have bought it. The main reason is that yWriter works quite well for the way I write, and I really didn’t find Scrivener to be that much of an improvement, or even really much different as far as that goes. Yes, Scrivener is prettier- the cork board looks nice, but yWriter’s storyboard is much the same, just not as fancy looking. Both programs let you work in small “bits” of a story: chapter, scene, etc. Yes, it’s a little easier in Scrivener to look at the story as a whole, but I usually don’t do that until I’ve hit the end of the first draft, so exporting the whole to a readable full document is fine with me. Both keep track of as many or as few details as you want in your work: characters, places, things, timelines, and more. Both keep your word count, of course. There are a few things that are a bit convoluted to figure out for the first time in yWriter (I do wish there was a more comprehensive user manual!), but there’s a lot of help online and once you figure it out, well, you’ve figured it out. All in all, I decided to stick with yWriter.

I hope the folks at Scrivener do well with their Windows version, and I know lots of writers out there swear by it. But if you are looking for a good, no nonsense, no frills writing program, you might give yWriter a try.

(Disclaimer: I get no benefit from liking the software. I am just a satisfied user.)

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