The Right Tool for Writing

All writers use tools. For storytelling, it’s a necessity. Way back when that tool might have been your voice, your presence, and your memory — when all tales were told orally. Then it was pens and paper, then typewriters, and now computers.

There’s a difference between tools. Sometimes the difference is subtle; often, it’s not subtle at all. I can open a can of soup with a screwdriver and a hammer and get the job down, but it’s slower, messier, and less elegant than using a can opener. I can write a novel — if I had to — with a purple crayon and a pad of cheap paper, but I’d prefer not to.

Tools matter. The better suited the tool for the task, the more it just gets out of your way and lets the creative process flow. That’s what I want when I’m writing: a tool that does everything I need it to do, in exactly the way I want to do it.

That can be tough for a writer, because the task of writing a novel isn’t simple or linear… and yet most of us still use a ‘linear’ tool: the word processor. It’s a pretty good tool, but I’m not sure it’s the best one.

I think I may have found the best one for me, and you can’t imagine how happy that makes me feel. Here’s what I wrote a few weeks back in my blog when I found it:

************

Oh, I’d had ‘relationships’ beforehand: with black pens, almost exclusively, sometimes plain Bics and the occasional fling with a fountain pen. Then there were typewriters with whom I shacked up for a time: the Smith-Corona 2001, the IBM Selectric — but I knew all along that I wouldn’t stay faithful to them because I never really enjoyed our intercourse. I did it because I had to do it…

Then I threw them all over for the world of computers, and I realized that there were better ways to fling words at paper. My first affair there was with MacWrite, but I abandoned her quickly for the allure of the powerful: Microsoft Word. Her, I married… because I was certain that I had found the love of my life.

The two of us were married for a long time. A couple decades. I think there was genuine love between us back in those early years — a joy in producing work together: of weaving words, of cutting and pasting, of spellchecking. But Ms. Word… well, like many of us, as time went on, she lost her figure. She became… bloated. She started taking interest in things that had nothing to do with me. She started lecturing me, she started offering to help me when I didn’t need help. She wanted to be more than just my word processor. I tolerated it for a long time — all her expensive ‘updates’ and makeovers, all of her changes.

But I was slowly falling out of love with her, and by the end — a few years ago — I was only tolerating her, afraid to leave but not enjoying my time with her and thinking about how nice it might be to leave her behind to seek our own ways. I confess that I started seeing other word processors behind her back: Mellel, Mariner Write, Appleworks, Pages, TextEdit, AbiWord, Nisus…

Ah, Nisus… She was — and still is — a beauty. She felt good. She was young and lithe, she seemed to know just what I wanted in a word processor. She was affordable. I took the plunge: I left Ms. Word and I went to Nisus, and she took me in. And we were happy — things were like I remembered them, long ago. Novels came, and short stories. We talked of marriage and commitment.

But… I had been hearing about this other program for a time. Whispers in conversations about something…. different. A few friends were using her, this stranger: Scrivener. And I listened to them raving about her, and I wondered. I even downloaded her once and played with her furtively on my computer while Nisus wasn’t running. I found her intriguing, but I never really went beyond a few quick kisses and fondlings. We never quite became intimate, and after a few days, I deleted her, thinking “No, I shouldn’t do this. Nisus is good to me…”

But I kept hearing her name, now and again. And when another person I know mentioned her and sang her praises, I was intrigued again, and downloaded her once more and loaded in the current work-in-progress and really tried her. And all through the process I was saying “Wow!” and “This is neat” and “Yes!”

I realized that I had gone to Nisus because she was familiar: she reminded me of when Ms. Word had been young and vital. But Scrivener…. Scrivener was something else entirely. She would be whatever I wanted her to be. She was interested in what I was doing; she thought the way I did.

Right now, I’m in that wonderful honeymoon of a new relationship. We’re still discovering things about each other — wonderful things, for the most part — and learning how we each fit together. I haven’t yet come across those flaws that at first seem endearing but later turn into skin-flaying irritations. But…

I’m thinking right now that perhaps she’s the One. And it’s a good feeling.

***************

I’m still in the honeymoon three weeks on. I’m convinced this is the right tool — for me, anyway. The program was well worth the learning curve (which wasn’t all that steep, frankly — if you’re using other current programs on the Mac, you’ll understand the interface fairly intuitively.)

The right tool. It feels so good to use. But the right tool for me may not be the right tool for you — and I’ll admit I’m always looking for something that might be ever-so-slightly better. I’m fickle that way.

So…. what’s your “Right Tool for Writing”?

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  1. 1. LJCohen

    I’ve looked at some of the writer’s tools, but for my day to day writing, I use open office. I like that it can be just a ‘plain jane’ word processor, it’s less bloated than word, and it’s open source. *and* the portable version can live happily on my USB key.

    For planning a novel, I am a wiki devotee. I’ve used several wikis, PBwiki (you can get a free private wiki) and not tiddlywiki (which is a javascript based program that lives on a hard drive or usb key, not the net.

    It appeals to the geek in me because you can customize it. Not everyone will like that, but I do love to tinker. I tweaked a version into something I call ‘tiddlywikiwrite’ and have blogged about it here. http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/search/label/TiddlyWikiWrite

    Free to any and all good homes. It’s basically a virtual note card system with the advantages of tagging and searching.

    Can you tell us more about why you like scriviner?

  2. 2. ChrisTopher

    Hey S.L.,
    Not relevant to the topic at hand, but relevant just the same: I just wanted to congratulate you on this mornings post at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist where you got a shoutout and a boost from George R.R. Martin.

    http://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/2008/01/nfl-showdown-grrm-vs-pat-verdict.html

  3. 3. David de Beer

    I’ve heard people raving about Scrivener as well, and it does look pretty. But you need a Mac don’t you?

    anyways, I’ve been using Page4 recently, to do my draft work in, and because it saves everything as rtf, I can re-read or re-edit in Word still.
    it’s working for me, Page4 is handier to work in than Word is. A lot. But there are things it doesn’t appear to be able to do, stupid things like adding headers to the pages.
    Or maybe I just don’t know how, but anyways, I find this much easier to skip back and forth between programs and it’s got everything I want from Word, just neater.

  4. 4. S.L. Farrell

    Yeah — Scrivener is Mac-only, though I do notice that they recommend Page 4 for Windows users, so I assume there are some similarities between the programs.

    With Scrivener, you ‘compile’ the manuscript into .doc or .rtf format after you finish — it automatically puts in the headers for you in the compiled manuscript. Don’t know if that’s what happens in Page 4 or not…

  5. 5. Kristine Smith

    I’ve mentioned this before on other lists where Scrivener was discussed–I had problems opening files complied using an old version after I upgraded to a newer version. After the upgrade. Scrivener asked me if I wanted to work through the tutorial, because I had obviously never used it before. Except I had–my files were complied under an older version. I couldn’t open them via Scrivener directly, so I opened them through Document, at which point Scrivener asked me if I wanted to update my old files. I was then warned that I could not try to reopen the updated files with an older version in the future. If I did, Scrivener would update the files again, and likely corrupt them.

    Anyway, I updated the files. So far, I’ve tried several times to get old character sketches to display on Corkboard. The text is still saved, because it shows up when I mouse over the character names on the sidebar. But I can’t open the corkboard itself.

    I think Scrivener is neat. But I would be very reluctant to entrust a draft to it–if I did, I wouldn’t upgrade until after I’d finished the work or converted it to a .doc file.

    I’ve used Mac Word v.X, with no major issues, and will continue to use it. Word’s the devil I know.

  6. 6. Karen Wester Newton

    I loved your relationship list! I confess I’m actually an old-fashioned monogamist when it comes to word processing. I learned word processing because I don’t touch type (that’s two confessions!) way back in the DOS world. My first word processor was a Lanier dedicated system– pre-PC even. Easy but not terribly elegant. Then I changed jobs and my new company was using software called XyWrite. It’s the opposite of bloated. The whole program takes less than a megabyte of disk space. It was written in Assembler so it loads like lightening.

    I use Word at work, and for short stories but when I write a book, I still use XyWrite. XyWrite isn’t really WYSIWYG and it can’t do a lot of the Fancy formatting that Word or other modern word processors can, but it is fast to use, keyboard based, and powerful as far as spell check, autoreplace, and text macros. I can keep each chapter in its own file and print the book, continuously paginated, with a special print command. Because the file format is plain ASCII, I know I can always call up the files in Word or Notepad, even if they contain some coding I need to strip out. I will stop using it when it stops running under Windows and not before. But you can’t buy it anymore because the company went out of business!

  7. 7. S.L. Farrell

    Kristine — thanks for the warning, and I’ll certainly beware of upgrading Scrivener before I finish the current WIP. I’m also currently hedging my bet by copying and pasting ‘finished’ scenes into the Nisus files I’d been using, so that if Scrivener suddenly went belly-up, I’d still have the draft novel in Nisus. But so far, Scrivener has been solidly stable and reliable. No problems whatsoever.

    Karen — I know several writers (many far better known than me!) who still cling to their original word processor, because that’s what they learned on and that’s what they’re comfortable with. The right tool is always the one that feels perfect in your individual hands.

  8. 8. KB

    Thank you for your praise of Scrivener! Glad you are finding it so useful and I hope you are able to have a long and satisfying relationship with her.

    Kristine – I’ve never received an e-mail from you about your problems and I don’t think you have posted these problems on the forum. It’s very difficult for me to solve problems I don’t know exist! E-mail me at support @ literatureandlatte dot com and I’m sure we can get to the bottom of your problem.

    Thanks again and all the best,
    Keith
    (Scrivener developer)

  9. 9. JDC

    RANT_MODE_ON

    A “steep” learning curve means that it is easy to learn. (Learning is the y-axis and time the x; more learning in less time = steep curve.) I know I’m the only person in the whole world that cares about this. But I do.

    RANT_MODE_OFF

  10. 10. Arachne Jericho

    I love Scrivener and I trust it far more than most word processors, because of two things:

    1. It saves automatically every 2 seconds of idle time. You stop typing to think, it saves automatically. Something happens (like, oh, a power outage) and your stuff is Still There. All kinds of awesome.

    2. Scrivener makes it easy to generate backups of your entire project. This is more important than most writers think (which surprises the hell out of me). Under the file menu there’s a “Backup to…” item. You can create a backup, that’s automatically named by the date and time, to anything—USB stick, or Amazon S3 JungleDisk share. Something fries your computer and your stuff is Still In Existence. TRIPLE all kinds of awesome.

    That, plus all the non-linear stuff it does, is great. As well as how it can compile drafts with headings and suchlike. Scrivener really is, I think, the top-notch tool for writing on the ‘puter.

    But that’s just me. And apparently you. Rock on, man.

  11. 11. Lawrence Osborn

    For folk who work in Windows, there is yWriter: a word processor specifically designed for authors by Simon Haynes (an Australian SF writer and computer programmer). I have been using for the past year and it does everything I want more or less the way I want it. And the best part is that it is freeware.

  12. 12. Mitch Wagner

    I’m a tech journalist, and do almost all my writing for the Web. I use TextMate, a Mac text editor, for my writing. I’ve used text editors for my journalism and other Internet writing for many years now, they don’t have what I find to be the unnecessary distractions of Microsoft Word.

    I discovered Scrivener months ago, and have been using it on my novel-in-progress since then. It’s a very comfortable program to use.

    The other day, I discovered you can embed links in Scrivener to other Scrivener items. I’ve been using it since then to cross-reference the little background guide I’ve been building for my novel as I go. I fear that I won’t get any work done anymore now, but I’ll have the *best* *hyperlinked* *background* *guide* *ever.*

    Karen – XyWrite is a terrific program, I used it for years. Do you use the DOS or Windows version?

  13. 13. JP

    I use and love Scrivener and have for longer than many marriages last, but to extend S.L.’s metaphor, you do still need a girlfriend or guyfriend on the site–a word processor to format your final manuscript copy. For this I use Nisus Writer.

    Just a note to Kristine (and J.L.): Have never experienced the problem you’ve had with upgrading and I typically upgrade at beta time because I’ve found the program to be so stable, but the developer, Keith, might be able to help. He’s very responsive. Just a note that your character sketches should still be accessible in the Scrivener file since it saves everything separately within a package. Files are located in Scriverner/documents usually. Just right click and on the scriv file name, click on Show package contents and click on the relevant txt, pdf, rtfd, etc. file.

  14. 14. Esther

    I use Corel WordPerfect. That has always been my favorite. I convert things to Word sometimes, but I really don’t like Word. WordPerfect is similar to Word, however, without the annoying paperclip guy or anything else Word does that I hate. I tend to stick with the same old, same old once I’ve decided I like something. I doubt I will ever use any word processor other than WordPerfect.

  15. 15. NewGuyDave

    I am a PC user and I use yWriter4 by Simon Haynes (as noted above by Lawrence Osborn. It sounds a fair bit like Sriviner from your description.
    yWriter saves each scene as an .rtf file and allows you to arrange and organize them using a great little side window. You can jump easily from scene to scene, view the scenes and open them up in functional text editor. yWriter has a separate function for location, character and item notes. It will export to .rtf, .txt and html, adding your scene notes/goals if you choose. It also exports your short or long descriptions in to a short or long synopsis. I apparently can’t say enough about the program. It’s been very useful in helping put together my first ever draft.

    Visit Simon’s site for more info. Best of all, it is FREE and free of spyware etc.
    http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter4.html

    I agree with Mr. Farrell, the right tools make a world of difference.

  16. 16. Kate Elliott

    I use Nisus, and I like it (it’s not WordPerfect, my favorite wordprocessor ever, but I essentially chose Mac over Word Perfect and am content with the decision, and Nisus works well enough; it’s trim, efficient, and solid). I’ve got Scrivener and I’m using it for a secondary project because it’s kinda cool as a different type of interface, although like you I back up frequently onto Nisus, just in case.

  17. 17. S.L. Farrell

    KB — you’re very welcome. Thank you for creating such a finely crafted tool for novelists.

    Arachne — I’m with you!

    Lawrence and NewGuyDave — I too have heard good things of yWriter (created by our own Simon), but given that I’ve never owned a Windows machine and my experience of them from a couple jobs would keep me from ever, EVER using one (I’d go to Linux if I can’t have a Mac), I don’t think I’ll ever have the pleasure of trying it myself… :-)

    Esther — hey, if WordPerfect works for you, it’s the perfect tool!

    Kate — I really do like Nisus, and it’s my word processor of choice. If I’m writing a short piece, I’ll still kick it up and compose directly in it. But Scrivener is MUCH better (IMO) for long work. As I said above, it’s been rock solid for me thus far; my backing up into Nisus is just latent paranoia…

  18. 18. Kelly McCullough

    I started out with MacWrite and was later forced over to Word which does drive me crazy every time I upgrade and have to turn everything off again. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Scrivener, but for me the process of writing a novel is fairly linear (though not simple) and I don’t know that all the bells and whistles are really anything I’d use. I really like having everything in one big linear document that is easily searchable.

  19. 19. MonkeyT

    One of the nice things about Scrivener is that, even though the stored document appears to be a single item on the desktop, it’s actually an application-style bundle that contains all of your text stored in Rich Text documents. Though it may take a little elbow work to reassemble, you can always recover the component pieces from storage, even if you lose the entire application.

  20. 20. S.L. Farrell

    Kelly — I was mostly a ‘linear’ writer too, but I think it was more because the tool (Word or Nisus) forced me to be linear. The times I tried being ‘non-linear’ by writing scenes out of order or by trying to pull apart the threads of a novel, everything felt awkward and strange, and I’d find myself confused because scenes were scattered in different files in order to keep them separate, and pasting them back together wasn’t a simple task.

    Scrivener allows me to write a scene that’s calling to me, or to go back in the manuscript and drop in a scene for foreshadowing, to mark what I’ve written and haven’t written, to move scenes around for better narrative flow simply by dragging the index card representing it to a new position… I wish I’d had this back when I was writing some of the old books; heck, I wish I’d had when I wrote A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT. With all the separate POV characters, it would have been much less a hair-tearing task.

    But again, the ‘right’ tool is the one that works for you. However, since you’re on a Mac and Word admittedly drives you crazy, I’d strongly recommend Nisus Writer Pro as an alternative if you don’t want to give Scrivener a try. Saves natively in RTF, easily customizable, a really pleasant interface, and does everything a writer need it to do. As with Scrivener, I think there’s a trial download on their site.

  21. 21. chrisweuve

    I’m not writing anything particularly long right now, but I find the combination of Scrivener and Nisus Writer Pro to be very powerful. Scrivener especially has a wonderful support forum and an extremely supportive developer. (I say that even though I can’t get any traction on my pet feature request. [grin]) The more experience Scrivener users say that the bigger the doc you are writing, the more useful Scrivener is; I can’t confirm that personally, but it seems consistent.

    BTW, anyone who is evaluating Scrivener, make sure you figure out the “Edit Scrivenings” feature. Have your credit card handy when you do, though, because that’s the point where you will buy the program.

    That’s the writing end. On the data collection end, I was charging ahead with using Scrivener as my data collection tool of choice, but a friend recently showed me Tinderbox, and when I get the chance I am going to seriously kick the tires. Even if I switch to Tinderbox for the data collection part, I’m likely to stay with Scrivener and NWP for the writing part.

    Other tools I have looked at include VoodooPad Pro (good, but with a few limitations that were crippling), Journler (if it did multiple files, I would have stopped looking), TiddlyWiki (most specifically, MonkeyPirateTiddlyWiki), and PMwiki. I might still convert my website to PMwiki.

  22. 22. chrisweuve

    Correction: Not “likely” to stay with Scrivener for the writing part — **definitely** stay with Scrivener for the writing part. I meant to say that even if Tinderbox looks really good for the data collection part, I’m likely to stay with Scrivener for it, so as not to throw another app into the equation.

  23. 23. Mitch Wagner

    I’m a very linear writer too — except I very often think of changes I want to make to previously-written scenes, even whole scenes I need to drop in earlier. Scrivener makes it easy for me to make a note of that and move on with my linear writing, coming back to the scene I wanted to drop in later.

    And recently I thought about a crucial scene from the beginning of the novel that really needs to be near the end of the novel. With Scrivener, when the time comes to make that revision, it’ll be easy to locate the old scene, move it to its new place, and move on.

    Plus Scrivener makes it easy for me to make notes about bits of background as I create them. A new character walks on stage. What’s his name? What’s his backstory? Once I’ve thought that up in my day’s writing, I can easily make a note of it in Scrivener.

    I use EagleFiler for organizing information on my Mac. Journler, Yojimbo, etc., are fine for many people but I don’t like ‘em because you end up having to use their own internal tools for content creation and editing, and they use their own file formats.

  24. 24. Kelly McCullough

    Steve, for me the linearity is more a function of personality than tool-set, but man all the raving about Scrivener is tempting me. My problems with Word are primarily update driven, so it’ll probably take another update to get me to make an affirmative decision.

    Mitch, I do some of that as well, but I tend to just go immediately to the scene and make the corrections and then echo them forward through the text right at the time. If I’m not going to do it immediately, which is rare, I drop in an annotation, which I also do for certain character notes. Mostly though, I just hold the whole thing in my head and make changes on the page as they occur.

  25. 25. S.L. Farrell

    Chrisweuve — The second time I downloaded the trial of Scrivener (which as also the first time I played seriously with it), I managed about six hours of using it before I pulled out the credit card.

    Mitch — wow, there are some software names I’m not familiar with… One of the things I do like about Scrivener is that everything I’m using in the WIP is in one place. I’d bookmarked some web pages for research purposes, and I always draw maps for my novels, but to access the maps I’d have to kick up Illustrator, or to glance at the research pages, I’d have to start my browser. And I had character description and notes files in Nisus, but they were different files, so if I wanted to look at them, I’d have to use the open command, find them, etc.

    Now I just click on jpg of the map or the web archive of a page or my notes and *boom* there they are. Very nice.

    LJCohen, that goes toward answering your question about what else I liked about Scrivener.

    I know, I’m sounding like a broken record. FWIW, I’m not a shill for Scrivener; I paid for the program like everyone else. And I’ve only been using it for a month, so it’s possible I may yet stumble across something that really bugs me. But when I find something that works so well for me as a writer, I want to share the news: it’s part of that ‘paying forward’ thing.

    I do love a good tool.

  26. 26. John

    JDC, I think steep learning curve uses difficulty as y-axis and time as the x-axis, where the curve itself describes learning.

    Anyway, I am guessing yWriter is a good bet for Windows. I will surely try it as I don’t own a Mac.

  27. 27. bob charters

    I had tried it before using a ball point pen on lined paper, and gave it up. I speed type, but make too many mistakes. Then, when I discovered computers, I took up writing seriously.

    My favourite writing machine is RoughDraft, available for free at http://www.richardsalsbury.com/. It was created by a writer (read some of his short stories while you’re there), and though it’s a very basic text editor, it’s got many things writers of books, short stories, screenwriters need. It does without many things that probably aren’t necessary. It’ll even publsh your work as a light weight html file (without all the unnecessary coding).

    My only lament is that he hasn’t written a version for my prefered OS, LINUX. Therefore, I’m stuck with Open Office — not a bad tool either.

  28. 28. Mitch Wagner

    S.L. Murphy – Many people feel the same way you do about accessing information for the same project in different programs, like Illustrator, a Web browser, word processor, etc. I think of it as all being one thing — my computer — and I want to use the best tool for the job.

    Besides, I do just-in-time research — when I need to know something, I look it up and use the information right away.

  29. 29. tycho garen

    Mitch, I think we’re a lot a like.

    I do almost all of my writing in TextMate, I use Gruber’s “markdown” for formating which I translate either into HTML for posting to the web, or LaTeX for producing manuscripts. It’s a glorious program, and it really lets me deal with the words in a very simple, straightforward, no frills sort of way. I generally have a number of different files for any given project, which I can merge together or split up as need be. Text files are great because it’s easy to grep through them, both alone and in groups, and working with text files has let me sort of feel like I’m in total control of my text. Which is a good feeling. There’s an editor that uses a textmate-like system for windows called the “e editor” but I just know it exists.

    For organization and management, (and backup and version management) I store all of my text files in a subversion repository. It’s nice for security, and it means that I don’t much have to think about back up and redundant copies. I keep notes and some other files in this database. For references I’ve had some luck with DevonThink, Eagle Filer and the others, but they cost, and I find a good naming scheme and some sort of bibliographic software often works just as well.

    The only thing that I’d add is a plug for the *occasional* usefulness of personal wiki software. I’m using VoodooPad from flying meat software for a hypertext project, and it’s quite, quite nice. But there are other free options, instiki springs instantly to mind. If you think productively in this kind of branching mode, this sort of thing might be helpful to people. Frankly I prefer writing in textmate, so I’m doing imports and exports this way….

    But whatever works…

  30. 30. Mitch Wagner

    We are indeed alike, Tycho, my brother from another mother.

    I’ve thought it probably makes sense for me to switch my fiction writing to TextMate (the same tool I use for Internet writing). OTOH, Scrivener is — as I said earlier — a very comfortable tool, and it doesn’t give me any reason to want to switch, other than the fact that plain text is more portable across platforms, and more likely to be readable in thirty years.

  31. 31. Daemonworks

    I recently discovered Liquid Story Binder XE for windows.
    Though the interface could use some work, it seems to be roughly analogous to Scrivener (I don’t use Mac so I can’t be certain).

    One major advantage to it over almost all similar programs I’ve tried – rather than creating a single proprietary database file with all the work in it, each chapter/outline/picture/etc. that you add to a given project is just stored as files in a folder. It uses RTF for text files, which is almost universal, and allows all the formatting most people will ever need.

    Other things that look promising: it can be run from a USB key, and you can set it to use an external editor if you find it’s internal rtf editor to be too weak.

  32. 32. S.L. Farrell

    Kelly — if you’re fairly linear in your approach, then it may well be that a word processor is still the best tool. If you’re really curious, give Scrivener a trial and see. OTOH, spending time playing with a program is time spent Not Writing…

    Bob — Open Office is a decent alternative for MS Office on every platform, I’d agree.

    Tycho and Mitch — I’d agree that 30 years on, plain text is still likely to be readable where proprietary formats may not. Heck, all my old stuff was originally on floppy disks, and I don’t even have a reader for those any more…

  33. 33. Mitch Wagner

    S.L Farrell — Walter Jon Williams told a story about being asked to anthologize a 20-year-old story that he had only on floppy — he had to dig out a floppy disk reader, then find a way to convert the old word processor format into something modern, so he could e-mail it to the editor.

    Of course, he also had a printout, and it was only a short story and (he said) he could have retyped it in less time than it took to go through all that electronic trouble. “But,” he concluded, “it would have been less digital that way.”

  34. 34. Kristine Smith

    It’s a little late, but I did email KB about my Corkboard issue, and that seems to be resolved. I can see the index cards now. I was apparently trying to access them when in the wrong mode.

    Given my writing style, I don’t know if I will try using Scrivener to write an entire book. I was using it to assemble all my notes and reference webpages in one place so that I can find them easily. It works well for that.

  35. 35. S.L. Farrell

    Kristine — from what I’ve seen browsing the forums on the literatureandlatte.com site, KB is pretty responsive to issues regarding Scrivener.

    As I’ve said above, different styles = different ‘perfect’ tools. Scrivener, a month in now, still fits my style like the proverbial glove.

  36. 36. Dotan Dimet

    When this topic came up on John Rogers’ blog, someone mentioned Writer’s Cafe – http://www.writerscafe.co.uk/ – which has versions for Mac, Windows and Linux and looks pretty feature-full.

  37. 37. Lou

    Nice post. But I have to put my most enthusiastic vote towards Nisus Writer Pro. Working under deadlines for articles, Nisus’s capacity for serious customization is epic, and speeds my work to the editor. A stable, fast writing tool customized around the way you work – keyboard shortcuts and all.

    I’m also using Nisus for my second book. The bookmarks function as well as the comments feature is incredibly suited to writing, linear or non-linear. That’s not to say Scrivener is not a nice piece of writing software, it is. But for me Nisus has absolutely nailed it. I’d also like to shine the spotlight in VoodooPad, an application that I use in conjunction with NWP. It’s a brilliant tool for research data.

  38. 38. S.L. Farrell

    Lou –

    Nisus Writer Pro is my straight word-processor-of-choice, and it is a great program, I agree. When I finally compile the novel from Scrivener, it’s Nisus that it gets dumped into; when I write short fiction, I write directly in Nisus.

    I do love the customization that’s possible with Nisus — I have my own pane that gives me all the tools that I generally need when writing. It’s certainly a good choice!

Author Information

Stephen Leigh

Stephen Leigh (aka S.L. Farrell) is a Cincinnati author with 25 novels and several dozen short stories published. Booklist called his Cloudmages trilogy "Good enough to cast in gold." He teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky University, and is a frequent speaker to writers groups. Visit site.

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