This past Monday I posted about my recent introduction to, and love affair with, the writing software known as Scrivener. I made my case for why I thought it was the best program out there, and how it best fit my novel-writing needs. Then I opened the comments for people to agree or disagree, or pose questions of their own.
Many of you commented or pinged me on Twitter, which was awesome. I got a lot of great feedback. Notepad and MS Word all have their adherents, and more than a couple of you have tried Storybook, with varying results of success. But then I got a wonderfully blunt, transparent question from a reader who simply asked:
What about Evernote? Or Google Docs?
Hmmmm, I thought. Good question. I’ve used both before. So why did I stop?
The short answer is that I, like a lot of others, have been grazing for that Perfect Noveling Tool that will make life easier. The reality? There are tons of apps, software, books, and blogs that claim to point writers toward the height of productivity. None of them are One Size Fits All.
Also, there is the fact that most writers working toward being published are, in some way, the proverbial “starving artist” – that is, a person holding down a day job and trying to make ends meet while chasing their literary dreams whenever they can carve out the time.
Upshot: Most unpublished writers (and maybe quite a few published ones) don’t have a lot of spare change to drop on the latest software or app. I didn’t purchase Scrivener for almost five years after hearing about it, and one big reason was that I didn’t want to pay out for something that I wasn’t sure would work well, or “click” with my brain.
But the reader’s question got me thinking. So I made a list of the various apps, programs, and software I’ve used in my pursuit of writing the Great American Novel. What follows is my personal shortlist, with my “assessment” or reasons why I set it aside. This list is by NO means comprehensive, but a mere sampling of the apps, services, or software available.
Microsoft Word: The granddaddy of them all. I’ve been using this one in some form or other since the mid 90s. A mainstay of the Microsoft package, it widely used in schools, offices, and various businesses around the world.
Angela’s Assessment: Powerful tool, but not the best fit for my personal approach to writing. Currently using it as a place to make student worksheets and/or tests (especially if they involve charts or tables).
Google Docs: Years ago, my dad bemoaned the fact that there was no way to post a document so that the rest of his engineering team could critique it. Google Docs was the easiest and most user-friendly answer to such quandaries, put out by the grand poobah of internetness, Sir Google himself.
Angela’s Assessment: Convenient but a smidge glitchy at times. Best for reviewing large student papers and/or manuscripts submitted online. Also good for peer editing.
Evernote: The Elephant App (as my dad calls it) is really a bottomless well. With a variety of appending apps for photos, music (even recipes!), etc it has a LOT of bells and whistles. And that’s if you’re using the free version. There are tons of blogs that trumpet how to maximize your Elephant Life.
Angela’s Assessment: Love the voice memo feature, as I can catalogue them by project. Too unweildy for my personal approach to noveling, so I now use it primarily as an extra external backup for projects.
Werdsmith: A phone app that allows you to create projects and scenes within projects, with word goals, etc. Free version has limited number of projects/words you can enter. (I think the most I’ve created before it gave me the “Buy more space!” message was 5 scenes.)
Angela’s Assessment: Great for “vomit drafting” a specific scene, or jotting down notes or ideas on the fly. Biggest drawback is that it is app-only, available just for iPhones.
Honorable Mentions: Among the feedback to Monday’s post, Storybook and Notepad were also mentioned. I’ve not used either of these, but understand Storybook to be an open-source equivalent (?) to Scrivener, while Notepad is a spartan, distraction-free…well…notepad for PCs. You put words down and move on (which I guess is what we all ultimately as writers are supposed to do, right?).
Angela’s Assessment: I’ve never used either of these programs.
What’s your personal writing preference? Do you old-school it with paper and pen? Or a typewriter? Use one of the methods mentioned here? Or something else entirely?
Let me know in the comments!