Monday, January 03, 2011

Writing software

I love books on writing. I have over 70 of them on my shelf right now. Books on plotting and characterization, self-editing and setting, description and prose style -- they're all there. For a while, maybe 8-10 years ago, I started looking for writing software. I bought Dramatica and WritePro and Power Structure. I tried yWriter and WriteWay and Who Knows What Else. And then I went back to good ol' Word.

Don't get me wrong. Word drives me as crazy as the next person. But I know it, and it doesn't get in my way. My dad (rest his soul) was fond of saying, "The best piece of software is the one you know how to use." But a recent discussion on the Kindleboards opened my eyes to another program for authors: WriteItNow. It's simple yet elegant, giving me ways not just to write my scenes and chapters but to organize my notes about events and characters, too. No more txt files called Notes1 and Notes2! I can keep everything all nice and tidy together, easily accessible while I'm writing.

To be fair, yWriter did that as well, but what I particularly like about WriteItNow is that it has a feature to gather all my scenes into a single RTF file in a manuscript format. Plus, its internal editor is super easy to use, and it has additional features like storyboarding and daily word count targets. The only "problem" with the word count target was that it didn't count my words accurately.

I was writing along for an hour or so and checked my progress. 818 words. Oh. Hm. Okay, I thought it would be more than that. I wrote for another 15 minutes. 823 words. Now wait a minute! That can't be right. I typed the word test and checked again. 824. Okay, maybe it is working. But how could I have only added 5 words in 15 minutes? Maybe I misread the first number. So I wrote for another hour. 830 words. WHAT? No freaking way. I selected all the words in the scene I was working on and used the regular word count feature: 1864. Hahaha! I see what it was doing there: getting me to exceed my daily goal. BY CHEATING. Ah well, I can't complain. I'm ahead of schedule now!

Since I'm on the subject of writing software, I have to give a shout out to Serenity Editor for Writers. That's one powerful piece of editing genius. It's not a magic button to turn a dull story into a work of art, but it will help find places where I've written the same 3-word phrase repeatedly, such as "shook his head." It's funny how many times a writer will write something like that without realizing it. I don't know about other writers, but I find that kind of assistance very helpful.


Cheryl said...

I like to use Scrivener. I love, love, love this program. Lots of handy little doodads. My only complaint, and it's big, is that it doesn't export well when you actually need to get into .doc. If there's a trick to it, I don't know it. But since it's so convenient for me and easy to navigate, I suffer through the export process.

K.C. May said...

That's the main problem I had with yWriter. It made organizing the notes and writing the story easy, but its output was a gazillion RTF files which I would then have to manually import into Word. WriteItNow has eliminated that problem and I'm now a happy writer. :)

Kevin P. Kilburn said...

I use Scrivener for the Mac (there used not to be a Windows version until recently). It's nice, but some of the settings aren't that intuitive. Because it's on my MacBook, it's my primary writing software.