Authors have to write, and how they write is usually on a computer these days. Gone are the days of writing entire books with pen and paper or with typewriter (though some people still do these). There’s a lot of software out there for writing.
Question 34: What software do you recommend for writing books?
S. R. Carrillo
I don’t really use anything other than good old Microsoft Word and Adobe. All that fancy stuff – Calibre, Scrivener, (Scrivebre?) – just throws me off. The simpler the program, the more streamlined my thoughts can be when I’m trying to get everything down onto the page.
Tracey Lynn Tobin
There are so many options out there that, really, you just have to try a bunch of things out and see what works for you. One that I used to use was a free program called yWriter, and it worked for me for a time, but it didn’t have a whole lot of options for someone trying to turn a bunch of words into a manuscript. What I eventually ended up sticking with was Scrivener, when they finally released their Windows version. I have a definite love-hate relationship with it, but it’s more love than hate. The trick is that it can do so many things that you have to really sit down and play with it and figure out exactly what you want it to do. If you can manage that you can wind up with a beautifully organized workstation for your novel, set up exactly how you like it. And when everything is said and done, Scrivener has all the available options to turn your book into whatever kind of file you want. Using this software I was able to create both a print version and e-book version of “Nowhere to Hide” with only a minimal amount of bashing my head off the keyboard. 🙂
Paul B. Spence
A good word processing program like Microsoft Word? I use Excel for spreadsheets and databases of character and setting information. I use Adobe Illustrator for personal star maps. What more do you need?
Linda G. Hill
Up until last year I wrote on whatever I could get my hands on. I actually started NaNoWriMo in 2006 and my computer crapped out on me – I ended up writing all but the first chapter of 50,000 words in a notebook. (Yes, I counted every single word in my notebook to make sure I had 50K words.) After that, any word processing program would do, as long as I could see my word count. Most recently I was using Open Office, which is free to download. But then I downloaded Scrivener and I haven’t looked back. There’s nothing better out there that I know of for organizing a manuscript. Everything is there at a glance, which I love. I’d highly recommend it. The trial is free for 30 days – that’s thirty days, counted in hours, of actual use. So if you download it and forget about it for two months like I did, you haven’t lost the chance to try it out.
MS Word. Use the software you know and don’t have to think about. I don’t need spiffy features, I need a software that disappears so I can focus on getting the words out of my head. I set up a template with standard submission ready formatting and write everything in that so when a story eventually edited, it’s ready to go.
H. Anthe Davis
I’ve never used anything fancy. For years I just used the Write program (.wri). Eventually I forced myself to upgrade to a proper word-processing program, and now I use LibreOffice Writer, and….that’s it. I occasionally use spreadsheets to hold some information, but no specialized software.
I love Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die app. When it comes to getting words on the page, that program will force you to crank them out. For saving files, I’ve been using MS Word, but I’m lukewarm about the program at best and am open to new suggestions.
D. T. Nova
Either Microsoft Word or a cheaper alternative that works similarly. The difference between different versions of Word doesn’t matter because the more “advanced” features aren’t anything you need. I’ve been using TextMaker and the only disadvantage compared to Word that I’ve noticed is how many words aren’t in the spellchecker.
I don’t use anything other than Word, so I can’t answer this.
Gregory S. Close
Word still works for shorter projects, but I prefer Scrivener for novels. Scrivener lets me save all sorts of information within the project for easy reference, including character sketches, place descriptions, and links to online references and/or images. It let me move chapters around for easy re-structuring, and then export all or part of the product to the file format of my choice. In Siege of Daylight was about 244 thousand words, so I needed that freedom to drag and drop chapters in order to adjust the narrative flow on a whim and keep it or put it back the way it was. Word couldn’t handle the abuse. Scrivener took it stoically and then asked for more.
There are also templates included with Scrivener to help with appropriate set up – getting the Title Page, Copyright Page etc. all in the right place.
I’ve only ever written short stories, haven’t tackled a whole book yet. I’ve only ever used Microsoft Word because that’s what’s been available and I’m familiar with it. It’s easy enough to delete, rearrange, highlight, and do what I need it do it. It’s simple… a lot like me!
Besides Word, I don’t use any software for the writing, though I’m about to explore Scrinver. I am, though, a big fan of style checkers. I think they are hugely helpful when it comes to fine-tuning your prose. I’ve actually played with a number of them. Here is my quick summary:
HemingwayApp: Free, simple, powerful. Very effective at highlighting awkward or troublesome sentences. Light on diagnosing the issue, which is fine. Just reports that something is not working, so I know where to focus when I edit. Try it.
Ginger: Works in Word, but can be a bit onry at times because of various conflicts it has with Micorosoft. Helpful at spotting some grammar issues, but can often be incorrect. I do very much like the built in Text-To-Speech function. TTS is a powerful tool to help you “proof” your work. In fact, I wrote an entire blog on it.
ProWritingAid: Exhaustive “syle” analysis. Great tool. Works inside Word. Sophisticated and can be customized. Will provide a detailed analysis of your work: Adverbs, sentence length, pronoun use, repeated phrases, etc. The list is long. Very powerful tool. PWA provides so much feedback that it can be overwhelming. You have to learn what to respond to and what to ignore. But if you want a detailed review, this is it.
AutoCrit: Very similar to PWA, but a slicker interface. The downside? Does not work in Word, which kills it for me.
Jay Dee Archer
Up until last year, I was using Open Office to write. I didn’t have anything fancy at all. But that changed when my old computer’s hard drive started failing. I’ve since moved on to Microsoft Word, which is far more versatile, I think. I’ve looked into Scrivener, but until I decide to pay for it, I’m not getting it. Word is working for me for now.
I’ve also used Excel to keep track of data for my world. Lots of stats for each country. But I like keeping things very organised for worldbuilding.
How about you?
If you write, what software do you use? Let us know in the comments below.